Staff Photo: John Bohn Bilal Abdullah of Brookwood competes in the Class AAAAA high jump at the boys state championship track and field meet held Thursday in Jefferson. Abdullah finished in second place.
JEFFERSON -- For more than a year, Peachtree Ridge's Josh Brickell has dominated the distance running events in Georgia.
So it was a little weird to see the four-time state champion not at the top of the podium on Thursday at the boys track and field state championship. Brickell placed third in the 1,600-meter run, his first loss at a state championship since 2010.
"It's definitely not my best race for me," Brickell said. "I have to give it to them, they beat me."
Brickell was the heavy favorite going into the mile. The junior was the defending state champion in the event. He also won the 3,200 last year and has a pair of cross country state championships on his resume.
"I have had a lot of success and have to be gracious," Brickell said. "I just have to come out harder. They are all capable of tracking me down."
Brickell stayed with the pack the first two laps and made his move on the third lap. He appeared to have another state title locked up with 150 meters left in the race, but then Wheeler's Adel Yoonis made his kick. Yoonis, along with Walton's Brian Sullivan, tracked down Brickell before the finish line to beat the former champion.
Yoonis had a time of 4 minutes, 16.23 seconds. Sullivan followed at 4:17.50 and Brickell was 4:17.94.
Brookwood's Morgan Malanoski was sixth and Matthew McClintock was eighth.
"I just knew they all had great kicks," Brickell said. "I needed to get a little space. I didn't want to come out that slow."
Brickell will get a chance to redeem himself today in the 3,200-meter run.
"It's definitely motivation at the very least," he said. "All I can do is congratulate the two guys that beat me and move on."
Teammate Matt Morris also had a chance to defend his state title on Thursday. The senior was the defending champ in the pole vault, but couldn't hold off Harrison's James Wenk.
"It was a good day, he just did better than me," Morris said.
Morris cleared 15 feet, but couldn't match Wenk's performance of 15 feet, 6 inches.
"I would have loved to go 15-6," Morris said. "It was disappointing, but I mean, he had a better day than me."
Hawks' Joyce bounces back to take second
Mill Creek's Trevor Joyce has been one of the state's top throwers all year. He didn't look like it at the East Sectional two weeks ago. The senior barely qualified for the state meet in the discus by finishing eighth.
Joyce adjusted a few things in his mechanics and and shined during Thursday's field events.
He finished second in the Class AAAAA discus and was fifth in the shot put.
"I'm happy," Joyce said of the results. "I always want to win, but it was a huge PR."
Joyce threw 161 feet, 2 inches in the discus to finish in second place. It was a personal record by nine feet.
He threw 51-1 in the shot put to take fifth after finishing third last year.
Dacula's Armah second in discus
Three-sport athletes are a rarity in today's high school sports. Dacula's Alex Armah showed you can still be a successful all-around athlete.
The senior placed second in the shot put in the Class AAAAA state meet and was third in the discus on Thursday.
The performance in track and field completed a school year in which Armah helped the football team reach the state quarterfinals and the basketball team to the playoffs.
Armah, who signed with West Georgia's football program, threw 52 feet, 5 inches in the shot put. He had a toss of 149-10 for third in the discus.
Armah beat out teammate Durum Alarms, who was fourth in the shot put (51-9) and discus (149-8).
"They both PRed, I'm really happy with that," Dacula assistant coach David Machovec said.
Broncos' Bilal shines in high jump
This was Bilal Abdullah's only year as a high jumper, but the Brookwood senior made it a memorable one.
Abdullah set a personal record of 6 feet, 10 inches to take second in the Class AAAAA state meet.
"I think it was a good year," he said.
Abdullah took Etowah's Brandon Goodman to the seven-foot mark, but neither athlete was able to clear it. Goodman won on fewer misses.
The runner-up finish completed a stellar season for Abdullah, who won the Gwinnett County championship, took second at the Region 8-AAAAA championship and was first at the East Sectional.