Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- They stood there together, Monroe High's two track coaches, locked in the same image, the same thought.

"Amazing,'' said Paul Jones, Monroe's invaluable assistant coach. "She's just amazing.''

Then head coach LaToyia Johnson quickly added: "Speechless. She leaves me speechless.''

That's how they feel about Mimieux Land.

"Mimi is Mimi,'' Johnson said.

Breathtaking and record-breaking, Land lives on her own planet, a place where nothing on the track seems impossible, a place where titles and records seem to come so easily for a young lady who couldn't work harder.

The state track meet has become her playground, her personal sanctuary -- literally Mimi's land.

There she was again, knocking down state titles and state records at the GHSA state track & field meet Friday at Hugh Mills Stadium, where Land once again landed in the record book, breaking her own Class AAA state record in the triple jump, leaping 40 feet and 1 1/2 inches to shatter the mark she set a year ago of 40 feet and 1/4 inch.

She's just a junior.

By the end of the day, Land had added three more state titles to her growing legacy at Monroe High, where her greatest hope is to lead the Lady Tornadoes to their third consecutive state team title.

"It's all about the team,'' she said.

But Friday -- the day for the field events -- it was all about Mimi, who pulled off her second triple in as many years by winning the high jump (5-6), the long jump (19-2) and setting a new record in the triple jump.

"I live for this day,'' Land said. "I live for track. It's my life. This day is better than my birthday.''

She is the lifeblood running through Monroe's team. She won all three state titles last year, and she won the high jump title as a freshman. That's seven individual titles, and she anchors Monroe's 4x100 relay team and runs the opening leg for the 4x400 relay team.

Both of those relay teams won state titles last year, and may win them again today when the meet concludes with the running finals.

It is all about the team for Land, whose 30 points ignited Monroe's day.

"We needed those points,'' Land said. "I knew I had to come out here and do something. It's all about winning the (team) state title.

"This is the best day for me, because it's Monroe. That's what makes it better,'' added Land, who competes nationally in the summer, but relishes the state meet because of the team concept. "It's great for me (to win), but it's not only for me, but for the team. We started winning state championships (when I was a freshman) and we want to keep that going.''

Land, whose goal is to reach 5-10 in the high jump, might have set a new record in the high jump, but she won with a leap of 5-6 and then sat down.

"She did that for the team,'' Jones said. "She does it to save her legs for the other events. She's all about the team.

"It's amazing the way she comes through, the way she comes through when everything is on the line,'' he said. "She's amazing..."

Johnson agrees.

"She came through when it counted,'' said Johnson, who before the meet began said that Land was automatic. She is.

And Land just keeps getting better and better -- despite her critics.

"Everybody always said that I was good because I was so young, and that I wouldn't be as good when I got older,'' Land said.

Then she added with a smile: "I've heard that so many times, I can't even tell you. It does make me feel good to prove them wrong. Yeah, I want to prove them wrong."

Nobody does it better.

She was the high-point athlete at last year's state meet, and could win that honor again. With each state title comes a medal and a T-shirt, and she said she was giving one shirt to her mother, Theresa, and one to her aunt Artharene -- and one to her father, former NFL star and current Albany State assistant coach Dan Land.

"She has never given me a T-shirt. If I get one, I'll wear it to the meet (today),'' Dan Land joked. "She had a great day. She had her own goals to get (Friday).''

That's part of her success. Land said she doesn't compete against the field, but against herself, always pushing, always striving for more.

That's where she lives, in her own world with her own standards and goals -- her own peaks and valleys, personal and private plateaus to conquer. That's where she was Friday, right where she wanted to be -- in Mimi's land.

Land's big day set the tone for Monroe, which came out of the field with 42 points. Alexandria Childs opened the day by winning the discus to give Monroe 10 points, and Vanshayla Johnson was eighth. Childs also scored in the shot put, where she finished eighth.

Childs, a junior, had a dream day, not only winning the title but coming through with the best throw of her life, a personal best of 142 feet and 4 inches. Her previous best had been 130 feet.

"It feels wonderful,'' Childs said. "I am too happy.''

Monroe needs every point.

St. Pius has the lead after two days, racking up 53 points to Monroe's 42. But St. Pius is done. The Lady Lions don't have a single contestant in today's running finals. Monroe can come back and win it all, because the Lady Tornadoes have both relay teams in the finals, and Maikea Davis, who runs on both relays, could win both the 200 and 400 today. Jade Perry, who runs on both relays and is also in the 200, can add some points, and Destinee Collins is planning to finish strong in the 800.

"I'm not worried about what another team is doing,'' Johnson said. "I only worry about my team. We had a great day in the field events, and came out strong. We wanted 40 points and we got 42 points. We're right where we want to be. This is a great start and there's more to come.''

Jones pulled out the old cliche about coming back, saying "It's not over until the fat lady sings,'' and then Perry cleverly added her own version of a Monroe comeback, saying: "It's not over until the 4x400 relay runs.''

Monroe hopes it doesn't come down to the final race of the meet, but if it does the Lady Tornadoes can thank Perheasha Perkins, a gutsy and courageous freshman, for making sure the 4x400 team reached the finals. Perkins, the third leg, took a nasty spill on the track in the prelims Thursday, then climbed up off the track and finished her leg in pain and in tears. Davis ran an inspirational final leg to make sure Monroe reached the finals.

Perkins was covered in bandages Friday -- her hip, her leg, her knee and her elbow all showed evidence of the hard fall.

"I'll be ready to run (today),'' Perkins said Friday. "Yeah, I was in pain, but I had to get up and finish the race. I didn't want to disappoint my team. I had to get up and finish.''

That's where Monroe is today, climbing back up, trying to overtake St. Pius.

"That's what it's all about at Monroe,'' Land said. "It's about winning the state title. We've got to get this.''

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