ALBANY -- Heart.
That's what it's all about at Monroe, where the girls track team limped into the 8th annual Westover Relays on Friday night with a rash of injuries, and then sprinted out of Hugh Mills Stadium with the title.
At least, that's the way Monroe track coach LaToyia Johnson saw it.
"It shows what kind of heart they have,'' said Johnson, who had only 10 girls compete. "Do you want it? We proved that we do.''
Monroe won its third straight Westover Relays with 118 points, while Southeast Bulloch was second with 94 points.
And while Monroe was making its point with the "Perfect 10," Westover's boys team made an even bigger statement by not only winning their own meet by beating defending Class AAAA state champ Bainbridge, but did so by scoring a meet record 170 points.
"If someone would have told me we would score 170 points and beat Bainbridge the way we did, I would have just said, 'Wow, I would like to live in that dream,' " Westover coach Harley Calhoun said.
Go ahead an pinch yourself, Westover. This was no dream. But the Patriots' dominating performance has them thinking of even bigger and better days.
"It's real big to win this meet. It's our meet and it's our year,'' said Reginald Lewis, who scored in three individual events, finishing second in the long jump, and third in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes. "We want to win state.''
It could be Westover's year. The kids were talking about making a run at the Class AAA crown, which suddenly doesn't seem out of reach.
"We want to give (state champ) Carrollton a run for their money,'' said Justin Taylor, who won the triple jump. "This is our meet and we didn't want anyone to come into our house and win it. Everybody said Bainbridge was going to win, but this was our night, our meet. Now we have to get ready (to make a run at) state.''
Bainbridge was second with 130 points and the rest of the field trailed by a huge margin. Warner Robins was third (60) and Hardaway was fourth (58), while Mitchell County (49) and Monroe (44) followed in fifth and sixth. Local teams in the 17-team field included Albany, which saw Roscoe Byrd win the shot put, finished ninth with 26 1/2 points. Terrell County (21) was 10th, Randolph-Clay was 12th with 13 points and Lee County was 15th with six points. Dougherty finished 17th with three points.
The Patriots had only two individual champs -- Dolphurs Hayes, who won the pole vault title with a vault of 12 feet, and Taylor, who won the triple jump at 45-4 . Calhoun often says: "We nickel and dime it,'' and his kids did just that again, picking up spare change and points all night. And Westover's 4x100 relay team took first. Westover also won the 4x-800 relay and 4x-200 relay, but those events aren't run in the region and state meets. They finished second to Bainbridge in the 4x400 relay.
Still, Westover simply poured on the points from every direction.
"The boys team put on a real good show,'' Calhoun said. "This is the best meet we've had all year. They were scoring from everywhere.''
Westover went 1-2 in the pole vault as Alex Donnan finished second, and picked up multiple points in the discus, where Dontrevious Ousley finished second behind Monroe's Anthony Shurten (171-8) and Derrick Akins took fourth. McKenny Martin finished second in the shot put and Dalviness Greene was fourth in the triple jump. Jackie Childs finished third in the 110 hurdles and fifth in the 300 hurdles, and Chuck Lewis was second in the 100.
It was a huge step for Westover, and now a state title could be in the mix.
"They've got a shot,'' Calhoun said. "To win like that and beat Bainbridge, the defending Class AAAA state champ, that says a lot. The kids really came together.''
Monroe's girls were once again led by Mimieux Land, who won the triple jump (30-9), and had a personal best leap of 18-feet and 2 inches to win the long jump. She finished second in the high jump.
"It feels great to win this meet,'' said Land, a junior who won state titles in all three of those events last year to help Monroe win its second Class AAA State Championship in a row. "We were short-handed and had only one senior. That tells you what we can do next year.
"We weren't really worried. We knew what we had to do. We were going to push ourselves and try to get personal bests."
Destinee Collins ran a personal best 2:25.17 to win the 800-meter run and Jade Perry won the 200-meter dash (24.80) and finished third in the 400. Sheniqua Young finished second in the triple jump and fifth in the long jump, and Vanshayla Johnson took second in the discus.
Monroe was missing three of its top runners in Maikea Davis, Ashley Johnson and Davone Anduze, but with the region meet less than two weeks away, they all sat out with nagging injuries. Alex Alexander and Zantatasha Green are also out with injuries, but Monroe made up in talent what it lacked in numbers.
"I'm ready for my teammates to get back," said Collins, who was determined to run well because so many runners are out. "We all just pushed hard, pushed like a team. We knew we had to because we were missing so many teammates, and I knew I had to win my race because we were short of teammates.''
She did. And young runners, such as freshman Chakerah Fletcher, who ran a personal best (49.8) to finish fifth in the 300-meter hurdles and junior Shameka Carter, who ran a personal best to finish fifth in the 100-meter dash.
"We know we will get Maikea and Ashley back next week,'' Land said. "They are two of our big points runners. After (Friday night), we know what we can do when they get back. When we get them back, we know for sure we're going to win state. We have to.''
Johnson, a first-year coach at Monroe, pushed and prodded her kids before the meet.
"We had a long heart-to-heart on Thursday,'' Johnson said. "I told them, 'You have to get yourself in the right position to get ready for the region.' And they really responded well -- quite well. We're going to get fresh legs back next week, and then the region is (in about two weeks). They had a great response. They showed up and they showed out.''
Local teams in the 13-team girls field included Westover, which finished sixth with 57 points, Lee County (ninth with 46 points), Dougherty (10th with 26 points), Albany (12th with 14 points) and Terrell County (13th with 4 1/2 points).
Westover's Erica Taylor, the top distance runner in Southwest Georgia and reigning AAA cross country state champ, sat out with a nagging injury but said she will be fine for the upcoming region meet in two weeks.