Richmond Hill High School track stars David Cassidy and Shaquille Walker won region titles at the Region 3-AAA meet at Burke County over the weekend, earning them a trip to May’s state competition.
Cassidy won the Region 3-AAA title for the 1600 meter race and placed second in the 3200 meter race. Walker won the 3-AAA title for the 800 meter race.
The duo will join RHHS runners Heather Vaccaro and Janelle McKinney, who won the right to go to state last week.
In total, eight Bryan County track athletes are headed to state. Representing Bryan County High School, as a result of the recent 3-A Region meet, are Mitzi Cross, Willie Deloach, Taylor Lucas and Mike Mitchell.
Head Wildcat Coach Jimmy Hires said this season marks the most RHHS track athletes to make it that far.
"It is a great thing for these young athletes and it is a great thing for this program," Hires said. "Part of the credit has to go to my assistant Levi Sybert who has really pushed them to be the best they can be. He ran track in college and his experience has really helped us get to this point."
Strong weekend performances were also turned in by Matt Gaddy who placed ninth in the 400 meter race and Garrett Vertullo who placed seventh in both the 1600 and 3200 meter races.
"The entire team performed well beyond their personal bests of the year," Assistant Coach Levi Sybert said. "Each athlete ran their best times of the year on every run, prelims and finals included. It was quite evident that the work that these boys put in during practice this year paid off. Everyone achieved their training goal time and some just surpassed that. Beyond the improved performances, each of the athletes showed maturity and poise during their races."
Two of the most exciting races of the weekend were the 1600 and 800 meter runs as RHHS captured the Regional title in both of these events.
"Cassidy ran a pre-planned race that panned out to perfection," Sybert said. "A strategy was set in place before the start of the race that included two planned surges during the third lap of the race."
Cassidy instantly broke open a 10-meter lead over his competitors. Taking the wind out of their sails, it was apparent that the only two athletes even close to him were no longer running to win the race, but trying to secure the second place spot to earn a trip to the state meet. Cassidy then rode his lead all of the way to the finish line, finishing in at a time of 4:45.98, besting his previous personal best by 8.5 seconds.
Another thriller took place during the 800 meter run, where freshman Shaquille Walker took the spotlight. Walker methodically marched from sixth to first by the time he reached the 400 meter split. At the 450 mark, two athletes took over Walker, boxing him in and giving him no room to move. He waited to the end of the curve and weaved out between the two sandwiching athletes. At the end of the last curve, he rolled into a sprint and put himself back up as the leader. Quickly, two athletes took the lead back from Walker. With 50 meters to go, he made his last surge and launched himself up to second place and was beginning to take first from the inside of lane one. With just under 10 meters to go, the leading athlete and Walker were chest to chest when the Benedictine runner came over onto him, cutting him off and hooking him with his elbow. Both athletes stumbled across the finish line just before the next two. The officials immediately disqualified the Benedictine runner, giving the race to Walker. It was his also his personal best, improving his time of 2:12 at the previous track meet to a 2:03.