Monroe up and running in girls' state track meet

Photo by J.D. Sumner

Photo by J.D. Sumner

ALBANY -- Go ahead and knock Monroe down.

It won't do any good.

These kids get back up, get back on the track, and get back where they belong.

That's what this weekend's GHSA Class AAA girls state track & field meet is all about for the kids from Lippitt Drive -- getting back where they belong, atop the rest of Georgia.

And they might just do it. They might just win their third consecutive state title and sixth in the past decade.

"We're here to make a statement,'' said Maikea Davis, who had a huge day Thursday. "The statement? That (we're) champions.''

It felt that way after the first day of the three day meet at Hugh Mills, where the grand old stadium played host to its 26th consecutive GHSA girls state track & field meet.

Just look at freshman Perheasha Perkins, who ran with more heart and courage than anyone expected (well, anyone outside of Monroe). There was Perkins. falling, spilling onto to track -- in shock and disbelief, and in pain.

Monroe was winning the last heat of the 4x400 relay, and Perkins, the third leg, had about 50 meters to go when she crashed onto the track. She was in tears when she got to her feet, and they had to carry her off the track.

But that didn't stop Perkins from getting the baton to Davis, who ran an inspiring final leg to make sure Monroe qualified for Saturday's finals.

"We're tough,'' Davis said. "Monroe's tough.''

No one can argue. Not after Thursday. Not after Perkins. Not after Davis.

"She's got so much heart, getting up and finishing'' Monroe coach LaToyia Johnson said of Perkins. "If she doesn't get up, we're done. But she got up and finished. I'm so proud of her.''

Monroe is far from done. The Lady Tornadoes are just getting started. They did exactly what they wanted to do on Thursday during the running prelims.

"They met and exceeded expectations,'' Johnson said. "It was a great day for the team, and Perheasha will be all right. She's fine.''

Davis set the tone by not only qualifying in the 200 and 400, but by running the best time in the AAA meet in the 200 (24.22) and the second best time in the 400 (56.7). She also ran on Monroe's 4x100 relay team that ran its best time of the year and fastest time in the AAA meet at 47.81. Jade Perry, Shamika Carter, Davis and anchor Mimiuex Land make up the 4x100 team.

Land and Perry gave Monroe a huge lead in the 4x400 relay before Perkins and Davis gave Monroe its dramatic finish. Perry also qualified for the 200 meter finals on Saturday, and Destinee Collins qualified for the 800 meter finals.

"We're right where we should be,'' Johnson said. "We got everybody in the finals we thought we would get in, including the mile relay team, and we ran our best time of the year in the 4x100 and we were on pace to run our best time in the 4x400. As expected, they showed up. It's a great start.''

Monroe can make its biggest move toward winning the team title today when all the field events will be held, and the running prelims for Classes AAAA and AAAAA.

Land is the defending state champ in the high jump and long jump, and she not only won the triple jump title last year, but she set the state record with a leap of 40 feet 1/4 inch. She was the high point girl at last year's state meet, and would like to duplicate that feat again.

"Everyone has the same goal,'' she said. 'We need to win another state championship.''

That was evident when Perkins scrambled to her feet and when Davis scrambled to make sure Monroe qualified in the final event of the day.

Davis, one of two seniors on the team along with Vanshayla Johnson, might just win a pair of individual titles on Saturday.

Davis was third in the 200 last year and fourth in the 100, but gave up the 100 for the 400 this season: "Because I felt I had a better chance to win the state title in the 400,'' she said. "I would love to win two state titles on Saturday. I had a pretty productive day, and really pushed myself. I'm proud of everybody overall. We're all here for one reason, to win another championship.''

One of the biggest surprises in the Class AAA meet was the absence of Westover's Erica Taylor in the 3,200 meter run, which was the only final held for the Class A, AA and AAA schools. They will run the 1,600 final tonight. The Class AAAA and AAAAA schools ran the 1,600 meter final, and will run the 3,200 tonight.

Taylor, a sophomore, won the Class AAA cross country title last fall and was one of the favorites in the 3,200 meters, but a nagging leg injury kept her out of the race. It was a late decision.

She was in her business essentials class Wednesday morning when Westover athletic director Harley Calhoun called her out of class.

"My leg has been bothering me, and after I had a workout on Monday I was limping on it Tuesday so (Calhoun) came to my class and we talked about me sitting out the 3,200 and running only the 1,600,'' Taylor said. "I said OK. I know when I run with my knee, the faster I run the less it hurts so I run faster in the 1,600 than the 3,200.''

It was a difficult decision.

"She was limping pretty bad, so I just told her that she should run in one race instead of two races, and asked her which one she wanted to run,'' Calhoun said. "She wanted to run in the 1,600.''

Albany High's Na' Kedra Gervin qualified for the 100-meter hurdles in the Class AA meet, and Early County's Justice Lee qualified for the 200 and 400 meter runs in the Class AA. Miller County's Salina Diamond and Mitchell County's Akerian Fletcher qualified for the 100 in the Class A meet.

Monroe set the tone for the rest of the meet on Thursday, and Johnson said she hopes today's field events send the Lady Tornadoes to the lead in the meet.

"(Today) will pave the way for Saturday,'' she said. "If we can get what we want out of the field events (today) then it's on and popping!''