POWDER SPRINGS — Marietta’s boys track and field team knew what it needed to do to win its first state title in 13 years.
All the Blue Devils needed was to finish seventh in the final event of the day — the 4x400-meter relay — to secure the outright Class AAAAAAA championship against Brookwood.
Marietta did just that and then some as it won the relay to leapfrog Brookwood and win the crown Saturday at McEachern’s Ralph D. Williams Sports Complex.
Meanwhile, the Hillgrove girls secured a runner-up finish in Class AAAAAAA, as did the Whitefield Academy boys in Class A Private.
The Marietta boys went from trailing Brookwood 57-56 going into the 4x400 relay to instead securing a 66-57 victory and relegating the Broncos to runner-up status.
It was the Blue Devils’ first championship since they shared the Class AAAAA crown with McEachern in 2008, as well as their fifth overall, following titles in 2000, ’01 and ’06.
It was an emphatic response for Marietta from the 2021 state meet, when it finished a close second to champion Alpharetta, losing by only two points.
Last year, Marietta led Alpharetta by eight points going in the 4x400 relay, but the team of Malachi Sanders, Zuri Johnson, Isaiah Sanders and Devin Clark — the same quartet that won the event this time around — finished seventh, allowing Alpharetta to win the race and the team title.
This year was completely different as Sanders, Johnson, Sanders and Clark crossed the finish line with a time of 3 minutes, 15.21 seconds to edge out Grayson (3:15.91) and bring the state title back to Marietta.
“When we left this meet (last year), it was a two-point loss (to Alpharetta),” Marietta coach Nick Houstoulakis said. “These same boys went into that (4x400) in it to win it, and they didn’t come through. And a year later, they’ve grown up. They knew they were experienced. They were able to learn from last year’s experience. Finishing runner-up to Alpharetta motivated them and now, here we are, walking out as champions. And most of them are coming back next year, so last year’s experience was beneficial to them.”
South Forsyth (50) finished third, while Woodstock (43) was fourth to round out the top four teams on the podium. Other teams placing in the standings included McEachern (seventh, 32), Campbell (11th, 25), Pebblebrook (13th, 19) and Hillgrove (26th, 9) along with Walton and Harrison (27th, 8.5),
Malachi Sanders played a big role in Marietta’s championship as he also won the 800 with a time of 1:54.41, narrowly edging out Gainesville’s John Jessup (1:41.76).
“When I ran the (800), I figured if I went out hard and don’t let nobody pass me, I would win the race,” Sanders said, “so I just kept a good speed and I kept digging, and that’s what made me finish the race.”
Pebblebrook’s Dwight Phillips won the 100 (10.43), while Campbell’s Mekhi Stone, Aveion Hayes, Dorian Gibson and Justin Walker claimed the 4x200 relay, finishing in 1:25.44 to edge out Marietta (1:26.82).
In the girls competition, Hillgrove scored 60.5 points to finish runner-up behind champion Lowndes (83), with McEachern (51) tied for third with Cherokee.
Also on the standings were Harrison (seventh, 44), Campbell (eighth, 28), Marietta (15th, 15), Pebblebrook (17th, 13) and Walton (28th, 6).
Campbell’s Zionn Rice swept the hurdles titles, while Harrison’s Samantha McGarity won the 1,600 to add to the 3,200 she won Friday.
Rice started things by winning the 100 hurdles with a time of 13.95, finishing ahead of Harrison’s Zoe Ziglor (14.27). She then the 300 hurdles with a time of 43.40, placing ahead of McEachern’s Kara Stewart (43.83).
McGarity won the 1,600 with a time of 4:57.93 after winning Friday’s 3,200 in 10:46.91.
Hillgrove won the 4x200 relay, with Madison Morse, Ayva Dottin, Nyah Felton and Blye Townsell finishing with a time of 1:39.22. McEachern (46.92) was third.
Whitefield fell just short of winning the boys Class A Private title, scoring 64 points to finish runner-up to champion Holy Innocents’ (68).
Mount Paran Christian was the only other team placing in the Class A Private standings, finishing eighth with 35 points. The Eagles, though, did win the 4x100 relay, as the team of Remington Adams, Jylan Thomas, Micah Lott and Gabe Lott finished with a time of 42.38.
In the girls Class A Private competition, North Cobb Christian — led by Elizabeth Saylor’s runner-up finish in the 3,200 (11:37.63) — finished ninth (23), while Walker was 23rd (10) and Whitefield 25th (8).