Bainbridge boys win 14th straight title

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- Fourteen.

The number jumps out there, but it takes a while to grasp what it really means. It's more than a decade and sits just this side of a generation.

At Bainbridge High, it means something more, a link from the past to the present, a chain that stretches across a track & field program and defines -- and continues to redefine -- one of the top programs in the state.

That's what happened Tuesday evening at Hugh Mills Stadium, where Bainbridge won its 14th consecutive boys Region 1-AAAA title.

They've brought new teams in this year and changed the region, but nothing has changed at Bainbridge, where the Bearcats romped again, scoring 151 points. Hardaway was second with 105 1/2 points. The only other area team in the region was Lee County, which scored 16 points, thanks to Jacob Kennedy, who won the 3,200-meter run (10:43.16) and finished third in the 1,600 to score all 16 points for Lee.

But the day and the region -- as always -- belonged to Bainbridge.

"We tell the kids that every region title comes through Bainbridge. We tell them, this is where it's supposed to stop, and they respond,'' said Larry Clark, who has been a track coach and involved with the program for 30 years. "We've got good kids. They enjoy track and they work hard at it.''

They're hungry.

Bainbridge won its first state championship in track a year ago, and the kids on this team want to repeat.

"We want it real bad. That's all we talk about,'' said Shawn Samuels, who is one of the big reasons Bainbridge will have a chance to win another title in Jefferson (May 5-7). He won the titles in the 100-meter dash (10.97) and 200-meter dash (22.19), and anchored Bainbridge's 4x100 relay team that finished second to qualify for the state meet. The top two in each event advanced to state.

"I think we will do pretty good at state,'' Samuels said. "We're not as strong as we were last year, but everyone wants to compete. They want another state title.''

Anyone who wants to know just how strong and deep the program is at Bainbridge can look at last year's state championship team.

Bainbridge won the team title without a single individual state champ, which is all but unheard of in track & field. Last year's 4x100 relay team won the title, and everyone else just chipped in points here and there to lift Bainbridge.

The Bearcats may do it again.

"Last year's team and this year's team are about the same. We will need to get points from everyone,'' Bainbridge track coach Larry Cosby said. "Last year, we were stronger in the relays, but this year we're a little better in the field. But it's the same situation. Everyone has to put in their piece of the puzzle for us to win it.''

Bainbridge is more than strong in the field. The Bearcats not only qualified someone in every field event except the pole vault, but they would have swept five field events if not for Thomas County Central's Ray Drew.

Drew, one of the top defensive linemen in the nation who has already signed with Georgia, won the discus (201-2) and the shot put (54-8).

Bainbridge won everything else.

Steven Crowell was second in the shot put (50-7) and Dewayne Gurley was second in the discus 1(46-02).

Bainbridge's Venissee Cosby won the high jump (5-11), Delonte Martisee won the triple jump (46-10), and Rohan Gaines won the long jump (21-9). Gaines also ran on the 4x100 relay team along with Aaron Hall, Brandon Handsford and Samuels.

Joseph Ausgood was second in the 800-meter run, and the Bearcats are sending both their hurdlers to state. Octavius Scott was second in the 300-meter hurdles and Dontarius Jackson was second in the 110-meter low hurdles.

"The hurdlers were our strength last year,'' Clark said. "We have a different makeup this year. We're good in the field and I think one of our strengths is in the sprints. The thing about Samuels is that he always runs fast enough to win.

"We have a good makeup of people who qualified for state,'' said Clark, who joked last year, saying: "You know how you feed an elephant? One bite at a time."

That's the way Bainbridge won it all a year ago, and the blueprint looks similar this year.

"We need everyone, just like last year,'' Clark said. "It's going to be nerve-racking.''