Lookin' for a repeat

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- Crunch away, carry the one and divide by passion.

Do all the math you want from now until late Saturday, then do it again. Won't matter, figures Octavia Jones.

"It will come down to the mile relay,'' said Jones, the outgoing Monroe coach who is headed to Westover next season and will be coaching the Tornadoes for the last time this weekend when he tries to lead them to their second consecutive GHSA Class AAA state track & field title.

The state meet begins today and runs through Saturday in Jefferson for all five classes, but the real drama is expected to come in the Class AAA meet, where Monroe and Carrollton could end up in a photo finish for the team title.

"I know one thing for certain,'' Jones said. "We will finish either first or second. I've looked at what Carrollton has and what we have. I've been playing with the numbers the past two days and it looks like both of us will end up in the 70s. It's going to come down to the mile relay.''

The mile relay -- officially known as the 4x400 relay -- is the final event of the meet Saturday and Jones expects the point totals to be so close at the end that his 4x400 squad will have to win the race to also win the championship.

That means star sprinter and hurdler Sir Paul Jones, who runs the anchor leg, may hold Monroe's fate in his hands.

"That's how I like it,'' Octavia Jones said. "If I have to put it on Sir Paul's shoulders, I feel good about it.''

So does Sir Paul.

"I don't have a problem with that,'' Sir Paul said. "If it comes down to that, it will make it very exciting. We already have a rivalry with Carrollton, and this will make it better. I love the rivalry. I love the hype.''

If it does come down to the final lap of the final event, Sir Paul said he felt Monroe would win it.

"I feel very confident in my first three legs,'' Sir Paul said. "By the time they get the baton to me, we'll be in the lead.''

Monroe's 4x400 relay team -- Benjamin Dunnaway, Donquavious Hill, Frederick Polite and Sir Paul -- have the fastest qualifying time (3:25.94) coming in to the meet, but they have to qualify for the finals on Friday when all the running prelims will be held. That's a day Octavia Jones will be holding his breath.

Monroe has both relay teams at state. The 4x100 team is ranked second (42.12) coming in right behind Carrollton (41.92), and Monroe has a chance to win three individual titles. Sir Paul is the defending state champ in both the 110 hurdles and the 300 hurdles and has the fastest times in Georgia in those events this year. He ran a 36.66 in the 300 hurdles, which is the second fastest time in the entire nation.

Sir Paul has also qualified in the high jump with a region best leap of 6-7, and has a chance to finish third or fourth for five or six more points. He could score 25-26 points by himself in addition to anchoring both relays.

"We call him a one-man track team,'' Octavia said. "He has a chance to be the high point winner of the meet.''

Sir Paul's cousin Mimieux Land won the award in the girls state meet last week helping lead Monroe's girls to their second consecutive state title. Octavia Jones coaches both teams, and has already had an emotional farewell with his kids. He is leaving to take over the Patriots' football program across town after this, and can go out with a double-double if Monroe's boys can hold off Carrollton, which is the favorite.

"We've told them not to worry about the other team, and not to concentrate on the outcome, but just to focus on what you're doing,'' Octavia Jones said. "Don't get caught up in what they're doing. We know (Carrollton). We went head to head with them last year and we saw them at the Smith and Benson Relays.''

Monroe, which won the title last year with 57 points, could get a quick 10 points today to start the meet off from Johnny Moore, who was second in the discus last year. Moore (176-9) has the best qualifying throw. Sir Paul should score in the high jump (Carrollton has the top qualifier) and Monroe would love to get some points in the triple jump.

"The key for us is to get points from our Larrys -- Larry Whitfield in the triple jump and Larry Bellamy in the 110 and 300 hurdles behind Sir Paul,'' Octavia said. "If they can sneak in and get us some points, (that'd be key). Whitfield barely scratched with a 45 in the region, but if he can get a 45 at state he can score some points.''

Monroe is counting on Hill, who won the region in the 200 and 400. Hill is one of the Tornadoes' senior leaders, and could finish in the top four in both events for at least 10 points. He also runs the key second leg on both relays.

Dominique Reid comes in with the 10th best time in the 100, but if he can reach the finals that guarantees another point.

"If we can steal a point here or a point there, even a half a point,'' Octavia Jones said. "Half a point makes a big difference at state.''

Monroe won its first boys state title a year ago, but this team is even more talented this go round, said Jones.

"This is the best team I've had, by far the best,'' said the coach, who took over the program in 2002. "This team is better. We have a opportunity to score more points, and they have a chance to etch their names in (Monroe) history as the first team to win back-to-back titles.''

That's how big this weekend could be for Monroe and Jones's final farewell party -- with one final dramatic finish.

"There's an old cliche in track that says if you don't have a mile relay team then you don't have a track team,'' Jones said. "And I've got good one.''