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Denmark sends 3 track & field athletes, 2 football players to next level
Denmark seniors, from left, Kaden Henley, Will Purdy, Chinmay Dongari, Hayden Hare and Reagan Wells signed Wednesday to continue their athletic careers in college. - photo by David Roberts

The past four days have been unlike any other for Hayden Hare. 

On Saturday, Hare was part of Denmark's 4x800 relay team that won a state championship at the Class 7A state meet at McEachern High School. On Wednesday, he signed to a Division I program, vowing to continue his athletic career at The Citadel.

What's more, Denmark's relay team of Hare, Tavian Anderson, Ethan Ashley and Karthik Kochuparambil isn't only the best in Georgia — it's the best in the entire country.

"It's been thrilling," Hare said. "We were super stoked to win the 4x800. It was a thrilling race; we took the lead in the beginning. We really haven't come to terms with being No. 1 in the nation, but we are super blessed and happy that it's ring season."

Hare is one of five Denmark seniors who signed Wednesday, joining track and field teammates Chinmay Dongari [Mercer University] and Reagan Wells [Newberry College], as well as football players Kaden Henley [Iowa Wesleyan] and Will Purdy [Samford University]. 

Hare and Denmark's 4x800 relay team won a region championship in the event, then finished first at the Class 7A sectional meet, but the group managed to run a 7:44.21 at the state meet and shave more than 13 seconds off their time from two weeks ago.

"We're a super close team. We've been with each other all three years," Hare said. "Through all the workouts and all the hard times that we've been through, we've grown together and we push each other harder. I would say that we're definitely a team of rivals. We're always pushing each other, and nobody ever wins the same workout twice. We're always trying to beat the other person."

Dongari also ran the 4x800 for Denmark and combined with Ashley, Tavian Anderson and Xavier Anderson to run a school-record 8:13.67 at the Adidas Panther Relays on March 13.

In the fall, Dongari helped Denmark's cross country team to a fourth-place finish at the Class 7A state meet at Carrollton High School, posting a 17:21.93 and finishing 34th overall.

Wells also enjoyed success in the 4x800 this season, helping set the school record in the event May 8 at the Class 7A sectional meet with a 10:04.89, along with Morgan Grace Sheffield, Elena Lawler and Jessica Perriello.

Wells also ran the 800m [7th, 2:29.67] and the 1600m [12th, 5:41.29] at the Region 6-7A meet. 

Henley and Purdy each played an integral role for Denmark, which finished second in Region 6-7A and reached the second round of the Class 7A playoffs, with Henley in the defensive backfield and Purdy on the offensive line. 

Henley finished his senior season with 32 tackles, seven pass breakups and two interceptions. 

Purdy missed the first four games of the season because of an injury but returned in time to help the Danes win five of their last six regular-season games and play for a region championship. 

Missing those four games didn't help Purdy's recruiting process, but when he received the offer from Samford, Purdy didn't hesitate. 

"I wasn't really sure where I was going a few months ago," Purdy said. "I just got a call from Coach [Ricky] Turner and he offered me the opportunity to play there, so I took it. It was a long process this year with COVID, for sure."

Henley and Purdy are part of Denmark's senior class that collected 18 wins and reached the playoffs twice in the school's first three seasons.

For Purdy, the ability to step in and start right away at Denmark was pivotal.

"The opportunity to play and start for three years. It was awesome," Purdy said. "I mean, that's a lot of the reason I got to go play at the next level, because I got experience against varsity players for three years."