2011 HERALD ALL-AREA TRACK & FIELD PLAYERS OF THE YEAR: Monroe's Land, Mitchell's Scott-Wesley run away with Player of Year for track & field

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

Encores are tough.

Let's face it, no one likes the sequel to a big hit. It just never seems to be as good.

And any athlete will tell you once you reach the top, the hardest thing is to stay there, or climb back again.

That's the world Mimieux Land lived in during this past spring's track & field season, a world that had no safety net, no exit or easy way out.

It was simple. Do it again.

No one at Monroe High made a bumper sticker with that phrase, but they didn't need one. Everyone knew Land had won three state titles as a sophomore, and the pressure was there -- like it or not -- to do it again.

There was a different kind of pressure on Mitchell County's Justin Scott-Wesley, another fabulous athlete who had also set a standard so high for himself last year it was almost impossible to duplicate.

But both Land and Scott-Wesley beat the critics, the odds and the pressure, and soared once again, writing their own legacy in track & field in their own style.

And that's why once again they were named as The Herald's Players of Year for track & field for 2011.

And this time they stand alone.

Land shared the 2010 award with Early County's Nett Reed, while Scott-Wesley and Monroe's Sir Paul Jones were co-winners of the boys award last season. Reed and Jones ran off to college, and Land and Scott-Wesley ran off to another memorable season on the track.

Land won the Class AAA high jump 5-6), long jump (19-2), and broke her own state record in the triple jump (40-1 1/2, winning all three state titles for the second year in a row to lead Monroe to its third consecutive GHSA Class AAA team title.

"It wasn't easy for her to repeat,'' said Paul Jones, who is an assistant track coach at Monroe and Land's summer track coach with the Albany Ruff Riders. "But the more pressure there is, the harder Mimi works.''

The pressure was there.

"It's like coach Jones told me, there are no promises,'' Land said. "You have a lot of people looking at you. Everyone expects you to win. If you want the same thing you got last year, you have to work harder.''

She did.

"My season started out a little rocky,'' Land said. "I didn't run cross country. I didn't do anything (in the offseason) so I had to get in shape. When the season started I wasn't jumping where I needed to be. I was mediocre. But I worked hard with my coaches and by the time (the region and state meets) got here I was ready to do what I needed to do.''

No one at Monroe doubted Land.

"Mimi is Mimi,'' first-year Monroe track & field coach Latoyia Johnson said. "She puts the pressure on herself so no one else has to. She performs well under pressure. She is the type of athlete who is going to produce no matter what the situation. She is going to give it everything she's got.''

Land has now won seven state titles (she won just the high jump state title as a freshman) and she is only a junior. If she leads Monroe to another state team title next year, she will have won the team title every year at the school.

"That's our goal,'' Land said. "To come back and keep it going and win another state (team) title.''

Nothing has changed over the years about Land, who pushes herself to new heights every season.

"She has such a great work ethic,'' Johnson said. "She's a great leader for our young freshmen and for those freshmen who will be coming in next year. She's a great leader who performs.''

Land is a team player in an individual sport and has also led both of Monroe's relay teams the last three seasons, running the anchor leg for Monroe's 4x100 state championship relay team and the second leg for Monroe's 4x400 relay team that was the state runner-up this spring.

Scott-Wesley wrote a different story this spring with his own brand of teamwork, a unique take on a sport where so much is about the individual.

Scott-Wesley was one of the most recruited football players in the state and -- after announcing that he was committed to Georgia on the winning podium at the state track meet as a junior -- he signed a scholarship to the University of Georgia as part of the Bulldogs' "Dream Team" recruiting class in February.

Scott-Wesley dedicated himself to that cause, and intended to sit out the track season. He not only won both the Class AA 100- and 200-meter dashes as a junior, but his time of 10.35 seconds in the 100 set a state record and was the fifth fastest time in the nation.

He had nothing left to prove on the track.

"At the beginning of the year I didn't know if I was going to run track or not," said Scott-Wesley, who gained weight to bulk up for life in the SEC, going from 200 to 220 this spring. "I was working out in the weight room and getting ready for football season. I was spending half my time on the track and the other half getting ready for football.''

Georgia loved that idea, and every Georgia football fan probably liked Scott-Wesley's dedication to the football team. And that plan would have worked just fine if not for Scott-Wesley's loyalty to the Eagles.

His teammates came up to him and reminded Scott-Wesley how close they had been as sophomores when they finished second in the state track meet.

"Some of them talked to me and they were saying how they wanted to win the state title, and said, 'Remember how close we were our sophomore year?' They wanted to win it, and we were talking about how great it would be to go out with a bang and win it as seniors,'' Scott-Wesley said. "That's when I decided to focus on track. I didn't want to let my teammates down.''

It made the season much tougher on him, physically and mentally. In the early meets, Scott-Wesley simply wasn't as fast because of the extra weight and the late start. Still, he didn't get dejected or make excuses. He just worked harder.

"I was all for it,'' he said of running for the team. "I put my pride aside. We really wanted to win the state title.''

Scott-Wesley repeated as the 100-meter state champ, running a 10.76. But he slipped coming out of the blocks in the 200-meter dash and finished second. He was the total team player and ran the anchor leg on Mitchell County's 4x100 state champion relay team, and ran the first leg on the 4x400 relay team that was the state runner-up.

His big day on the final day of the meet helped Mitchell County, which scored only eight points in the field events, make a charge but the Eagles fell just short, finishing second in the state to Athens Christian, 50-45.

"We lost by five points,'' Scott-Wesley said, still a little dejected. "But I have no regrets about my decision to run track. We made it so close.''

Then he stopped and was silent for a minute, thinking about his teammates.

"I love these guys,'' he said. "We grew up together. You know how it is when you grow up together in a small town, you're really close. I wouldn't have wanted to have it any other way -- to finish track season with the people I love.''