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Friday Night Lights

Westover’s Dolphurs Hayes, the No. 1-ranked pole vaulter in Class AAA, nearly broke the Westover Relays meet record Friday night with his winning leap of 15 feet to lead the Patriots to a huge win in their annual home meet. Monroe won the girls title, making it a clean sweep for the city schools in the 17-team event. (joe.bellacomo@albanyherald.com)

Westover’s Dolphurs Hayes, the No. 1-ranked pole vaulter in Class AAA, nearly broke the Westover Relays meet record Friday night with his winning leap of 15 feet to lead the Patriots to a huge win in their annual home meet. Monroe won the girls title, making it a clean sweep for the city schools in the 17-team event. (joe.bellacomo@albanyherald.com)

ALBANY — Monroe coach LaToyia Johnson tells her kids the same thing before every track & field meet.

She says, “Beat yourself.’’

Wouldn’t you know it, the Monroe girls disobey her every time.

Instead, they go out and beat everyone else.

Nothing changed Friday night at Hugh Mills Stadium, where the three-time defending Class AAA girls state champs ran away with the Westover Relays to win the prestigious meet for the fourth year in a row.

Meanwhile at Westover, the coaches don’t need to say a thing.

“The boys really dug down deep,’’ said Westover athletic director Harley Calhoun, who started the meet nine years ago along with track coach Lewis Smith.

They dug deep enough to win the meet for the sixth time and were the top boys team for the fourth time in the last five years.

While Monroe and Mimieux Land ran away from the 17-team field, scoring 111 points (Land scored 34 1/2 points by herself) to win the girls meet, Westover was battling all night before finally pulling away from Tift County (74) and Warner Robins (73) to win the boys title with 96 1/2 points.

The Patriots clinched the title by not only winning the 4x800 relay, but by setting a meet record as Kentavious Harris, Gyasi Young, Marquis Jones and Tyler Sheffel won in 8:35.

Still, Calhoun felt the biggest move of the night came a bit earlier — from of all places — a fourth-place finish. Honest.

Calhoun was praising Tevin Mack for his gutsy, PR-best fourth-place finish in the 1,600 run. Those four points gave Westover a four-point lead over the field at the time, and then Jackie Childs won the 110-meter hurdles to add a 10-spot to the lead.

“I was a little worried early on,’’ Calhoun said. “I was worried about Valdosta, and it turned out to be Warner robins and Tift chasing us. The turning point was when Tevin Mack got fourth in the mile, and Jackie Childs won the hurdles. That breathed new life into us. It gave us new life on the track.’’

The turning point for Monroe probably came the minute Land walked into Hugh Mills — her personal playground for the last four years. Land, who has already signed with Clemson after before courted by every major college program in the nation, won the triple jump (37-6 1/2), the long jump (18-4 1/2) and broke her own Westover Relays record in the high jump, clearing 5-7. She also ran on the 4x400 relay team that won the event and the 4x100 relay team that took home second.

“She’s a beast,’’ Johnson said. “”Just a beast. She can perform on the track, in the dirt and in the air. She’s just a beast.’’

So is Monroe, which racked up points early and late. Alexandria Childs won the discus (132-4) and Destinee Collins won the 800-meter run (2:24.11) Chakerah Fletcher finished second in 300 hurdles and Sheniqua Young was third in the triple jump. Jade Perry was fourth in the 200-meter dash and Akeema Miller was fourth in that same race. Monroe’s 4x800 team of Arnesia Bell, Whitney Crawford, Collins and Miller won the race in 10:33.

Westover’s 4x400 boys relay team finished second to Bainbridge, which won the 4x100 and 4x400 relays.

Westover’s boys got a huge emotional lift as well as 10 points when Dolphurs Hayes had the crowd on its feet when he cleared 15 flat to win the pole vault. A year ago, Hayes was clearing 11 feet, and happy to do it.

“I really dedicated myself this year,’’ Hayes said. “I quit the football team and devoted myself to the pole vault. My goal is to clear 16 feet. I’m going to do it.’’

He also began working with Charlie Polhamus, the pole vault guru who trains kids at his homemade facility in Fitzgerald. Hayes met Polhamus, who is it all the big meets, about a year ago.

