VALDOSTA -- Lowndes High School's girls track team took its first step toward its 12th region title in 14 years Thursday afternoon.
The Vikettes scored 74 points to outdistance the rest of Region 1-AAAAA during the first of two days of the region track and field meet.
Seven event finals and other preliminaries were held Thursday at Lowndes High. The remainder of the finals are scheduled for Tuesday at Hugh Mills Stadium in Albany.
"It was a pretty darn good start for a first day," said Lowndes High head coach Hiram Johnson. "We've got a half-meet to go, and got a lot of people qualified."
Coffee used a 1-6 finish in the day's last final, the 300 meter hurdles, to finish the day in second place ahead of Tift County, 49-47. Valdosta was fourth (22 points), Colquitt fifth (19 points) and Lee County sixth (six points).
The top two finishers in each event final advance to the state meet, set for May 8-10 in Albany. Lowndes qualified four athletes in four events -- including the usual suspects and a surprise.
Melissa Daugherty won the 1,600 meters (5:24.98) while Miaie Williams was second in the long jump (15-7). Two other Vikettes got firsts -- Candace McGriff in the high jump (5-feet) and Markeisha Close in the triple jump (35-2).
"We know Melissa and Miaie will be contenders at state," Johnson said. "But we got a real surprise from a freshman, Close. Her best jump before today was 34 feet. Who knows, she could hit 36 at state."
Tift County qualified four athletes in five events. Shanice Dawson had firsts in the discus (127-0 1/4) and shot put (34-6 1/2), while three Lady Blue Devils had seconds -- Jekila King in the high jump (5-feet), Monique Jordan in the discus (120-5 1/2) and Java Dawson in the shot put (32-10 1/2).
Coffee had two athletes qualify for state with first-place finishes -- Tiffany Wells in the long jump (16-9) and Cherrisa Brockington in the 300 hurdles (46.66).
Colquitt's Hope Moore qualified in two events, placing second the triple jump (34-7) and 300 hurdles (47.0).
Valdosta's lone state qualifier was Danielle Washington, who finished second in the 1,600 meters (5:46.16).
Teams also earned points for their third- through sixth-place finishes, and that's where Lowndes also got help in the push for another region title.
Lowndes got thirds from Laquanna Jenkins (long jump), Shayla Davis (discus) and McGriff (triple jump), fourths from Krystal Davis
(discus), Nakia Mitchell (shot put), Shelbra Williams (1600 meters) and Close (300 meter hurdles). Tiffany Moore was fifth in the high jump.
Valdosta got points from Ashley Gaitor (third in the 1600 meters), Shereka Evans (fifth in the long jump and triple jump), Jamie McKinnon (fifth in the 300 meter hurdles), Kendra Johnson (sixth in the high jump) and Freda Davis (sixth in the shot put).
On Tuesday, finals are scheduled in the 100, 200, 400, 800 and 3,200 meters, the 100 meter hurdles, both relays (4x100 and 4x400) and the pole vault.
Both Lowndes and Valdosta had day-high five heat winners Thursday. Lowndes' Williams had heat wins in the 100 and 200 meters.
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