Monroe's Ashley Harrell, center, keeps the streak going of Lady Tornadoes winning The Herald's Player of the Year honor as she becomes the fourth straight from MHS to earn the top end-of-the-year honor. Harrell was joined in her POY photo by boys co-winners, Jerkerious Scott from Terrell County, left, and fellow Tornado, Kevin Williams. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY --- It's almost impossible to put a ceiling on Ashley Harrell, and why would anyone want to? She would probably just throw the discus right through the roof.
That's Harrell, a rising star at Monroe High, where she has emerged as The Herald's 2013 Johnny Seabrooks Player of the Year for track & field.
There are rising stars and there are meteors, and then there is Harrell, who defied logic and the entire state of Georgia in one glorious morning when she came out of nowhere to win the Class AAAA state discus title at the girls state Track & Field Championships at Hugh Mills Stadium.
And just for fun, she won it in dramatic fashion, capturing the title on her final throw of the meet.
“When I let it go I didn't think it was a good throw,” said Harrell after winning the title.
It wasn't just good, it was good enough to win it all, a memorable throw of 132 feet and four inches. But that's Harrell, a package of modesty and dedication and strength and willpower.
And then there's the best part: She is only a sophomore.
“We don't know how good she can be,” said Billy Glanton, who coaches the discus and shot put throwers at Monroe. “She is such a hard-working young lady, and she just gets better and better.”
Harrell was seeded sixth in the discus at the state meet and literally got better and better in the span of one day. Everyone in track & field has the same goal in every meet, and that's to set a personal record — to run a time faster than ever before or to jump or leap or vault or throw higher or farther than they have in their lifetime. The PRs are what drives every track & field athlete, and they are cherished.
On the day of the state meet Harrell had five PRs. That's not only almost unheard of but impossible to predict — and a little mind-boggling. But there was Harrell, re-writing her own personal record book with every throw in the finals.
Her best effort in the discus had been 110 feet, but Harrell's first throw of the day at the state meet was 115 feet, and she just kept climbing the ladder — to the top of the state of Georgia. Her final four throws of the day were 116 feet, 124 feet, 128 feet and — finally — 132 feet and four inches.
“She had PRs in the last three meets leading up to the state meet,” Glanton said. "Every time she would compete, she would have a PR, and then she had such a great day at the state meet. It's like all her hard work paid off. I'm so proud of her.”
Harrell also finished third in the state in the shot put with a PR toss of 38 feet and four inches. Her two dramatic finishes in the field gave Monroe 16 points. Monroe finished the meet tied for fourth in the team competition with 34 points. There were 38 teams at the state meet. Harrell outscored 24 of them by herself.
“She had a great day,'” said Glanton, who predicted Harrell would win the discus title with her final throw. The coach told Harrell she was going to win it all just before she unleashed the best throw of her life.
“I think I won because the coaches believed in me,” Harrell said. “Coach (Glanton) told me I was going to win with my last throw, and I believed him. I just had to win. When I won, I was so happy I didn't know what to say. I was just so happy."
Harrell's overnight success story is like most in that it also took years to get here.
She started throwing the shot put and the discus when she was 9 years old as a member of the Albany Ruff Riders Track & Field Club.
“She has always been a competitor, even back then,” said Monroe assistant track & field coach Paul Jones, who runs the Ruff Riders club. “That's what she is, a competitor. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks, she believes she can win.”
Now everyone believes Harrell can win.
2013 HERALD ALL-AREA GIRLS TRACK & FIELD TEAM:
Ericka Taylor, Sr., Westover
(Herald Player of the Year runner-up)
Why She’s here: Taylor wrapped up a memorable career at Westover, where athletic director Harley Calhoun has often called her, “the best distance runner in Westover history.’’ Taylor won a cross country state title and finished in the top six in either the 1,600 or 3,200 all four years at Westover. She ended her career with a fifth-place finish in the 3,200 and a third-place finish in the 1,600 in the Class AAAA state meet.