“I go to Fitzgerald three times a week to work out with him,’’ Hayes said. “When I first started I had to change a lot of things I was doing wrong, but now I feel like I can get a scholarship.’’

Hayes’ vault of 15-5 earlier this year is the best in Class AAA Georgia this season, but he’s not alone on the Westover team. Dontrevious Ousley, the defending Class AAA state champ in the discus, had the best throw in Georgia this year in all classes, and broke the Westover Relays record with a toss of 190 feet and one inch.

Westover’s Derrick Akins was third in the discus at 150-7. Albany’s Roscoe Byrd (140-0) and Jontavious Morris (136-0) finished fifth and sixth, respectively. Byrd was also second in the shot put.

Westover also got points in the field from McKenny Martin, who won the shot put (51-0), Don Mills, who was sixth in the shot put, and Alex Donnan, who was second in the pole vault. Jeremy Bonner finished third in the 800-meter run in a race that Albany High’s Jerrod Williams was waiting for.

“I’ve been trying to beat Jeremy for a long time, and I finally beat him,’’ Williams said.

It was a tough night for Albany. Half of coach Jessica Thomas’ team was at the prom, but she is looking at the bright side.

“This way we will be rested for the region meet on Tuesday,’’ she said.

Albany’s boys, who also got points from Emmanul Byrd, who was second in the high jump (6-2), is expected to make a run at the Class AA state title next month.

Bainbridge finished fifth after getting 60 points from Rhyan Edwards, who was second in the 400-meter run and anchored both winning relay teams. Hubert Thomas was fourth in the 400, and Terry Lewis was fifth in the 100-meter dash and ran on both winning relays.

Lee County’s boys finished 10th, thanks to Jacob Kennedy, The Herald’s reigning Player of the Year for cross country who set two Westover Relays records, winning the 1,600-meter run in 4:26 and the 3,200-meter run in 9:49. The coaches at Georgia told Kennedy if he could run a 4:25 in the 1,600 or a 9:30 in the 3,200 meters, the door would be open for a scholarship, and Kennedy was close Friday.

Lee County’s Holly Ebbets was second in the pole vault at 11 feet, and Lee’s Mariah Davis was third in the 800 behind Collins and Dougherty’s Quannesha Gatlin.

Westover’s Ericka Taylor, the premier girls distance runner in Southwest Georgia, came back from a year of injuries and won the 1,600 (5:31.21) and 3,200 (11:54.31) on Friday.

“I feel great,’’ said Taylor, who was limping at this time a year ago. “I feel 99 percent better than a year ago. Last year was really hard. I was limping down the hall at school. But the (doctors and therapists) fixed me. I feel like I have a chance to win the state title. My coach told me I have a chance because my leg is so much better.’’

Westover’s girls finished fourth in the meet with 58 1/2 points. Alysia Potts and Kayla Kirkland finished third and fourth, respectively, in the pole vault, and DyTiesha Dunson, The Herald’s Player of the Year in basketball, finished sixth in the triple jump in her first season in track & field.

Monroe’s boys were led by Kevin Williams, who won the long jump (22-1 1/2) and Larry Bellamy, who was third in the 300 hurdles and also third in the 110 hurdles.

Brianna Thornton, a freshman from Randolph-Clay, was the surprise of the meet, winning the girls shot put title (36-3).


FINAL TEAM RESULTS:

GIRLS

  1. Monroe 111

  2. Valdosta 90

  3. Northside Columbus 74

  4. Westover 58 1/2

  5. Thomas County Central High 58

  6. Hardaway 54.50

  7. Veterans 52

  8. Bainbridge High School 47

  9. Tift County High School 35

  10. Lee County 25

  11. Dougherty 14

  12. Peach County 11

  13. Warner Robins 10

  14. Randolph-Clay 10

  15. Colquitt County 4

  16. Albany 3

BOYS

  1. Westover 96 1/2

  2. Tift County 74

  3. Warner Robins 73 1/2

  4. Valdosta 66

  5. Bainbridge 60

  6. Northside Columbus 60

  7. Albany 41

  8. Veterans 40

  9. Lee County 31 1/2

  10. Hardaway 30

  11. Monroe 30

  12. Colquitt County 14

  13. Peach County 12 1/2

  14. Cairo 11

  15. Thomas County Central 8

  16. Dougherty 3