JEFFERSON -- Time to play catch up for Monroe?
It's not often Monroe's defending Class AAA state champion track & field team has to catch anyone in a race, but the Tornadoes are going to have to have a little extra kick down the stretch if they hope to win their second consecutive state title.
That doesn't mean it's not possible.
"It's not over,'' said Monroe coach Octavia Jones, whose team is in eighth place overall and trails first place Carrollton by 17 points after the first day of the boys state track & field meet -- a three-day event. "I talked to the Carrollton coach (on Thursday) and he feels the same way I do that it will all come down to the mile relay on Saturday.''
Monroe knew coming into the GHSA Class AAA state meet that Carrollton was the team to beat, and unfortunately for the Tornadoes, those scouting reports were on the money. Carrollton literally jumped out to the lead in the meet on Thursday, scoring 29 points in the field events.
Monroe was hoping to score in the mid-teens on the first day, but ended up with 12 points. Johnny Moore finished second in the discus for the second year in a row, just missing the title by one inch.
He set a personal best mark of 184-3 and was beaten by one inch in the AAA competition. Liberty County's A.J. Bennett edged him with his toss of 184-4.
"I felt like it was a good throw even though I know can do better," Moore said. "I was trying to get something extra in a lot of my later throws and just couldn't get there. I am still happy."
It was Moore's best throw in competition this year but he has thrown as far as 190 feet in practice.
Sir Paul Jones also scored for Monroe when he jumped 6-2 to finish fifth in the high jump, but that was it for the Tornadoes.
"We were hoping for a little more in the high jump and the triple jump, and Johnny just missed winning the discus,'' Octavia Jones said. "We're pretty much in the same place we were last year. We only had two people score in the field last year.''
The coach said he wasn't shocked by Carrollton's fast start.
"I knew Carrollton would do well in the field events,'' Octavia said. "They pretty much performed at their best, and they did what they had to do. That's a big margin -- 17 points -- to make up, and we will have to have some help from some other teams to break up the points between us and Carrollton to be in a position to catch up. But we haven't hit the panic button yet.''
Monroe's strength is on the track, where all the prelims will be held today.
"The important thing now is to get everyone qualified for Saturday,'' said Jones, who has both relay teams, including the best time in the 4x400 (mile relay). Sir Paul Jones is the defending champ in the 110 and 300 hurdles, and Donquavious Hill needs to qualify today in the 200 and 400, where he has a chance to rack up some points on Saturday. Dominique Reid is on the bubble in the 100-meter dash, because he came in with the 10th best time, and only the top eight will run on Saturday, so he needs a big day today. And Monroe could get a big lift if Larry Bellamy can qualify for the 110 and 300 hurdles.
Carrollton has individuals in the 110 and 300 hurdles and the 100 and 200, as well as both relay teams and needs to qualify everyone if it hopes to hold off Monroe.
"I told the kids just focus on what you need to do and let's get everyone in the finals on Saturday,'' Octavia said. "And then just let the chips fall where they will.''
Clarke Central and Marist lead the Class AAAA team race with 22 points, and Bainbridge is right behind with 20 after a big day in the field.
"We feel great,'' longtime Bainbridge coach Larry Clark said. "This is where we wanted to be, right in the middle of it. Now we just have to get (some guys) qualified (today) in the running events.''
Bainbridge got 11 points in the triple jump, where Denzel Gamble finished second (47-4 ), and Delonte Martistee finished sixth (45-8). The Bearcats also scored five in the shot put with a fourth-place finish from Stevenson Crowell and picked up four points in the discus when DeWayne Gurley finished fifth.
The Bearcats were hoping for points in the high jump and long jump, but were shut out.
Still, it was a big first day.
"We're a little disappointed we didn't get points in the high jump, but the other kids stepped up, and Denzel (Gamble) almost won the triple jump. He was leading when he got beat on the last jump of the day,'' Clark said. "He did a great job. We need some big performances (today). We're looking for Joseph Ausgood to really step up (today) in the 800. We want to get him in the finals on Saturday as well as everybody else. It's a three-day meet, and you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time.''
Pat Wheeler of the Gwinnett Daily Post contributed to this story