GAC rides legs of four runners to Class AA state title

GAC's Maileka Slayton finishes the 1600 meter relay on Saturday in Albany. The team finished the event first at the girls state track and field championships.

GAC's Maileka Slayton finishes the 1600 meter relay on Saturday in Albany. The team finished the event first at the girls state track and field championships.


Photo: Larry G. Williams GAC's Brittany Arnold finishes the 100 meter dash at the girls state track and field championships in Albany on Saturday.

ALBANY -- GAC began Saturday's final day with 0.25 of a point, well behind leader Westminster's 36 points and with the fewest point total of any team to score in Class AA.

That changed in a hurry.

The Spartans won state titles in the two of the first three races Saturday, even setting a new state record with a 47.31 in the 400-meter relay. The relay was the day's first race and set the tone for a wild day of scoring for the Spartans who climbed from 31st to champion in the girls state track meet's final day.

"We knew we had some good sprinters, but you got to do it," GAC coach Brad Kinser said. "You've got to come out here on a hot day and you've got to do it."

And it all started with the win in the first race.

"There's definitely a momentum that builds when you get your first state championship," said GAC's Brittany Arnold, who ran the final leg of the 400 and 1,600-meter relay and finished second in the 100. "You just want more.

"We knew going in to the race that we have to do what we can in the races we are entered in."

By we, she meant the members of the relay team.

All of GAC's 59 points scored Saturday came on the legs of Arnold, Airica Palmer, Kayin Mujahid and Maileka Slayton.

The crew combined to win four state titles, a runner-up, one third and one fourth-place finish. Slayton won four titles in total and bookended the day with championships and new state records in the 400 and 1,600 meter relays.

"(Breaking the state record) is amazing," Mujahid said. "All that work's paid off because we busted our butts out there."

"I am kind of in shock," said four-time state champion Slayton of the big scoring day. "We knew we had to hit it, and that's what we did. We hit it."

When the Spartans walked out for the 1,600 meter relay, they trailed Westminster by 1.75 points and with the Wildcats absent from the race a win ensured a state title for the Spartans.

After the opening lap, Mujahid collapsed after the handoff and GAC was a few seconds behind Decatur. A week of competing finally caught up with Mujahid whose quad tightened up on her final 100 meters.

"I never fall when I'm running," she said. "I only fall at the end."

But by the end of the second lap, run by Palmer, the Spartans were in the lead, eventually pulling away from the Bulldogs for a two-second win. The race went so quickly, Decatur also broke the old state record set 19 years ago in 1993.

It was a record-setting run turned in by four tired and aching runners, who celebrated while icing down their legs.

"This was a fun bunch," Kinser said. "They were a super bunch to work with."

In Class A, Wesleyan finished second doing the opposite of the Spartans. The Wolves scored all but eight of their points during Friday's field events, building a 31 point lead and holding on for the runner-up finish to Athens Christian School.

In Class AAAAA, Brookwood and Peachtree Ridge tied for fourth with 39 overall points.

But the day belonged to GAC, which won its third state title in girls track and first since Arnold's freshman year.

"We knew we had to go to work today," said Arnold, who Kinser credits with the role of leader of the foursome.

"Now we can finally relax," Mujahid said.