From left to right, Westover track & field stars Derrick Akins, Alysia Potts, Dolphurs Hayes and McKenney Martin pose for a group photo after signing their letters-of-intent Tuesday at the school to compete next season for Division I Savannah State.
ALBANY — It was a little crowded at Westover on Tuesday.
They usually hold the signing ceremonies in the media center, but they moved the whole show — food, cake, parents and friends — to the cafeteria.
That’s where the Westover foursome signed scholarships to attend Savannah State, where the track & field program just got a big dose of talent.
Dolphurs Hayes, the No. 1 Class AAA pole vaulter in the state, McKenny Martin, the No. 1 Class AAA shot putter in the state, Derrick Akins, the No. 2 Class AAA discus thrower in the state, and Alysia Potts, who has finished in the top five at the state meet for the last three years in the girls Class AAA pole vault, all signed in front of a big gathering in the cafeteria.
Blame Hayes. He’s the guy who got the train rolling from Northwest Albany to Savannah. He’s the only one of the four who made a visit to the campus, and when he was offered a scholarship, Hayes was asked about the other Westover kids.
“I gave the coach their names, and he looked them up, saw their statistics and he called them,’’ said Hayes, who has cleared 15 feet, 7 inches this season and is hoping to clear 16 feet in the GHSA state meet this week in Jefferson.
It was a no-brainer for Savannah State, and in many ways Tuesday’s signings were a testament to the track & field program at Westover.
“When the coach called me he said, ‘Are you Potts? I’ve been looking for you,’ ” Potts said with a laugh. “I probably wouldn’t have gotten a scholarship there if it hadn’t been for Dolphurs. The coach offered me a scholarship on the phone.’’
It was the same scenario for Martin, who is ranked fifth in Georgia in all classes in the shot put (53 feet, 8 1/2 inches).
Akins and Hayes are best friends, so it just made sense for Hayes to drop his buddy’s name. But Akins, who finished second in the state in the discus last year behind teammate Dontrevious Ousley, had already made a name for himself. He turned down an academic scholarship (Akins has a 3.88 GPA) to St. Augustine in Raleigh, N.C., to run track & field at Savannah State.
“It’s great that we are all going together,’’ Akins said.
Potts was even more excited about going away to college with three of her best friends.
“This is special that we are all going together,’’ she said. “My mother is happy because she knows they will watch over me in college. They’re like my brothers.’’
Potts and Hayes both hold school records in the pole vault. Martin and Akins are not only stars for the track & field team, but were two of Westover’s top football players. Martin is arguably the best blocking fullback in Southwest Georgia for a team that lives by the run, and Akins was a force as a defensive end/linebacker for the Patriots.
But their future is in track & field.
“All four of these kids are great kids,’’ said Westover athletic director Harley Calhoun, who helps coach the track & field team along with head coach Lewis Smith. “I never had a problem with any of them. They’re hard workers, and they do the right thing.”
Hayes was the leader, but he said he never would have received a scholarship if not for Charlie Polhamus, the pole vaulting guru from Fitzgerald who has trained some of the best vaulters in the state at his home facility.
“I have to thank coach Charlie,’’ said Hayes, who was clearing 11 feet last spring when he went to Polhamus for instruction. Now he’s clearing more than 16 feet in practice.