Columbia County can now add two more state champions to its roster.
Tesha Thurmond of Greenbriar High School and Taylar Stallings of Evans High School both brought home gold medals in discus at the state championship track and field meet in Albany on May 9.
Thurmond won the AAA state discus championship with a 128 feet 2 inch toss that broke her own Greenbriar school record. Stallings' 131 foot throw also broke the Evans school record and claimed the AAAAA state title.
In addition to the state title in discus, Stallings racked up a second place finish in shot-put. Thurmond also placed ninth in shot-put at the state meet.
Stallings' win came as no surprise to Evans throwing events coach David Machovec. Despite the disappointment of not achieving her goal of a state title in the shot-put, Stallings was able to bounce back for the discus competition.
"What impressed me the most is that after she placed second in the shot, she had the turn right around and compete in the discus," Machovec said. "And she delivered. That shows you that she is competitive, and she has a big heart. She's just a never-say-die athlete."
Winning a state championship was Stallings' goal from the beginning of the year, even though she had never competed at the state meet nor had her track and field career included even a region championship.
"This is my first time making it to state," Stallings said. "So it's a good state debut."
Machovec thinks that Stalling's win will set an example to the rest of the Evans track team.
"One of my philosophies is 'To be a champion, you must train like a champion,"' Machovic said. "To train like a champion you've got to make sacrifices - Taylar is that way."
Stallings who graduates later this month is receiving a scholarship to throw shot-put, discus and hammer at the University of South Florida next year.
Thurmond, a junior who has competed at the state meet during her first three years of high school, will attempt to repeat as state champion in the discus next year. But while it lasts, she says she will enjoy the feeling of this year's win.
"I'm getting special treatment too, so I guess that makes it even better," Thurmond said. "Just about every class I go to somebody's saying - 'That's a long way to throw something,' and 'Congratulations."'
According to Greenbriar coach Kati Smallwood, the school's first track and field state champion gives a needed boost to the program.
"It's a tremendous shot in the arm," Smallwood said. "Ever since the school opened, we have improved each year. It does help to attract new people, and you know they want to be part of a winning program."
Both Thurmond and Smallwood attribute the strong showing at the state meet to the training hours Thurmond logged learning technique with Machovec. Time spent building her strength in the weight room also added to the win.
"I guess Tesha's just a workhorse," Smallwood said. "She works so hard. She really loves throwing."
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