BAINBRIDGE -- Georgia linebacker Nick Williams was back home in Bainbridge this week, and when he stopped by spring football practice, the topic of discussion wasn't just Georgia and Bainbridge football.
"He was talking about how everyone in that part of the state can't wait to see Clarke Central and Bainbridge in the 4x100 relay,'' longtime Bainbridge track coach Larry Clark said. "A lot of people are talking about that race.''
The two teams, which have swapped off running the best 4x100 times in the state this spring, might be running for more than just bragging rights this weekend at the GHSA boys state track & field meet in Jefferson. They could be neck and neck for the team title.
Bainbridge's boys could run right into history. As good as this program has been (Bainbridge won its 13th region title in a row last week) the Bearcats have never won a state title.
That could change during the next three days of the meet that begins with field events today and wraps up Saturday with the running finals.
"This is the most we've ever had at the state meet in numbers and the most quality we've ever had,'' said Clark, who has been coaching track at Bainbridge for more than 30 years. "The people we have can score in every event. We've never had this many quality performers.''
Bainbridge has qualified in nine individual events and both relays, and could be in a position to score points from all over the meet, starting today in the field, where the Bearcats have two in the high jump -- Delonte Martistee and Rodsheem Venisee-Cosby -- Stevenson Crowell, who could finish in the top three in the shot put, DeWayne Gurley, who looks like a top four contender in the discus, and two more in the triple jump. Martistee might be a top three finisher in the high jump and also land in the top four in the triple jump, and Denzel Gamble has an outside chance to win the triple jump.
"We could score a lot of points in the field if we just keep doing what we've been doing,'' Clark said. "We like our chances in the field, because you get three opportunities to get it right, on the track you only have one.''
That's where Bainbridge has to step up this weekend, right there on the track where so many events will be decided by close margins.
The Bearcats are looking for a big weekend from Denzel Reynolds, who was the surprise in the region meet, where he won the 100 in 10.64 and the 200 in 21.65. Those times put him fourth and sixth coming into state, but the field is so close if Reynolds picks up the pace he might end up in the top three in both events.
It's the same story in the 300 hurdles because Octavius Scott comes in at 39.65, which puts him at fifth, and Gamble enters with a 14.83 in the 110 hurdles as the fourth fastest time out of the region meets.
Those are the key runners for Bainbridge along with Joseph Ausgood, who won the region 800 easily in 1:59.01. But no one knows what Ausgood might run if he is pushed at state.
What Clark wants this week is for everyone to push themselves -- right into a state team title.
"It's going to come down to if our kids are up to the challenge and step up to the plate,'' Clark said. "All of the times are pretty close (and bunched together) so we are going to have to do a little extra. We have a slogan this week: 'Losers quit when they're tired. Winners quit when they have won.' ''
Bainbridge's 4x400 relay has the sixth fastest time coming in, but that's a deceptive time because Shawn Samuel, who anchors both relays, didn't run the 4x400 in the region meet. He'll run Saturday along with Scott, Ausgood and Thomas Smiley. The 4x100 -- Reynolds, Smiley, Brandon Handsford and Samuel -- has the fastest time in the a state best regardless of class at 41.33. Clarke Central has run a 41.47. Don't blink while these two teams are on the track.
"We can control our own destiny, but we have to realize everyone has to improve on where they are now,'' Clark said. "We've talked enough about it. They have an idea. They worked harder this week than they have worked all year. Their excited about the opportunity, but you just have to wait to see how they will respond.''
Lee County's Caleb Ebbets is expected the shatter the Class AAAA record (14-9) in the pole vault. Ebbets set the Region 1-AAAA record at 16-1 last week. Lee County's Jacob Kennedy will run in the 1,600 and 3,200 for the Trojans.
Mitchell County's boys, who were second at state last year in AA, bring back a solid team led by Justin Scott, the defending 100-meter champ, who will try to repeat as a junior. He ran a 10.52 in the 100 and a 21.68 in the 200, which he finished second at state in last year, at region.
Albany will be led by Jarvis Hicks (triple jump and 1,600) and Barry Diamond (400) and Early County's Jimmy Robinson has a chance to win the 110 hurdles in Class AA.
Pelham sends a large group to state in the Class A and could go 1-2 in the triple jump with Kenneth Randall and Dominique Brown, who might also win the long jump. Alexander Atkins should get Pelham points in the 100-meter dash and 110 hurdles, and Desmond Smith has a chance to win the discus.