CONYERS — For anyone that follows high school sports in the counties of Rockdale and Newton, the name NewRock means something - especially when it comes to track and field.
It’s a meet built more so on friendly rivalries, rather than bitter ones. But it’s a meet where the cross-town friendships are put on the back-burner for two days in hopes of gaining bragging rights for the entire year.
This year, those bragging rights went to both the boys and girls of Heritage, who took home first-place finishes.
Rockdale high school settled for second place finishes in both the boys and girls.
For the boys, it’s the second straight NewRock championship for Heritage. But for the girls, it’s a title that has eluded them for quite some time.
“Our coaches do a really good job of preparing them, and I’m just excited for them because they haven’t won NewRock in a long time,” Patriots head coach Eddie Snell said. “The girls finally got that notch on their belt, and that’s only going to help them going forward. Them getting a NewRock championship is big.”
Surprisingly, the girls team with the most individual first-place victories didn’t win the overall meet.
Rockdale led the way with six first-place finishes compared to Heritage’s three. But it was the Patriots seven second-place finishes, and 10 third-place finishes that kept them in control of the meet from start to finish.
“One thing we pride ourselves on, on both sides is being versatile, and being able to score points in all aspects of track,” Snell said. “We take the words track and field very seriously. We get just as many points in the field as we do on the track. Our job as coaches is to put these kids in the positions to capitalize on all the talent that is out here. They just do an amazing job of getting out there and giving everything they’ve got.”
There were also plenty of personal records for Heritage set over the course of the two-day event.
Patriots sophomore Alexia Boyd set the school record for long jump at 18 inches, three centimeters. But it didn’t last for long before teammate Bryson Wilson smashed it herself with a jump of 18 inches, nine centimeters.
Wilson’s jump was good enough for second place behind Laury Norwood of Newton (18 inches, 10.5 centimeters), while Boyd settled for third.
“This past week I focused a lot,” Wilson said. “I put my mind to it. I blocked out the negative energy and just tried to keep it positive so that I could come here and deliver.”
For Boyd, it was all smiles for the sophomore after Wilson broke her record. She was just happy to knock off their cross-town rival.
“We had the same team that we had last year, and we had the potential to beat Rockdale, so it was wonderful,” Boyd said. “The team’s dynamic is getting better. Knowing that we had the ability to come out here and knowing that we can get over anything that we have against each other is good.”
Freshman Amiel Dabney set a PR in the high jump at five feet, good enough to finish second. She was also one of the three Patriots to win first in an event after blazing to a first-place finish in the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 47.85 seconds.
“Being a freshman and winning my first NewRock championship in high school is pretty cool,” Dabney said. “Coming into high school, you start to understand how much more competitive it is and how exciting it is. You also understand the amount of dedication that you have to put into it, because track is not easy.”
Senior Glory Seay has watched Rockdale dominate the girls side of NewRock for several years, so to finally come out on top in her final year was very special.
“I’ve been with the track team for four years and I’m just glad that we could finish NewRock on top,” Seay said. “It means a lot.”
The Newton girls took home third place overall, while Alcovy (4th) and Salem (5th) rounded out the finishes.
As for the boys, the team with the most individual first-place finishes did take home the team trophy.
The Patriots finished with six first-place finishes including two from the area’s top long-distance runner, Jallah Galimah, and two from hurdles specialist, Jordan Young.
Newton collected five first-place finishes, while Rockdale added three. Alcovy also picked up two first-place finishes, both from Quindrelin Hammonds. He set a school record in the 100 with a time of 10.62 seconds.
Newton’s Elija Godwin was back to his dominant ways in the 400, winning with ease with a time of 47.72 seconds.
In the high jump, there was a slight upset.
Rockdale’s Sundi Washington edged out Heritage’s Devron Harper with a PR jump of six feet, eight inches.
For the 6-foot-2 senior, there was never a doubt in who he thought was going to come out on top.
“Throughout the entire time, I was like, just do it because at the end of the day, there were going to be two outcomes,” Washington said. “I’m going to clear it, or not. And if I don’t try, then I wasn’t going to be satisfied. So, I just put my all into the one jump and leaped over it.”
It also helped that Washington cleared the jump on his first attempt, putting all the pressure on Harper to try and answer back.
“I think that did play a big factor,” Washington said. “It kind of put the pressure on (Harper).
Harper came dangerously close to clearing it on his final attempt but came up just short.
Snell was quick to give thanks to all the fellow coaches in the counties, most of which are good friends of his. And even though he’s not one to brag, the kids will do their fair share of it this year, and many years down the road.
“20 years from now, they’ll see each other at some type of event and they’ll always bring up NewRock,” Snell said. “They’re not going to ask if you finished second, or if you finished third. They’re going to ask, ‘did you win NewRock?’”
the Newton boys took home third place in the boys event, too, while Salem (4th) and Alcovy (5th) rounded out the placing.