PREVIEW: Westover eyes clean sweep under the lights at 10th annual Relays

Westover athletic director Harley Calhoun

Westover athletic director Harley Calhoun

Want to Go?

WHO: 19 boys and girls high school track & field programs from around the state.

WHAT: 10th annual Westover Relays — the only track meet in Georgia run at night under the lights.

WHEN: Meet begins at 4 p.m. today.

WHERE: Hugh Mills Stadium.

ALBANY — They’re already talking about a sweep.

And the kids at Westover are serious.

They know what it would mean for the boys and girls track & field teams at Westover to both win the Westover Relays under the lights tonight at Hugh Mills Stadium.

“We want to make history,’’ said senior Ayanna Mitchell, who has a chance to score 20 points by herself by winning the shot put and discus titles in one of the most prestigious meets in Georgia. “It’s our home meet. I love Westover and we want to win this meet. It’s a chance for us to prove to everybody that we are here. It’s time to prove it’s our year.’’

It’s the 10th annual Westover Relays, which is the only high school track & field meet in the state that’s held under the lights. But this year’s meet could mean even more because Westover’s boys and girls have never swept their own meet — and they have a real chance. The boys have won the title six times, including the last two and four of the last five. The girls haven’t won the title since the inaugural meet in 2004. Bainbridge’s boys won it that year.

“It would be something nice to sweep,’’ said Westover A.D. Harley Calhoun, who oversees the track & field program along with track coach Lewis Smith. “I feel they have a chance to do it. The boys meet will have a lot of good teams. Warner Robins, Bainbridge and (Class AAAAAA) Burkmar is coming from Gwinnett County. Athens Christian (the defending Class A state champs) is coming from Athens. They are coming the farthest to the meet. The competition on the boys side is going to be pretty strong. I think the girls meet will come down to us and Monroe.’’

Monroe’s girls are not only the defending champs in this meet but have won the Class AAA state title the last four years while dominating girls track & field in Southwest Georgia. But Monroe didn’t win its own home meet — the Smith and Benson Relays — last month, finishing third. Westover was fourth that day, but the Lady Patriots didn’t have Ericka Taylor, who will be the favorite to win the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs tonight. Westover could get 20 points from Taylor and 20 from Mitchell, who is ranked fourth in Class AAAA in the state in the discus and fifth in the state in the shot put. She took home firsts in both events at the Smith and Benson Relays.

“Those two (Taylor and Mitchell) are our two big missiles we want to be shooting,’’ Calhoun said. “But we need to get points from everywhere. This has been our best chance to win both the girls and the boys.’’

There will be 19 schools competing (a total of 38 teams), including local area schools from Dougherty, Albany and Lee County.

Monroe is loaded with talent, beginning with junior Chakeriah Fletcher, who is ranked No. 1 in the state in Class AAAA in the 300-meter hurdles. Fletcher also runs the 400 and is on both relay teams. Sophomore Nardesia McKinney is ranked No. 3 in the state in the Class AAAA 300 hurdles. She also runs in the 100-meter hurdles and on both relay teams. Freshman Nakeyah Marshall is ranked No. 10 in the state in the Class AAAA 400, and she runs on both relay teams. The girls meet could come down to a Westover-Monroe finish in the mile relay.

Bainbridge’s boys have won the Westover Relays twice, including back in 2010 — which is also the year the Bearcats went on to win their first state team title.

Terry Lewis, a Herald Dynamite Dozen football player who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last fall, leads Bainbridge. He has a chance to win the 100- and 200-meter dashes, and he also runs on Bainbridge’s 4x100 relay team.

Craig Cooper can score in the high jump, long jump and triple jump, and Alton Miller can score for Bainbridge in the 400-meter run and 300-meter hurdles. Stephen Johnson (triple jump and high jump), Chase Harris (1,600 and 3,200) and Josh Sheard (discus) also make the Bearcats one of the favorites to win the meet.

Westover’s boys team will need to have a big day from a variety of athletes to win the title.

“We have to get our points from everywhere,’’ said Calhoun, whose teams always seems to find points in the field. They scored 48 points in the field in the Smith and Benson Relays last month, and that start helped Westover win its first Smith and Benson boys title in the 23-year history of the meet.

“This group of boys score from all over the place,’’ Calhoun said. “We have a lot of depth. We’re not going to have a lot of firsts, but lots of different guys scoring a lot of points. We don’t have that standout, but we have two guys in every event who can score.’’

Westover has plenty of talent, and Calhoun expects to be led by Don Mills, who can score points in the shot put and discus, as well as Brenten Wimberly, who has a chance to win the discus, and Jackie Childs, who has a chance to win the 110 hurdles and score in the 300 hurdles. Scott Sanders could lead Westover in scoring. Sanders could finish in the top three in the 200-meter dash, the 400-meter run and the long jump.

Westover should score points from everywhere, even the pole vault, despite being without the team’s top pole vaulter, Thomas Langstaff, who sprained his wrist last week.

The Patriots just find athletes who find a way to score.

“We take the points where we can get them,’’ Mills said. “Everyone has his responsibility on this team. We don’t have that one standout person to score all the points. But we have individuals who can score for us.’’

All the Westover kids want the sweep.

“It would mean a lot to get the sweep,’’ Mills said. “To sweep this meet and make history as a senior would be amazing.’’