The Pinewood Christian Academy (PCA) Varsity Boys’ Track Team won the 2022 Georgia Independent School Association (GISA) state championship on April 23, 2022.
Thirty-three years in the making, the boys claimed the win with 111.5 overall points, ahead of Trinity Christian who had 89 points.
“This past weekend at state track was a weekend that will be talked about for a long time around here. The last time a Boys State Championship happened at Pinewood was 1989, so it’s been a while. Our guys doing what they did this past weekend was something they will always remember,” Head Coach Garrett Blaxton said.
Senior Jade Bradley was the second top point earner for the boys’ AAA meet with 23.5 points overall, just half a point behind the top scoring individual.
“Everyone did their part and all the hard work paid off. I am thankful for the coaches who pushed and encouraged us and to be part of this state championship team,” Bradley said.
PCA Junior Peyton Williams placed fifth in the top ten boys’ meet with 18 points. Williams expressed how he is proud of his team and their accomplishments.
“Going to state every year since eighth grade, knowing that I could be a competitor and yet still failing to do as good as I was supposed to, taught me many valuable lessons,” Williams said. “Most importantly, I was taught that even if you are projected to win or are ranked the best, there is always someone who can out-do you. That’s the mentality I used this year. I knew that if I didn’t give my absolute best, I would be subject to failure and there would be a chance I wouldn’t compete to the best of my ability.”
The PCA boys had five first place finishes out of the 13 they qualified in. Bradley in long jump and the 200-meter dash, Jackson Fries in pole vault, Williams in discus, and the PCA “A” team (Preston Lowe, Kaedan Arnold, Mic Wasson, and Bradley) in the 4x100 Relay.
“The seniors stepped up and led the team the way I expected them to by exemplifying what it takes on the track to get the job done. I am super proud of this group of young men,” Blaxton said.
Whether they qualified for state or not, the team effort was wide-spread as several boys across all events achieved personal records.
Fries, a senior at PCA, had back-to-back state wins in the pole vault event, last year at 11’ and this year at 12’, a state winning record for Pinewood.
“Getting to be a part of the team that won the state championship this year for the first time in 33 years is really an amazing feeling. I have been on the team since freshman year doing pole vault. At region this year, I tied the school record and beat my dad’s record from when he was in high school with a jump of 12’6” which was my goal height since I began competing freshman year. My dad was the biggest help through my jumping career. He taught me so much and always pushed me and supported me the whole way,” Fries said.
The youngest individual state champion on the team was Kaedan Arnold, a sophomore. He competed in both field and relay events contributing 23 points to PCA’s team score, the second highest point total on the team. He attributes his success to others.
“First off, I’d like to say having the opportunity to participate in state can be a once in a lifetime thing for some people,” he said. “I would first like to thank God for giving me the chance to be a part of this team at state, and I’d like to thank the coaches for keeping me motivated during my events.”
Teamwork is a vision that Coach Blaxton has set forth early on for each runner as he has guided them in molding the viewpoint that it takes every single player to create success for each individual competing. “ “Tyson Swindell played a big role in my triple jump personal best and state winning jump. We motivated each other throughout the year by going back and forth with jumps,” Arnold said.
Swindell was named state runner-up with a triple jump only 5.75” short of Arnold’s winning jump. “This team means the world to me and we pray can get another one next year,” Arnold explained.
The win for this team was the culminating effort of dedicated team members, parents, coaches and a head coach who had a vision.
“To win the last state track event in GISA history with our association switching over to GIAA next year is pretty cool. It was a special thing to sit back and watch our group of guys dominate from the time they got off the bus on Thursday to when they got back on to go home Saturday. Pure domination. Our boys finished state runner- up last year, so they had some unfinished business to take care of,” he said. “Many personal records were set in the process.”
Coach Blaxton began with the Pinewood track team as a runner himself during his high school years when he competed in the shotput and discus events. Since returning to PCA as a teacher and coach, he has been the track head coach for six years.
“Coach Garrett has been a huge help and always pushed me to do my best even though he beat me up in celebration every time, leading to me a new personal best and we became very close after this year and have made so many great memories that I will never forget,” Fries said.
The girls’ team took fifth place with 54 points, behind Trinity Christian who won with 141.5 points, Bulloch Academy with 80, Southland Academy with 79, and Atlanta Girls’ School with 70.
Coming off the heels of a state win last year brought a great deal of excitement to the team. They began the regular season with two wins and performed well throughout the season with several girls achieving personal records. The year was not without its trials, including injuries to a few key team members, but the girls persevered in their effort to keep moving forward.
The PCA girls had two state runner-ups, Mary Lucy Dasher in pole vault and Abi Scott, who scored the largest number of points for the PCA girls’ team with 17, in the 300 hurdles.
“I could not have handpicked a better group of young ladies to coach for my last season as varsity girls track coach at PCA,” Head Coach Paula Johns said. “They are a very young team of mostly freshmen and sophomores: they grew wonderfully, came together, and finished fifth in the state. Their future is indeed promising.”
Blaxton spoke about the importance of the entire coaching team’s effort and what it takes to accomplish such feats at a region or state title and to be successful at both individual and team goals.
“I want to thank the track staff that I have the pleasure to work with, Paula Johns, Andy Callaway, and my wife, Kasey Blaxton. We all bring something different to the table and we all work so well together. We don’t win as a team or as a staff without having these people around,” he said. “It’s hard to express into words. All you want as a teacher/coach is for the kids you teach and coach to succeed, to reach their full potential. It makes it all worth it. I am proud of the way they fought all year with so many on the team playing other sports like golf, tennis, and baseball as well. Sharing them with other sports can be hard at times. Trying to find times for them to practice was all about time management, but they managed to, and it showed this year how badly they wanted it.”
Arnold said it all in an effort to be clear on who this win truly belongs to for his team.
“To God be the glory,” he said.
Varsity Boys’ Total Points: 111.5
Varsity Girls’ Total Points: 54