ALBANY -- Larry Clark has been coaching track & field for more than 30 years at Bainbridge High, and still helps out as an assistant. The boys and girls head coaches even once ran for Clark.
So if anyone knows about Bainbridge track & field, it's Mr. Clark. So when Clark starts talking about the Bearcats being good enough to win the first boys state title in the school's history, everyone listens.
"We want to win it, and I think we're going to win it,'' said Clark after watching Bainbridge demolish the Region 1-AAAA Wednesday at Hugh Mills, where the Bearcats were shouting "No. 14,'' when they took the podium.
It was actually the 13th title in a row for Bainbridge, which scored 189 points, almost doubling second-place Hardaway (98 points). Lee County, which saw pole vaulter Caleb Ebbets break the region record with a vault of 16 feet, finished seventh (34) and Americus-Sumter was ninth (6).
Bainbridge qualified for eight individual events at next week's state meet in Jefferson, and won both relays. The Bearcats' 4-x100 relay team had the fastest time in Georgia until last week when Clarke Central out of Atlanta ran a 41.43, but Bainbridge took care of that Wednesday, running a 41.33 to win easily.
Denzel Reynolds, Thomas Smiley, Brandon Handsford and Shawn Samuel make up that state best team. The Bainbridge 4x400 relay team is so deep that when Samuel, the anchor, pulled up after the 200-meter race, Bainbridge replaced him with alternate Harold Martin -- and Bainbridge still won the race (3:22.41). Joseph Ausgood, Octavious Scott and Smiley ran with Martin on that team.
It was that kind of day for Bainbridge, which saw Delonte Martistee win both the high jump (6-4) and the triple jump (46-5) and Reynolds win the 100 (10.64) and the 200 (21.95) in what Clark called the surprise of the day.
"We didn't know if he would place, and he not only won both races, but won in good times. That's one reason we think we will do so well at state,'' Clark said.
Ausgood won the 800 (1:59.01), Scott won the 300 hurdles (39.65) and Denzel Gamble won the 110 hurdles (14.83). Crowell Stevenson won the shot put (51-8) and Dewayne Gurley was second in the discus.
"We have reserved eight rooms,'' Bainbridge boys coach Larry Cosby said. "We have a good group of kids this year. A lot of them have been in our program for four-to-five years, starting in eighth grade.''
This could be Bainbridge's year. The Bearcats have never finished higher than third at state, but have never had this much depth going into the state meet.
"I think we can win it,'' Martistee said. "We're qualifying more people this year. We've been talking about winning it, and everybody just wants to work harder so we can win it.''
Lee County's Jacob Kennedy won the 1,600-meter run and will be going to state along with Ebbets, who smashed the region record Wednesday and has hopes of breaking the state record in Jefferson.
The Class AAAA state record is 14-feet, 9 inches, and Ebbets didn't even start vaulting until the 13-foot mark on Wednesday. He cleared 16-feet easily, and came close to clearing 16-6 on his final attempt of the day.
"If I perform like I did (Wednesday) I will have it,'' he said of the state record. "My first (vault) of the year was indoors at 14-6, and I'm much better now. In order to break the state record you have to do it at the state meet. I just hope it's a good day. You never know.''