ALBANY, Ga. - Burning down the last straightaway during the 300-meter hurdles, Butler's Dont'a Hallmon could be thinking about anything.
Like not tripping on a hurdle. Or like what happened last year when she led most of the race before South Cobb's Tamara Stephenson passed her at the finish line and took away her state title.
But those thoughts aren't running through Hallmon's mind she pounds the track.
Instead, she listens for the voice of her mother at the finish line. She knows if her mom is screaming at the top of her lungs, someone is closing in on her lead. If not, she's home free.
On Saturday at the Georgia Girls Track and Field Championships, as Hallmon tore down the last stretch, she listened for her mother's voice. She heard nothing but the sweet sound of silence.
Blazing to a 44.590, Hallmon avenged last year's last-second defeat and took home Augusta's only individual state championship.
"At (Thursday's) preliminaries, I had to run really fast, because I heard my mom yelling when I was 50 yards away from the finish," Hallmon said after the meet at Hugh Mills Stadium. "My mom's got a loud mouth, but today, I didn't hear anything."
Hallmon's victory was not without adversity. As she tried to leap over the second hurdle, she banged one of her problematic knees.
"I just tried not to give up," said Hallmon, who beat out South Atlanta's Tiffany Russell (45.747), Cedar Shoals' Adrian Johnson (45.974) and Greenbrier's Lindsey Sutherland (45.978). "I just tried to be strong."
That strength almost gave way when she knocked over the last hurdle in the race and staggered for a few steps. But still she heard nothing from her mom, and recovered to beat Russell to the line.
"It was the best I've ever seen her run," Butler coach Galen Phillips said. "She had to prepare herself mentally for it. Last year, she had it won until the end. This year, she had it won, and she knew she had to keep going. It was outstanding."
Sutherland's coaches could make the same claim.
After finishing third in Friday's shot put and taking second in the 100 hurdles and fourth in the 300 hurdles, the Lady Wolfpack senior finished third for the Class AAAA High-Points trophy with all 18 of Greenbrier's points.
"I was pretty bummed about finishing third in the shot put," said Sutherland, who was runner-up in 2001. "But after I calmed down, I realized I (recorded a personal best) in every event I was in. I still did the best I've ever done."
Although none of the area teams finished in the top six and weren't recognized in the final tally, Burke County placed in the top 10 with 20 points.
Lady Bears coach Thomas McDonald wasn't totally satisfied, despite the squad's strong finish: Burke County's 1,600 relay team ran to a second-place finish (3:59.270).
"It's disappointing when you know you could have done a little better," said McDonald, whose team got an eighth-place finish from Kenyarda Berrian in the 100. "But these girls came out and tried. We finished about where I expected."
Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or email@example.com.
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