Six Years to a State Title: Blythewood Girls Finish the Job

There's no better way to feel accomplished than to finish a job.

After a heartbreaking defeat last year, that's just what Blythewood's girls were able to do.

The Bengals avenged a narrow loss and runner-up finish to claim the Class 5A girls state championship in Columbia. Blythewood defeated Wando 93-60 to claim its first-ever title. Byrnes (49) was third, followed by Nation Ford (48) in fourth place. J.L. Mann and Spring Valley tied for fifth with 47 points.

Blythewood dominated the track events winning the 200 and 400-meter dashes, as well as the 4x100 (47.03) and 4x800 (9:23.07) relays. The Bengals placed second in the 4x400 relay.

Blythewood coach Aleshia Taylor Hawkins (Lower Richland) said the win came down to her team being hungry for the title.

"The strategy was really just a good group of girls that always work good together," she said. "What changed everything was our 4x8. They went from 10:36 to 10:06, and then all of a sudden last week went to 9:38. Then at state they ran a 9:23."

The 4x800 team consisted of Kaitlyn McFadden, Hayley Hightower, Mallorie Hogue and Anna Kelly. The winning 4x100 team included Arianna Williams, Zion Harvey, Ashlynn Scott and Hailey Duncan. Williams also won the 200 and 400 and combined with Madison Ross, Aminah Rhone and Olivia Taylor to place second in the 4x400.

"The ironic thing is my first year coaching track was in seventh grade. They've been with me from the start and helped build this." - Coach Aleshia Hawkins

Taylor said that she felt confident about what her team could do on the track.

"We were hoping we would get everything we could on the track, and anything in the field was a bonus."

Harvey placed seventh in the long jump, Scott was eighth in the triple jump, while Aniya Fluker finished third in the shot put.

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Duncan, a Coastal Carolina signee, was second in the 100 and third in the 200. She said winning the state title as a senior culminated in years of hard work.

"After being on the team for five years and having the same coach for six, it felt so good to finally win," she said. "I was a little nervous because the live results didn't show during the meet, so we didn't know where we stood. After the relays, I felt we could win."

Williams, an Iowa signee, said that the team was motivated to come back this year and win it all.

"We've been working hard and pushing each other in practice towards our goal and to finally get it done was nice," she said. "I didn't know until towards the end of the meet that we had a pretty good chance to win overall. It was important to give it our all and try to win it."

Taylor said that she's proud of her team and happy to see her seniors go out on top.

"The ironic thing is my first year coaching track was in seventh grade (for the seniors)," she said. "They've been with me from the start and helped build this."