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State Champs!!! (Part 2)

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

It will never be the same at Bainbridge, never.

Even if the boys team wins 10, 15 or 20 more track & field state titles, it will never be like this. Nothing is sweeter than that first one.

And it may be impossible to duplicate what the Bearcats did Saturday. They not only made history by winning their first GHSA Class AAAA state team title in the 39-year history of the event, but they did it without a single individual state champ.

"It's like we had a piece here and a piece there, and when they all came together it made a puzzle that was a state championship,'' Bainbridge head track coach Larry Cosby said.

Sure, Bainbridge did take one first place, but that was in the 4x100 relay, a team event these kids have made their own. Nobody in Georgia (and Florida, Alabama and the Carolinas are welcomed to try) runs the 4x100 like Denzel Reynolds, Thomas Smiley, Brandon Handsford and Shawn Samuels.

They ran the fastest time in the state regardless of classification almost the entire spring, and then did it again Saturday to start off the most memorable day in Bainbridge track & field history.

"It's a new day for Bainbridge,'' said Stevenson Crowell, who finished fourth in the shot put.

DeWayne Gurley was fifth in the discus, and Bainbridge managed to dig 11 points out of the triple jump, where Denzel Gamble (second) and Delonte Martistee (sixth) help set the tone Thursday in the field events.

"We've never had much out of the field events,'' said longtime coach Larry Clark, who still assists with the team. Clark has been at Bainbridge for 33 years, and was admittedly emotional over winning the title.

The Bearcats trailed Clarke Central, 22-20, after the first day, but when the 4x100 relay team won the opening event Saturday, Bainbridge took the lead for good and never looked back -- as great runners never do.

Clark kept saying for three days that it would take everybody to win it, and joked that you have to eat an elephant one bite at a time. He was beaming Saturday evening.

"We did it,'' he said. "We ate the elephant and we didn't choke.''

The Bearcats won it all with 52 points, beating Clarke Central (44) by enough that they clinched before the final event, the 4x400 relay. When Octavius Scott made a heartbeat move in the stretch of the 300 hurdles, going from seventh to fifth in about the time it takes for a heartbeat, it was over.

Bainbridge had done it.

The coaches at Bainbridge, including the girls coach Tandria Phillips who made the long trip to Jefferson, leaped in the stands and started hugging each other, shouting and high-fiving. They looked like 5-year-olds on Christmas.

"We made history,'' said Gamble, who had a brilliant effort to finish second in the 110 hurdles. That's the way they did it, with points from Scott, points from Gamble. Joseph Ausgood came through with fifth in the 800 and Reynolds finished strong to take third in the 100.

One bite at a time.

"We did it as a team,'' Scott said. "When I was in the final stretch of the 300, I was thinking I've got to get these points, gotta do it for the team.''

Everyone knew.

"We knew we had to get as many points as we could, and that's why everyone ran so hard (Saturday),'' Reynolds said. "We all wanted that team title.''

It showed, over and over. The Bainbridge kids were there after every race, echoing the same sentiment. They ran every event together, a big pile of purple, pulling each other along.

"This is like a family,'' Phillips said. "The track team and coaches are so close. The kids on this team have always been close.''

They're closer now than ever -- they share that distinction of being the first. No one can take that away. They also feel like it is a new beginning for Bainbridge, which had never finished higher than fifth.

"The drought is over,'' Martistee said.

"Yes it is,'' chimed in Scott. "We put a hole in the dam.''