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Field athletes help lead Newton to first state title

A year after finishing fourth in the state, the Newton Rams took home the Class AAAAAA title in the 2016 GHSA Boy’s Track and Field State Championship. This would be Newton’s first team track and field title in school history.

“Our goal from day one was to win a state title,” said head coach Kevin Barnes. “We got really close last year, and we felt like we were bringing enough missing pieces back to win this year.”

The Rams won the title with a final score of 48 points, edging second place South Gwinnett by three points (45), but Newton’s eighth place standing at the beginning of Day 3 turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

“That eighth place put us in a good spot, considering the points we scored in the field that we weren’t predicted to score,” Barnes said.

Junior Jeremiah Holloman led way in the field events by winning back-to-back championships in the triple jump. Mushadi Ibere’s distance of 23-02 in the long jump and Jeremiah Budrage’s distance of 50-03 in the shot put also helped pad the scoreboard for the Rams.

“They weren’t predicted to actually score any points in the meet in those particular events,” Barnes said. “That really helped us.”

The Rams got off to a rocky start in the final day when the 4x100 relay team of Elija Godwin, Artice Hobbs, Alex Sands and Riordran Johnson failed to finish and earned zero points, but Godwin then provided a 10-point spark for Newton after posting a 47.40 second first-place finish in the 400-meter dash.

“[Godwin’s] performance was really big,” Barnes said. “He won the title in the 400 by running the fastest time, not only in AAAAAA, but his time trumped every classification.”

Down 45-40 to South Gwinnett after 15 events, the Rams needed to finish third place or better in the final event for the win. The team of Godwin, Hobbs, Sands and Jeremiah Holloman finished 4x400 relay in 3:17.85 for second place, earning the Rams eight points and the championship.

“It was a surreal feeling,” Barnes said. “The guys were extremely excited. It was kind of like, ‘wow, I can’t believe this is happening. I can’t believe we won.’”