This was a Christmas homecoming Taylar Stallings will never forget.
Stallings, who graduated from Evans High School last spring, returned to her alma mater Friday night to see friends and family, and to pick up a special piece of jewelry.
During halftime of the Evans-Burke County boys basketball game, Stallings was presented the championship ring she earned by winning the Georgia High School Association Class AAAAA state title in discus.
"It's a great moment because this ring signifies all the hard work I've done to get to this point," she said.
Stallings now is a scholarship athlete at University of South Florida in Tampa, but the path to a Division I career started in Columbia County.
As a senior at Evans, she won Region 7-AAAAA titles in shot and discus. Stallings capped her prep career by claiming the GHSA Class AAAAA discus championship with a throw of 131 feet.
Stallings was one of the favorites to take the state shotput title, but she settled for second at state in the shot. Still, putting the shot 42 feet, 8 inches didn't mean she came up short.
"I was kind of disappointed to not win in shot, but the state title came in discus, and that's just as good," Stallings said. "It was one of the best experiences of my life, because ever since I got to high school I wanted to win a state title."
Stallings became the first Lady Knight to win an individual state championship in track and field, but she had some help from Dave Machovec, who refined her technique in shot and discus.
Machovec presented Stallings with the ring last week, and she wouldn't have wanted it any other way. "I specifically asked for him to present the ring over anybody else, because he's the one who's gotten me this far," she said.
Stallings is a multi-event athlete at University of South Florida, where she competes in shot, discus and hammer. She just completed her first semester as a college freshman.
"It's been a learning experience," she said. "College was kind of rough at first, but after a few weeks I learned how to survive by myself."
The college track and field indoor season starts Jan. 10, and the outdoor season begins in March. Stallings has set a high goal for her first college campaign - to qualify for the Conference USA championships.
"Things have been going well. I've been seeing some progress," she said. "My coaches say that based on my performances so far, I have a real good chance of placing at meets."
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