Carrollton stars secure state crowns

Split frame of Jeremiah Pierce and Payton Phillips at the State Track meet
Photo: Glenn Holmes

Corey Cusick/Times-Georgian

The Carrollton High School freshman standout proved just that as she took somewhat of a ho-hum approach about capturing the first of potentially four state titles on Thursday afternoon on the opening day of the GHSA Track and Field State Championships at Grisham Stadium.

Hitting the runway in the Class AAAAA pole vault, Phillips cleared 11 feet, 5 inches to bring home the state crown, besting a quartet of vaulters that all finished at 10-0 as her closest competition.

"It was good. It wasn't the greatest day. But it was good," Phillips said.

Entering the event ranked No. 1 following her vault of 12-1.25 at sectionals, Phillips was clearly head and shoulders above the competition. But there were still nerves with this marking her first time competing at the state level in high school after setting the national junior high school record last year.

"They'd been going like crazy this whole week. And then when we get to it, I'm all right," Phillips said of any pre-state jitters.

Phillips will compete at the Meet of Championships next week in Marietta before heading to New Balance Nationals on June 15-17 in Greensboro, North Carolina.

As for her future in Black and Gold, she's already raising the bar for next year.

"I want to get at least 13 (feet) next year and we'll see about after that," Phillips said.

As one dynamic prep career got its start on Thursday, another one closed its final chapter in the storied history of the Carrollton boys' track and field program.

Senior star Jeremiah Pierce capped off his Trojan days with a state championship finish in his final event, winning the Class AAAAA shot put with a heave of 61-1. Earlier in the day, Pierce placed second in the discus (174-4), finishing less than a foot off the first-place finisher, Nicholas Edwards of Southwest DeKalb (175-3).

Pierce said there were plenty of emotions leading up to Thursday knowing that this was his final hurrah for a program where he leaves owning the school record in both the shot put and discus.

Adding to the festive farewell was the opportunity to have two former Trojan legends on hand Thursday in Reggie Elder, who held the school record in the shot put for 28 years, along with Don Bray, who was the state discus champion in 1991 and was also the previous school record-holder prior to Pierce.

"It was real nice for their support. Two legends and they got to see me throw. There was some good chemistry that helped me push it that extra. It was real nice," Pierce said.

After coming up just short in the discus in his bid for the state sweep, Pierce didn't allow it to deter his other signature event.

"I couldn't let that mess up the whole day. I had to come back and finish strong," Pierce said. "It was nice my last time throwing for Carrollton to leave a mark like that."

Looking ahead, Pierce will compete with the Carrollton summer track program through the recreation department before heading off to Mississippi State University on a track and field scholarship.

"Just trying to keep getting better and better until I get to college so I can start off my freshman year with a bang," Pierce said.

Rounding out the Trojan placers in the field on Thursday were a pair of pole vault stars on the boys' side with Joe Street placing second (14-0) and Drew Taylor coming in third (13-6), while Mike Higgins placed fourth in the high jump (6-4) and Robert Johnson came in eighth in the shot put (46-2.75).

Villa Rica also had a state-placer Thursday, as senior Braxton Shackleford capped off his Wildcat career in grand fashion by finishing fourth in the triple jump with a season-best performance of 45-8.5

"He finished up well. I'm proud of him," VR head coach Stan Rowe said. "He did a great job for us all year. So he went out on a big note. We've got to try to get him in school somewhere. He's got good grades and is a good kid. We've got to get him in school. That's our job now."

The action shifts to the track on Friday with the preliminary running events starting at noon. The finals will also start at noon on Saturday to close out the three-day event.