Portal High School’s girls track and field team showed they can compete with any school at the state level, despite not having a home track to practice on.
The Panthers proved they were a team to be reckoned with by placing second in the Georgia High School Association Class-1A state finals, and in the process made school history.
“It’s not something you hear everyday,” said Portal track and field coach Valerie Kinard. “I’ve received so many calls and text on how great of a job these girls have done and what they’ve meant to this community. It’s really a group effort. The girls are the ones putting in the effort and work, and to do so without a track or facility to practice in, it’s amazing.”
The Panthers, coming off the first region girls track and field championship in school history, were well prepared for the state finals Saturday, May 7, Kinard said. Portal scored 49 points, just edging Elite Scholars by one point.
“We knew it was going to be close (for second place),” Kinard said. “It was going to come down to the 300 hurdles and it was going to be close.”
Jasmin Graham and Uniqua Mosley placed second and third respectively in the 300-meter hurdles at the state finals. Senior Tia Hagins, who Kinard said helped hold the team together this year, placed fifth in the 100-meter and 200-meter dash.
The 4×100 team of Aleaha Wiggins, Hagins, Graham and Mosley placed third in state while Dashonda Morgan had a sixth place finish in the triple jump.
Graham not only had to battle a competitive field at the state finals, but a nagging foot injury as well. Despite tweaking her foot, Graham placed in the top 10 in the state for overall performance in the 300 hurdles with a time of 49.06.
“It was really tough, because unlike other schools in Bulloch County we don’t have a track. We had to practice in the parking lot or the football field,” Hagins said. “We had to do more than others because we’re limited. People look down on Portal a lot so we have to try harder to prove ourselves.”
The future looks bright for the girls track and field team at Portal. Hagins is the only senior on the squad, although Kinard said losing Hagins will be a big blow.
“I knew Tia was going to step up this year and lead this team to success. She’s held this group together and she’s a huge part of this team,” Kinard said.
Hagins, however, knows she’s leaving the team in good hands. When asked what she thought this team would be capable of next year she wasn’t shy to deliver her prediction.
“They’re going to win state,” Hagins said, laughing. “I know they’re going to win. There’s no where else to go for this program but up.”
Horace Holloman may be reached at (912) 489-9408.