DAWSONVILLE -- There may have been times Thursday when the rest of Region 7-AAA's competitors wondered if they were running against robots dressed in White County and Buford colors.
At times it certainly seemed as though the White County girls and Buford boys resembled something more approximating machines, with the Lady Warriors and Wolves running their way to respective 7-AAA titles on Thursday at Dawson County High.
Buford's boys claimed six different first place finishes (out of nine events), while the White County girls grabbed gold on five different occasions -- and while West Hall and North Hall also had plenty of highlights, the day belonged, undeniably, to the Wolves and Warriors.
(Editor's note: Official times were not available after the event. We will add them when they are made available.)
"We work hard; we practice hard, and it feels good when all that pays off," said Buford sprint standout Thomas Wilson, who won the 200 meters and anchored the 4x400 meter relay team that ended the day just like the 4x100 relay team began it -- with gold medals.
"We expect to be able to compete well at state and at sectionals because there are some good runners here and good competition in this region, so we expect the same thing at state."
The top four competitors in each event advanced to next week's Class AAA sectional meet (April 27) at Southeast Bulloch High in Brooklet, and many of Thursday's competitors expect to advance from that meet to their respective state championship meets -- May 2-4 in Jefferson for the boys and May 9-11 in Albany for the girls.
Certainly White County standout Jenna Gearing is among those hoping for big things in the coming weeks. And judging be her exploits on Thursday that hope is not misplaced.
The Lady Warriors freshman -- who already won the 1,600 meters on Wednesday -- blew past the field in the 3,200 for a second distance title and played a key role in White County's winning 4x400 relay performance. She was joined by Kaitlyn Gearing, who also earned double gold in the 200 and 400 meters, while teammate Kristen Mitchell won the 800.
"I'm hoping I'll have some good competition next week at sectionals," said Gearing, who was far from cocky following her successes. "I know I'll have some tough competition in Albany."
Gearing, who also plays for the Lady Warriors state playoff-qualified soccer team must strike a balance between the two sports over the next few weeks.
"I'll make sure I run every day because I need to get faster," Gearing said.
Fellow distance specialist and North Hall standout Witt Nix is also hoping to continue his ascent after storming to a 3,200 victory on Thursday -- in front of teammate Tucker LoCicero.
"Me and Tucker have been neck-and-neck all season, and that closeness and competition has made each of us better," Nix said. "I was sick at the beginning of the season. But things are looking up for me now."
Nix knows he carries the banner for Trojans distance runners into state competition.
"A North Hall runner has won the 3,200 in each of the past four years, and it doesn't look like it's going to happen this year, but I'm going to go there and give it my all and we'll just see what happens."
Nix was joined by teammate Quintin Miles, who won the 800 meters, while White County's Tucker Cook won the 300 hurdles. Everything else belonged to the Wolves.
Meanwhile, West Hall's girls proved almost as dominant in the sprint events, winning the 4x100 meter relay, 100 meters and 100 meter hurdles. Maia Caldwell-Booker, who claimed the 100 crown, opted not to run in the 200 after tweaking her hamstring in the 100.
"It's nice to know I can pull off region with the injury; I know I can run injured, but it worries me a little for upcoming races," said Caldwell-Booker, who blistered the field despite an issue that has kept her out of competition for almost three weeks. "I pulled it two-and-a-half weeks ago, and this is my first official meet back since then. I just have to find my rhythm. That's what got me today, I came out to slow and tried to kick and that's when it got me."
West Hall's LeNiesha Kearse also claimed the 100 hurdles, capping a strong outing at the two-day event for the Lady Spartans.
"When teams face us they know we're going to fight till the end," said West Hall shot put specialist Jarlissa Latimore, who set a school record on Wednesday with a throw of 36-9. "I was seeded second, and I knew I could do better than that, so I took my anger out on the ball."
North Hall's girls also put up several strong showings over the event, including a 300 hurdle victory for Nana Awuku.
REGION 7-AAA TRACK CHAMPIONSHIPS
April 17-18 at Dawson County High, Dawsonville
FINAL TEAM STANDINGS
2. North Hall
3. White County
4. West Hall
5. East Hall
6. Banks County
7. Dawson County
8. Fannin County
1. White County
2. North Hall
3. West Hall
5. Dawson County
6. Banks County
7. Fannin County
8. East Hall