Photo by Scott Chancey

Photo by Scott Chancey

ALBANY -- Octavia Jones had an idea.

He knew the kids on the Monroe track teams were fast, knew they had a chance to win the state title in both the boys and girls state track meets. But he wanted one more push -- one final bit of motivation.

So Jones took the catalogue, where he had been looking for state title rings for his teams, and cut out pictures of the rings he planned on getting his team members if they won.

"I taped those pictures on the mirror in the hotel rooms,'' Jones said. "I promised them if they won they would get those rings. They really got amped!''

The rest is well-known history around Monroe, where they made their own history last spring by winning both the boys and girls state track titles.

Tuesday afternoon, Jones delivered on his promise.

He did it in front of a packed school auditorium at Monroe, where the kids screamed and gave standing ovations to track stars such as Mimieux Land and Lakeisha Jackson and Sir Paul Jones, who all won individual state titles last year.

"We were going to have the ring ceremony in the evening,'' Jones said. "But the kids wanted to do it in the afternoon in front of the school. I think this was a great idea. It's good for the school.''

Jones handed out rings to Monroe principal Dr. Johnny Scott and former Monroe principal Dolores Spears, a huge supporter of the track program. Jones went out of his way to praise the parents of his track stars, calling them, "the best group of parents in the state of Georgia.''

Jones said the parents bring all the food to the track meets and take care of all the little things, and he praised them for traveling with the team, regardless of where Monroe ran in meets this year.

"I would be in Wal-Mart late on a Friday night getting food and things for the (Saturday) track meets,'' Jones said. "But they take care of all of that. They take a lot of pressure off me. They're the best.''

So are his track teams, and Jones told the crowd on Tuesday that both his boys and girls teams have a goal of repeating as state champs this year. For Jones, the ceremony marked the end of last year's state titles, and the beginning of a run for two more.

"For me, it represents closure,'' Jones said. " We have been honored at events by the city and the board, but handing out the rings (Tuesday) is the closure of winning the state championships last year. It's the culminating event of it all.''

Jones and his teams are ready for another run at two more titles. They will compete in the Westover Relays on Friday and then compete in the Region 1-AAA meet next week, the first leg of the defense of the state titles.

Tuesday was also special for Jones on a personal level.

"I won the state title in the long jump in 1994, and I vowed if I ever became the head track coach that my athletes would get rings,'' Jones said. "It was a special day.''