P-G, Ashley Hall defend track titles

Provided Porter Gaud distance coach Hugh Knight, Brent Demarest, head track coach Larry Salley

COLUMBIA - The Porter-Gaud boys' track and field team could have been handed their fourth consecutive state championship trophy about an hour after the start of the SCISA Class AAA boys track and field championships Saturday.

After dominating early in the field events and distance events, the afternoon session of the meet was more for individual honors. As one official at the meet put it, "We started the meet at 9:30 and they had it won by 10:22."

Ashley Hall captured the AAA girls title for the second consecutive year, holding off strong challenges from Heathwood Hall and Porter-Gaud.

Porter-Gaud's boys blew away the rest of AAA to win their fourth straight state title, sending 15-year head coach Larry Salley into his new role as the school's athletic director as a winner.

"It was a special day," said Salley. "This team is the best team I have ever coached, for sure, and it has to go down as one of the best teams in SCISA, ever. What a day they had today. They came here not only to win but to make a statement and boy they did that."

Led by Brent Demarest's gold-medal winning performances in the 800-meter, 1600-meter and 3200-meter runs, the Cyclones proved to be in a class all alone. Demarest set state records in the 800 and 1600 and leaves the program as the state record-holder in all three distance events.

"That was a personal goal, to set the state records, but I also wanted to run my best today to help our team win another state championship," said Demarest, who is headed to the University of Virginia in the fall. "As a team, we wanted to win it again and all of our guys really performed well today."

Porter-Gaud took the top three finishes in the 3200 and won the 4 x 400 relay event. Even more impressive was the Cyclones' performance in the shot put and discus. Travis Barnett won both events and Porter-Gaud took the top three spots in the shot put and the top five positions in the discus. Jacob Salley was second in both throws and Fleetwood Brown was third.

Aidan Hekker added a first-place finish in the pole vault.

Aliyah Simmons anchored Ashley Hall's winning effort, taking first in the high jump and 400 while placing second in the 100 and 200. Simmons injured a back muscle during the high jump and ran the races at less than 100 percent but still managed to be the top scoring female athlete in the state meet.

"She really showed a lot of heart today," said coach John Slepitz. "She was not nearly 100 percent but she knew we needed her. Had she not run those sprints, we don't win the state championship today.

"I am really proud of our team. We got really strong challenges today from Porter and Heathwood Hall and it was close to the end. We needed a big team effort and we got one today."

Ashley Hall also won the 1600 and 3200 relays. Isabella Alfaro captured her second straight 800 gold medal and Michaela White won the 400 hurdles.

Pinewood Prep's Maryah Nasir won gold in the 1600 and 3200, setting state records in both races. Porter-Gaud's Caroline Pascal won the discus throw.

Palmetto Christian's girls also had a strong day in the AA/A meet, finishing as the state runner-up behind Spartanburg Christian.

Annie Pascutti won gold in the high, long and triple jump and took second in the 400 hurdles. She earned the award for top scorer in the meet.

Maggie Hogan captured the state title in the pole vault and MacKenzie Patrick was the 400 state champion.

Mitch Hogan of Palmetto Christian was the top point scorer in the AA/A boys meet, winning the pole vault while placing second in the 400, the 110 hurdles and the 400 hurdles.

Teammate Ben German won the state gold in the high jump and Joe Siegwald was state champion in the triple jump.