Area track & field teams shine at annual Smith & Benson Relays

Monroe’s Analesha McFarland, right, hands the baton to teammate Mimieux Land during the 4x100 relay final Saturday at Hugh Mills during the annual Smith & Benson Relays. (joe.bellacomo@albanyherald.com)

Monroe’s Analesha McFarland, right, hands the baton to teammate Mimieux Land during the 4x100 relay final Saturday at Hugh Mills during the annual Smith & Benson Relays. (joe.bellacomo@albanyherald.com)

ALBANY — Monroe wore black. Honest.

That was Monroe in the black uniforms with the bold, gold “M” and the green tornado — one on the front and one on the back.

“We wanted to be different,’’ said Monroe track & field coach LaToyia Johnson, who wanted to get away from Monroe’s traditional green and gold, so the team made the switch Saturday at the annual L.C. Smith and Winfred Benson Relays. “The black stands out and the gold M really pops out at you. It’s different, but that’s what we wanted. You want to draw attention to yourself.’’

That’s not a problem for the Monroe girls’ track & field program, which has won three GHSA Class AAA state titles in a row. Everyone points to Monroe, and everyone already wants to beat Monroe — so attention may be the last thing these kids need.

But they love the new look. Now, the only question is, do the new uniforms make Monroe faster?

“We’ll have to see,’’ said Johnson, whose team was fast enough and strong enough to win one of the biggest meets of the year on Saturday when the Lady Tornadoes ran away from the 15-team field at the annual Relays at Hugh Mills Stadium — the biggest area meet all year.

The meet is named after two legendary coaches at Monroe, and Monroe honored them by winning the girls title.

Monroe stacked up 99 points to easily beat bigger schools, such as second-place Valdosta (75), third-place Shaw (72½), Tift County (63½) and rival Westover, which finished fifth with 56 points, edging Bainbridge (54).

All this on a day when Mimieux Land was nursing sore quads. Land, the reigning Herald Player of the Year who has won seven individual state titles and holds the state record in the triple jump, took first place in the long jump (19-1) and high jump (5-4) but felt her quads giving during the triple jump, where she finished third.

“My quads are just a little tight,,’’ said Land, a senior who has won several titles at national meets and has already signed with Clemson. “This is our home meet and everything was so hectic this week. I didn’t get a chance to take an ice bath, and that would have helped me.

“I’m just getting back in the groove,’’ she said. “I (felt the quad tighten up) in the long jump, and then it was a little shaky in the high jump. When I got to the triple jump I couldn’t hold on to them.’’

Land said she isn’t worried about the injury lingering.

“I will be fine,’’ she said. “It’s no problem. I’ll get my body intact.’’

Land also ran on Monroe’s winning 4x400 relay team and Monroe’s third-place 4x100 relay team. The Lady Tornadoes took the lead early in the field. Alexandria Childs won the discus (128-3) and finished fifth in the shot put, while Ashley Harris took sixth in the shot put and sixth in the discus. Sheniqua Young was fifth in the triple jump and sixth in the long jump.

Monroe’s Chakerah Fletcher was second in the 300 hurdles and third in the 400 meter run, while Analesha McFarland finished third in the 100. Akeema Miller was third in the 200, Destinee Collins was fourth in the 800 and Shameica Carter was third in the 100.

“We had a good day,’’ Johnson said. “We had a lot of young girls step up, and Chakerah Fletcher ran a PR in the hurdles. We’re still in the mix, but we have a lot of hard work to do.’’

The Westover boys team had a big day and finished third with 82 points, just behind Class AAAAA powers Valdosta, which won with 100 points, and Tift County (91½). And the Albany boys team looked good enough to make a run at a Class AA state title later this spring.

The Indians finished fourth with 75.16 points but made a statement against the bigger schools. They racked up 40 points in the field events. Tim Pierce won the triple jump, Roscoe Byrd finished third in the shot put and fourth in the discus and Jontavious Morris was fourth in the shot put and fifth in the discus. Emmanul Byrd tied for second in the high jump, and Rantiez Williams was fourth in the high jump.

Albany’s 4x100 relay team of Gregory Williams, Jeconiah Jackson, Larry Sanford and Juron Brown won in a time of 43.14, and Jackson finished second in the 400-meter run. Bryan Sawchyn finished fifth in the 3,200-meter run, while Richard Blocker was sixth. Jerrod Williams was fourth in the 800.

“I’m pleased with what we did just coming out here,’’ said Albany track & field coach Jessica Thomas, whose team got off to a late start because of Albany’s deep run in the basketball playoffs. “But I know they can do more. We had two pole vaulters who weren’t here (Saturday) and Tyrone Culbreth will (compete in) the high jump for us.’’

Westover boys, who finished second in the Class AAA state meet last year, were also missing some members of the team, but the Patriots had a huge day and set two meet records.

Dontavious Ousley set the meet record in winning the discus with a throw of 180 feet and 11 inches, eclipsing the old record of 161-4, and Dolphurs Hayes set the meet record in the pole vault, taking home first with a vault of 14 feet and 6 inches. The old record was 13-6. Alex Donnan was third in the pole vault, and Derrick Akins was third in the discus for the Patriots.

Westover went 1-2 in the shot put as Martin McKenny won (49-6) and Don Mills was second (47-11). Jeremy Bonner was second in the 800 and Craig Reddix finished third in the 400 for Westover.

Westover wants another run at the boys state title.

“Everything we do is to get us ready for region and state,’’ Westover athletic director Harley Calhoun said. “In the last two weeks our workouts were designed to get us ready to take the step in this meet. Now we need to take the next step. We did really well in the field and we ran well. We improved in just about everything, and that’s a step forward.’’

Westover’s girls were led by Ericka Taylor, who won both the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs as she came back from a knee injury that hampered her a year ago and again during cross country season. She is one of the top distance runners in Southwest Georgia, and is known to everyone at Westover as “Doughnut,’’ for her penchant for the pastry.

“It was great to see her win,’’ Westover track & field coach Lewis Smith said. “She had a big day. I think Doughnut is back.’’

Ahyanna Mitchell won the shot put for Westover (34-7), edging Dougherty’s Shonteshia Eady (33-7). Dougherty’s Quannesha Gatlin won the 400.

Westover’s Jessica Burnette was third in the 100-meter dash. Alysia Potts was second in the pole vault and Kayla Kirkland finished third in the pole vault for the Lady Patriots.

Bainbridge’s boys were led by Rhyan Edwards, who won the 400 and anchored the 4x400 winning relay team and the second-place 4x100 relay team. Terry Lewis finished second in the 100-meter dash, and Jontavious Jackson was third in the 110 hurdles and fourth in the 300 hurdles. Derek Allen finished second in the 110 hurdles.

Bainbridge’s girls were led by Diamond Bouie, who was second in the high jump and third in the 300 hurdles.

Lee County’s boys, who finished seventh with 35 points, were led by Titus Davis, who won the high jump (5-11), and reigning Herald Player of the Year for cross country, Jacob Kennedy, who finished second in the 1,600 and third in the 3,200. Yorel Jenkins was fifth in the triple jump. Lee’s girls were led by Mariah Davis, who was second in the 800.

Monroe’s boys, who finished ninth with 21 points, were led by Kevin Williams, who won the long jump (21-4 ½) and Ditorious Williams, who finished third in the 800.