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Ruff Riders head into finals in Calif.

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Sir Paul Jones still hasn't decided where he will attend college, but that decision could come shortly after Sir Paul runs today in the U.S.A. Track & Field National Junior Olympics, where he made it to the finals in the 110 hurdles, the 400 hurdles and the 4x100 relay team in the 16-17-year-old age bracket.

Today is a big day for Sir Paul, who has run the second fastest time in the nation this year in the 400 hurdles. He won the 110 hurdles and 300 hurdle titles in the Class AAA state meet last spring, and won the 110 hurdles and 400 hurdle titles in the Golden West meet earlier this summer.

He said before the Junior Olympics that he would make his decision about college after the meet. Sir Paul runs for the Albany Ruff Riders Track Club, coached by his father, Paul Jones, who has been surrounded by college coaches all week, who not only like Sir Paul but some of the other members of the Ruff Riders.

Maikea Davis, who will be a junior at Monroe this year, is the only member of the team who competed in a final on Saturday. Davis finished third in the 200 meter dash in 24.1.

"They (college coaches) have been around every day,'' Jones said. "We have some of the youngest kids here. They can't talk to the kids until they run their final event, but they're talking to me.''

Mimieux Land is already getting a lot of attention. She is only 16, but college programs around the country know about her. Land, who will just be a junior at Monroe this year, won the high jump title this week, and will compete in the long jump today. Land won the high jump two years ago in the 13-14 age bracket, but this was more meaningful because it came in the highest age bracket. This is the first year she can talk to college coaches.

"It's exciting because I couldn't talk to them before," she said. "There are a lot of college scouts here but this is the first time I can talk with them, so it's all new to me.''

When the rush comes, she won't be alone. Her father, Dan Land, a former NFL star who is now the secondary coach at Albany State, and her mother made the trip.

Land has already won four individual state titles, including three at this year's Class AAA state meet, in which she scored more points by herself than more than half the teams that competed and ran away with the top athlete award at the meet last spring.

She won the Junior Olympics high jump title on Thursday, but didn't make the finals in the triple jump on Friday. The cold weather has been a big factor this week for the kids from Georgia. The temperature has been in the 50s in the morning when many of the races are run.

"It's California, but it feels like February in Georgia,'' Jones said. "We had to run all over, going to Wal-Mart and Old Navy to get some fleece coats and jackets for these kids. The races start at 8 a.m., so that means we're leaving the hotel at 6:30 and it's cold every morning.''

Justin Scott, who won Class AA state titles in the 100 and 200 meters for Mitchell County last spring, will run in the 100 meter finals today. Scott, who will be a senior, has orally committed to Georgia, but he has drawn a lot of attention from several college coaches who who are expected to try to talk him out of staying in Georgia.

"He has gotten a lot of exposure out here,'' Jones said of Scott. "And you know they're going to come after him.''

Scott also will run the anchor leg of the 4x100 relay team in today's finals. Jontavius Hill, Broddrick Snoody and Sir Paul complete that team, which won its heat in the preliminaries with ease.

The Ruff Riders had 20 kids -- 14 girls and six boys -- qualify for the national meet, and the 10-11-12 year-old girls 4x100 relay team made it to today's finals. Jones' daughter, Yo'era Jones, runs on that team along with Tralen Price, Jalah Butler and Alana Lewis. Price is 10, and the other three girls are 11.

"I'm pretty happy with all the kids,'' Jones said. "We have the finals (today), and we had some make it. The competition is so good out here. You have to run great in the prelims just to get to the finals.''