JEFFERSON -- It was at the end, the very end -- just about the time the sun was setting on the day and yet another incredible Monroe track & field season.
There were hugs -- long, hard embraces, the kind that stay with you for a lifetime, and yes, there were tears. Monroe didn't want to let go, didn't want to walk away. It had ended in bittersweet toughness.
Monroe, the defending GHSA Class AAA state champs, had done everything and it wasn't enough, just not enough to catch a stunning team from Carrollton, which won its 18th boys state title Saturday, beating second place Monroe, 78-63. That's right, 63. The Tornadoes won it all a year ago with 57 points, and they won everything they were supposed to win this weekend. It just wasn't enough this time.
"We left it all on the track,'' Monroe coach Octavia Jones said. "That's all you can ask for. If we had to lose to someone I'm glad its to Carrollton. That's a great program, a program you want to be like.''
That's the way Monroe went out -- covered in emotion and drenched in class and style.
"Carrollton was the better team (Saturday), give them all the credit,'' said Sir Paul Jones, who won the MVP trophy as the high-point scorer in the meet.
Sir Paul, a senior, went out with a flurry and a flourish few will forget. He won the 110 hurdles, won the 300 hurdles, ran anchor on both relay teams and placed fifth in the high jump. His 34 points would have beaten third-place Elbert County (33).
"We call him the one-man track team. He is special. You get someone like that once in a ... once in a blue moon,'' Octavia said, trying to find words to describe Sir Paul.
There are none. He is simply spectacular.
His final race for Monroe said it all. The Tornadoes knew they couldn't catch Carrollton, but vowed to go out "with pride,'' Octavia Jones said. "They want to go out with pride and win the 4x400.
There was that final image of Sir Paul bolting down the stretch run, leaving the state behind him to win that final race, running like he always does -- with unrelenting desire.
That's the way it ended for Monroe -- with pride and dignity.
And most of all, class.
Octavia, of course, is leaving for the football job at rival Westover. His girls won their second state meet in a row last week, and his boys team left their own legacy, finishing in the top four six times in Jones' 11 years stint as an assistant and head coach (he took over in 2002).
"It won't hit me until I get home,'' Octavia said. "I'll be alone by myself, and it will hit me. It's going to be emotional when it does.''
His kids gave him everything. There wasn't a single letdown all weekend. Johnny Moore had a personal best in the discus and finished second by one inch, and Dominique Reid ran a personal best to finish sixth in the 100.
Donquavious Hill had two dramatic runs Saturday, finishing second in the 400 and fourth in the 200. He ran on both relay teams as the 4x100 team (Reid, Hill, Frederick Polite and Sir Paul) lost a controversial photo finish to Carrollton, and the 4x400 (Benjamin Dunnaway, Hill, Polite and Sir Paul) blew the field away.
"I just wanted to do my best for my team, my coach and for Monroe,'' Hill said. "This is my last track meet. I won't run again.''
After every race, the Monroe kids embraced like family.
"We're brothers. They are my brothers,'' Sir Paul said. "I'll never forget them.''
And few will ever forget this Monroe team.
BEST OF THE REST:
Early County's Jimmy Robinson, only a sophomore, finished second in the Class AA 300 hurdles and sixth in the 110 hurdles, and Albany's Barry Diamond, who had finished sixth twice and seventh as a freshman, went out with a fifth place finish in the Class AA 400.
Mitchell County's Jacoty Gilbert was eighth in the Class AA 800 and Miller County's Shawndre Sheffield was eighth in the Class A 200. Terrell County's 4x400 relay team (Curtis Mallory, Ajuward Fulse, Dreyon Clark and Brenston Perry) finished fourth and Miller County's 4x100 relay team (Sheffield, Cosby Salters, Josh Rahymes and Zenario Shuler) finished fifth.