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Friday May 22nd, 2015 7:40AM

STATE CHAMPS: Quinones and Hamrick bring home gold in Jefferson

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
JEFFERSON -- Colton Quinones crouched, spun and flung 12 months worth of motivation into the warm Jefferson air.

And just like that, the Gainesville High senior erased the frustration of an opportunity missed at last year's Georgia Olympics by claiming the 2014 Class AAAAA discus title.

"I wanted it so bad last year that I put too much into it, and it didn't happen on the day," said Quinones. "I wanted it bad this year too."

It was evident from Quinones' championship-winning toss, as the Red Elephants standout heaved the discus 163-feet-5, a mark that proved best in class by almost a foot over Salem's Quintis Maddox -- who gave Quinones some pause, as he uncorked a 162-6 throw on his first attempt.

"That came out of nowhere and it had me worried a little bit," Quinones said of Maddox, who entered the meet with the fifth-best seed after a state sectional performance of 142-11. "But I wanted to focus on me and not worry about anyone else's performance."

Self-focus was the key on the day for a number of area athletes, including another championship-winning performance for Jefferson pole vault standout Mason Hamrick, who defended his Class AA crown with a vault of 15-0 and missed -- three times by a hair's breadth -- 15-6.

"Words can't describe how I feel right now; it was an emotional day knowing it the last time I would ever jump in Memorial Stadium and put on the red and blue of being a Dragon," Hamrick said. "This is awesome. But I was just exhausted by the last three jumps."

Hamrick and Quinones led all northeast Georgia competitors on Thursday in the first of the three-day Georgia Olympics -- a day that also saw four area athletes claim silver medals: North Hall's Destin Bennett (Class AAA discus), Buford's David Curry (Class AAA pole vault), and Jefferson's James Howard (Class AA pole vault) and Satchel Turpin (Class AA triple jump).

Curry just missed out on defending his state championship, as Central, Carroll's Mitt Conerly edged out the Wolves junior -- with Curry's own pole -- as both athletes cleared 14-6. But Conerly did so on the first attempt, Curry on his second, and when neither cleared 15-0, the gold medal was decided on scratches.

"I let him borrow one of my poles because I know him, and it was the right thing to do," said Curry, who trains with with Conerly and gave his fellow competitor a hand when Conerly's poles did not arrive in Jefferson. "I'm disappointed I didn't win, but I was happy for Mitt. He vaulted more consistently than I did. We were both battling injuries today, and he just did a few more technical things than I did.

"I'll be here again."

North Hall's Destin Bennett also performed admirably in the Class AAA discus, leading a large group of area competitors with a silver medal throw of 164-7. White County's Dalton Whitfield was just a foot behind Bennett in third (163-7), while East Jackson’s Austin Beauchamp was fourth (156-10), North Hall's Drew Bryant fifth (151-10) and Buford's Dequavious Picou seventh (133-7).

As well as northeast Georgia's athletes performed in the event there was no doubt as to the winner when -- on his first throw -- St. Pius' Daniel Haugh let loose with the third longest discus throw in Georgia Olympics history, 194-7. Haugh also won the shot put and helped Pius build a domineering lead after day 1 with 63 points. North Hall is currently third with 19 points.

That 19 included a sixth place finish for Bennett in the shot put (46-11.5) and an eighth place showing for teammate Dylan Truleove (45-8.5). West Hall's Hunter Atkinson finished fourth in the Class AAA shot (49-2.5).

North Hall's Gil Hoffman also took seventh in the AAA pole vault (12-6), while Bryce Schuebert took eighth in the 1,600 (4:26.03).

Performing in front of the home crowd, Jefferson is hot in the chase for the Class AA crown after putting up 32 points on day 1 and trailed Westminster by just 3.5 points.

Turpin scored 10 of those points, finishing second in the triple jump (45-1.5) and seventh in the high jump (6-2). James Howard also made it a 1-2 sweep for Jefferson in the pole vault, clearing 14-0. And Ethan Hix was fifth in the discus 136-9.

Fellow Region 8-AA competitor Rabun County also put up 12 points on Thursday, including a strong showing for Charlie Woerner, who was third in the shot put (48-7.25) and fourth in the discus (138-8). Teammate Austin Shook was also eighth in the pole vault (12-0).

Commerce also tallied 14 points in opening its defense of its Class A public crown, including a fourth place finish for Nahum Mendoza in the 1,600 (4:55.43), fifth for Adrian Vaquera in the shot (44-11.5) and fifth for Qua Colbert (44-6.5) in the same event. Jamir Walton also took seventh in the triple jump (42-1).

Other top eight finishers on Thursday included Johnson's Juan Soto and Isaiah Del Campbell, who took fourth (12-0) and eighth (11-0) in the Class AAAA pole vault, respectively.

Gainesville's Hunter Mallard was also seventh in the Class AAAAA pole vault (12-6), while North Forsyth's Chad Warner was sixth in the Class AAAAAA vault (13-0).

Riverside Military's Chris Howard was sixth in the triple jump (43-7.75) and seventh in the shot put (44-9), while White County's Maurice Sutton was fifth in the long jump (21-11.5). East Jackson's Chase Kennedy was sixth in the 1,600 (4:25.45), while Jackson County's Layson Giles finished tied for sixth in the high jump (6-4). The Class AAAAAA high jump also included a sixth place tie for Habersham Central's Kendell Weeks (6-6) and an eighth place finish for North Forsyth's Tanner Riddle (6-4).

Competition will continue on Friday in Jefferson with sprint event preliminaries and the 3,200 finals for all classifications.
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