JEFFERSON -- They've been a nickel and dime team all year, but the Westover boys track & field team hopes to cash in the jackpot this weekend at the boys GHSA Class AAA state track meet, which begins today and concludes Saturday.
"We've got to nickel and dime it again, but we've got a chance,'' said Westover coach Harley Calhoun, whose team has emerged as a contender over the last month, getting better and better each week. This is the week that counts, and if you like symmetry, consider this: Westover won it all 10 years ago.
Calhoun and his kids know if they hope to knock off defending state champ Carrollton, which is loaded again, just about everybody has to chip in to nail down a team title.
"We've got to just keep scoring,'' Calhoun said. "We've got to get points from everywhere. Whatever we're in, we've got to score.''
They're taking a busload. Westover ran away with the Region 1-AAA title, scoring 242 points and qualifying 17 athletes in 15 events.
They've got someone in every event except the 400-meter run.
Carrollton is the favorite, but Calhoun is worried about one team and one team only.
"You can't worry about anyone but yourself,'' he said. "You can only control what you do. It's not like football or basketball. It's what you do that counts. You just have to give it your best. Carrollton is a great team, but you have to perform for three days. It's like a pro golf tournament. You have to be good all three days.''
The Patriots hope to get on the board early, and their best chance to rack up points will be in the discus, where Derrick Akins and Dontrevious Ousley could go 1-2 in the state. They enter as the top two in Class AAA. Two pole vaulters, Dolphurs Hayes and Alex Donnen, will have their work cut out for them, but Westover expects to get points from Martin McKinney and Don Mills in the shot put, and Justin Taylor in the triple jump.
Reggie Lewis could be the key to the meet. He can score in the long jump, and is expected to finish in the top three in both the 100 and 200. He also runs on both relay teams.
Greg Thorne and Josh Mason went 1-2 in the 1,600 and 3,200 runs in the region but will have to run even better to make the top eight. Jackie Childs could score in both the 110 and 300 hurdles, and Cole Koster (800) and Devonte Ingram (high jump) will need big efforts this weekend. Both relay teams will score points, and it will depend how the points are split with everyone else.
But Westover's kids believe they can win it all, and Taylor said the Patriots were ready to give "Carrolton a run.'' That confidence comes from the team's stretch run over the past month when the Patriots won the Macon Relays, set a record for points at the Westover Relays, scoring 172, and then demolished the field at the region meet.
"Winning at Macon really opened our eyes,'' Calhoun said. "Then when we set the record for points at our meet, that got them thinking we really have a chance to win a state title."
Monroe, which won the state title in 2009 and finished second in the state last year, will send its 4x400 relay team and Larry Bellamy (110 hurdles and 300 hurdles) and Raymond Polite (400) will compete as individuals.
Larry Clark, a legendary coach at Bainbridge High, said over and over last year that there is only one way to eat an elephant: "One bite at a time,'' as Bainbridge's Bearcats pieced together an incredible effort to win the boys Class AAAA title.
Can they do it again?
"This elephant will be a little tougher,'' Clark said. "We are going to have to perform above what we have done this year. It can be done, but we are going to have to step up to do it. It's one bite at a time. You have to go back to that elephant.''
Clark said Bainbridge has one advantage
"Experience,'' he said. "All of our kids were here last year except for Rohan Gaines (long jump and 4x100 relay). And we're hoping that experience pays off this year.''
What they don't have is the fastest 4x100 relay team in the state, regardless of classification. That was the only first place Bainbridge won last year as the Bearcats won the team title without a single individual champion.
Bainbridge's Shawn Samuels will lead the way in the 100, 200 and as the anchor to the 4x100 relay team, and the Bearcats have a variety of ways to score, even though they have only one athlete in their nine individual events.
"We're spread out,'' Clark said. "That could be good for us, because we can get scoring form a lot of places. It's going to be a fight."
Bainbridge will know before Saturday. The Bearcats have to score the bulk of their points in the field, where Dewayne Gurley (discus), Steven Crowell (shot put) Venisee Cosby (high jump) Delonte Martiste (triple jump) and Gaines (long jump) can set the tone early.
Thomasville's Ray Drew, who signed with Georgia to play defensive end for the Bulldogs, is the top shot put and discus thrower in the state, which prompted Clark to joke this week: "We're close. If we had Ray, we would win it."
Joseph Ausgood (800), Samuels and the 4x100 relay team will have to qualify Friday, and it could come down to a handful of points Saturday.
"It's going to be tense for three days,'' Clark said. "Just one bite at a time.''
Albany High is sending its 4x400 relay team and five individuals, including the Indians' bread and butter duo of Roscoe Byrd (shot put and discus), and Jontavious Morris (discus) who are the co-captains of football and basketball teams at AHS, Tim Pierce (triple jump, high jump, relay team), Jerrod Williams (800, relay team), and Shivam Patel (pole vault) are also competing this weekend.
Early County is sending its 4x100 relay team, which is anchored by Camry Flowers (100, 200), and Xavior Smith (high jump), Antrell Morgan (long jump) and Jimmy Robinson (110 and 300 hurdles).
Pelham will try to defend its state title with just three athletes, including defending champ Kenneth Randall (triple jump, long jump), Cullen Edwards (1,600, 3,200) and pole vaulter Ruben Martinez.
The team to watch out for will be Mitchell County, which looks ready to make a run at a team state title. The Eagles dropped down from Class AA to Class A, and have one of the fastest runners in the country in Justin Scott-Wesley, who set a state record in the 100 meters last year with the fifth-fastest time in the nation, and also won his second 200-meter title in a row as a junior. Scott-Wesley will be favored to win the 100 and 200 and will run on both of Mitchell's relay teams, which could win titles in the 4x100 and 4x400.
Mitchell ran away with the Region 1-A meet and is sending seven athletes to compete in individual events, including Scott-Wesley. Anthony Brown (shot put), Reuben Jackson (high jump), Jaquan Williams (pole vault, triple jump), Grover Stewart (discus) and Michael Lawrence (110 hurdles) will all try to win individual titles while picking up enough points to give Mitchell the team title.