ALBANY -- Former Albany State track coach Marvin Oliver had some words of advice for the kids at Monroe High last week.
"He told us that you have to see it -- conceive it, believe it and you can achieve it,'' said Monroe's superstar Mimieux Land, who has won four individual state titles in the last two years, including three a year ago.
What they believe at Monroe is pretty simple: They believe the girls track & field team will win its third consecutive Class AAA state title this weekend at Hugh Mills Stadium, where the GHSA girls state meet for all classes begins today and runs through Saturday.
Yes, they do see it and believe it at Monroe.
"They are so familiar with (the state meet),'' Monroe's first-year track coach LaToyia Johnson said. "It's a familiar feeling to them, and you have to have what it takes to win. We know what it takes to win, and it's a familiar turf to them.''
Johnson knows what it will take.
"I don't want it to be close,'' Johnson said Wednesday as Monroe held practice for the last time. "I know there are a lot of expectations for this team. Everybody expects great things, and we have to step up to the plate and keep it moving forward.''
Since 2001, Monroe's girls have won five state titles, including three in a row from 2001 through 2003, and the last two titles. The Monroe girls were also the state runner-up one year. The boys track team won the state title in 2009 and then was the state runner-up last year.
That means Monroe's name has been at the top of the Class AAA track & field world in Georgia nine times in the last decade.
Track & field is a major sport at Monroe -- possibly the major sport for the Tornadoes.
This is their weekend. The entire state will converge on Hugh Mills, which will be home to the state meet for the 26th consecutive year, and all eyes will be on Monroe, which won't have an easy time defending those titles.
Ashley Johnson, who was second and fourth in the 100 and 300 hurdles last year and probably would have won both hurdles titles this weekend, is out with a broken foot, and Davone Anduze, Monroe's best 400 runner and a key relay runner, is out with a hamstring.
Monroe can't get those points back, and that's why every point means more in this meet.
"We've got to get points in the field,'' MHS assistant coach Paul Jones said. "Our throwers have to set the tone. I know (Alexandria Childs and Vanshayla Johnson) can do it. I don't want to put pressure on them, but they need to get us going in the field events.''
They both said Wednesday there's no pressure.
"We just need to do what we do, and we'll be all right,'' Childs said.
Johnson said pressure is fine as long as it motivates.
"We know what's expected,'' she said. "Sometimes pressure is what you need. We need to get this. We need to do our job.''
Childs and Johnson have the potential to go 1-2 in the discus and Johnson could add some points in the shot put. Sheniqua young could score some points in the long jump and Alexandria Alexander could score in the high jump. Then there's Land, a one-girl wrecking crew.
She was the high point winner at last year's state meet, and is back for more. She's only a junior, but Land has already carved her name all over GHSA track & field. She won the state title in the high jump as a freshman, and then won three titles bouncing from one event to the next and back again, winning the high jump, the long jump and setting a state record in the triple jump with a leap of 40 feet and one-quarter inch.
"Mimi is Mimi, and that's enough said,'' the coach said. "She's automatic. I think she'll win all three. I always expect her to do well. She's been working very hard. She wins all three and that's an automatic 30 points. If we can get first and second in the discus -- that's 18 points, so (then) that's 48 points. We want to come out of the field with 40 to 50 points.''
Land has her own goals for this weekend. She said she would like to clear 5-10 in the high jump, leap 20 feet in the long jump and beat her record in the triple jump. It will be an exhausting grind that she'll face Friday when all the field events are held, because she has to go from one event to the next with almost no break.
She has her own ideas about competing.
"I don't think of it as competition between myself and other girls,'' Land said. "I look at it as competition with myself. I never look at how high or how far other girls jump. I compete against myself.''
Land said, personally, she feels no pressure to perform.
"I feel no pressure. Track is not a sport. For me, it's kind of life," she said.
Still, there is nothing Land wants more than another team title.
"We want to win it again,'' she said. "Everybody is excited. We need to get this. There are expectations (from others), but that is a good thing. We expect a lot from ourselves. It doesn't put pressure on us. It just makes us want it more.''
Land also runs on both relay teams. She anchors the 4x100 team and runs the first leg of the 4x400 relay team. Maikea Davis, one of only two seniors on the team, also runs on both and will be a force in both the 200 and 400.
Jade Perry has qualified in the 100 and 200 and Destinee Collins has a chance to win the 800. Two freshmen -- Chakerah Fletcher and Zanstasha Green -- will be in the hurdles, and freshman Akeema Miller will run in the 800 for Monroe.
"I would like to get 70 to 85 points,'' LaToyia Johnson said. "I'm excited, not anxious, but excited, to be in my first state track meet.''
Land said they have been here before and know what's at stake.
"We know what we have to do,'' she said. "We have the mindset to win.''
Westover will send five girls into the state meet, including Erica Taylor, the best girls distance runner in this part of Georgia. Taylor, who won the Class AAA cross country state title this past fall, will have a chance to win both the 1,600 and 3,200 this weekend.
Westover will also have Alysia Potts (pole vault), Kayla Kirkland (pole vault), Elizabeth Golinski (3,200), and Shawntasia Crawford (100).
Dougherty will send Jasmine Lavant (long jump), and Shontisnia Eady (shot put) and its 4x400 relay team to state this weekend.
BEST OF THE REST:
Bainbridge will send Diamond Bouie (high jump, 100 hurdles), Jasmine Belin (triple jump, Khadeedra Sparrow (shot put), Khadeeijah Cooper (300 hurdles), Raven Burney (long jump) and the 4 x100 relay team to the Class AAAA state meet.
Lee County's Holly Ebbets will have a chance to win the pole vault title in the Class AAAA meet, and Lee's Laine Ellington will compete in the 800.
Albany High will send Samaria Roberson (shot put), Hiltkeria Childs (800), Brianna Washington (discus), Jessica Barnette (1,600), Na'Keidra Gervin (100 hurdles), and its 4x100 relay team to the Class AA state meet.
Early County will have six individuals competing in the Class AA meet: Angie Kinjerski (pole vault), Brenna Meeks (pole vault), Chaquanna
Graham (100, long jump), Justice Lee (200, 400 and high jump), and Latik Reed (300 hurdles).
Miller County will have Gerianna Sheffield (400), Mallory Diamond (300 hurdles) Salina Diamond (100 and long jump) and its 4x100 relay team in the Class A state meet.
Mitchell County will have Akerian Florence (100, 200), A'Miracle Jones (discus), Dyneshia Cannon (discus), Jasmyn Jackson (400), and Johnesha Florence (high jump) in the Class A meet.
Pelham will send Elizabeth Phillips (800, 3200), Hannah White (pole vault), Kelly Wade (pole vault), Urssula Aviles (800, 1,600) and the 4x400 relay team to the Class A meet.