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Track and field: South girls lean on distance runners to win second straight region title
The South Forsyth girls track and field team celebrates after winning the Region 5-7A team title on April 17, 2018 at West Forsyth High School. - photo by Ben Hendren

There was also the joy of the team title, and the satisfaction of individual accomplishments, but those weren't the first things on Kaylee DuPont's mind when the South Forsyth senior was asked how she felt after Tuesday's Region 5-7A track and field championship meet at West Forsyth. 

"I'm a little tired, not going to lie," DuPont said with a laugh.

But she still found the energy to dash down from the bleachers and onto the infield to be with the War Eagles girls as they were officially announced as region champions for the second straight year.

It was a close finish, as South had 157 team points to Lambert's 151, and DuPont's performance figured heavily into those results. She was particularly fatigued, having run three taxing events in a three-hour span. 

That's what South had to do to win. War Eagles head coach Christine Shaw is in just her second year leading the program, and when she started in the position, she heard about South's historic strength in middle distance and distance events. Shaw has only strengthened those disciplines in her time with the War Eagles, and their importance in South's team performance has gone against traditional wisdom in the sport, which holds that teams stronger in the sprints and field events have the advantage in team competition. 

"It's kind of weird," DuPont said. "Because there are so many sprint events, and we're always like, 'Oh, I wish we had the 4x800 or something.' It is an odd situation, but I'm just glad we're able to do it for South."

In the events from the 800 meters to the 3200, Lambert scored 19 points. South, without having an individual champion in any of those races, had 41. And the War Eagles had DuPont and junior Aleesa de Castro, another distance runner, on their top 4x400 relay team, which finished second and netted South eight more points. 

The finish in this year's meet wasn't as dramatic as last year's, which came down to the last leg of the last event for South, but Shaw still had a feeling that the margin would be close, and she sketched out a plan for each event. One particularly important one was the 800, which turned out to have one of the most dramatic finishes of the day. 

DuPont and Milton's Annie Gallagher established significant separation in first and second place, leaving South's Sophia Baker grappling with Mallory Luskus and Rachel Murray. Baker nipped Luskus down the stretch, using a late kick to move into fourth place and earn five points for the War Eagles. 

The sprinters were still essential to South's win, though. Louise Tocays won the 100 and finished second in the 200-meter dash, and Palamo Jaramillo-Henderson won the long jump and ran a leg in the 4x100-meter relay team that finished second. 

"I will say that the sprinters have really turned it around," Shaw said. "We've got a great group of sprinters that have worked hard throughout the summer to really show out this year."

Milton, led by a cluster of wins in both the distance and sprinting events, won the boys title handily, with 178 points to second-place Lambert's 140. 

Team standings

Girls

1. South Forsyth, 157

2. Lambert, 151

3. West Forsyth, 100

4. Milton, 81

5. Forsyth Central, 79

6. North Forsyth, 53

Boys

1. Milton, 178

2. Lambert, 140

3. South Forsyth, 97

4. West Forsyth, 78

5. North Forsyth, 76

6. Forsyth Central, 54