Ayanna Mitchell, Sr., Westover
Why She’s here: All but won the Class AAAA discus title, finishing second to Monroe’s Ashley Harrell, who won the title on her final throw. Mitchell’s toss of 130-feet and 10-inches was a personal record and she also finished seventh in the shot put.
Holly Ebbets, Sr., Lee County
Why She’s here: Barely missed clearing 12 feet and tying the state record in the pole vault and ends a incredible career with a third-place finish in the state meet. She finished second in the state as a freshman and won state titles as a sophomore and junior.
Quannesha Gatling, Sr. Dougherty
Why She’s here: Gatling, who was named to The Herald’s All-Area teams in softball, basketball and track & field, finished 10th in the state in the Class AAAA triple jump and ended a brilliant career at Dougherty by finishing fourth in the 400-meter run in her final event for the Lady Trojans.
Chakeria Fletcher, Jr., Monroe
Why She’s here: Fletcher qualified for the state in the 400- and 300-meter hurdles and was a member of both of Monroe’s relay teams, but an injury on the opening day of the three-day meet in the prelims kept her out of the 400 and hurt Monroe’s chances in the relays. Neither relay team qualified for the finals. But Fletcher bounced back on the final day of the meet and finished second in the 300 hurdles, barley losing the race when she stumbled a bit after the final hurdle.
Kandice Clyde, Fr., Monroe
Why She’s here: Qualified for the state meet in both the 100 and 200 and finished fourth in the Class AAAA 200-meter final.
Nardesia McKinney, So., Monroe
Why She’s here: Finished eighth in the Class AAAA 300-hurdles.
Kimmie Davis, Jr., Baconton Charter
Why She’s here: Had a monster weekend at the state track meet, winning the Class A long jump (16-8 1.2) and finishing second in the 100 and second in the 200 to score all of Baconton’s 26 points.
Akerian “Kiki” Florence, Jr., Mitchell County
Why She’s here: Is the leader for the Lady Eagles, who made a statement at the state meet. Florence made history by becoming the second girl at Mitchell County to win a state title and the first to win one on the track. She won the 100-meter dash, finished sixth in the 200 and anchored Mitchell’s winning 4x100 relay team.
Mallory Diamond, Jr., Miller County
Why She’s here: Finished fifth in both the 100 and 200 and anchored Miller’s runner-up 4x100 relay team and also ran on Miller’s 4x400 relay team that finished third in the state.
Kayla Kirkland, Sr., Westover
Why She’s here: Was the state runner-up in the Class AAAA pole vault.
Bryshea Jackson, Fr., Westover
Why She’s here: Finished fourth in the Class AAAA state meet in the triple jump.
Justice Lee, So., Early County
Why She’s here: Finished third in the 400 and fourth in the high jump in the Class AA state meet.
Antonio Jones, Jr., Mitchell County
Why She’s here: Finished seventh in the 400-meter run at the ClassA state meet, and also ran on Mitchell’s state champion 4x100 relay team.
Ja’Shara Burns, Sr., Mitchell County
Why She’s here: Finished fourth in the Class A high jump and also ran on Mitchell’s state champion 4x100 relay team.
Madison Ragan, Jr., Randolph Southern
Why She’s here: Ragan, The Herald’s Player of the Year in softball, is one of the most dominating performers in GISA track & field. She not only owns the Class A state record in the discus, but she won her third state title in the discus and her third state title in the shot put at the Class A meet, going 6-for-6 in state title tries in the discus and the shot put.
Libby Greene, Jr., Deerfield-Windsor
Why She’s here: Helped lead DWS to a fourth-place finish in the GISA Class AAA state meet by finishing fifth in the long jump, fourth in the 100 hurdles and third in the triple jump.
Tarah Young, So., Deerfield
Why She’s here: Dominated the Region 3-AAA meet, winning the high-points award, and she finished second in the 200, third in the 200, third in the triple jump and she ran on DWS’ relay teams. Her anchor leg performance in the 4x100 relay state final was inspiring as she took Deerfield from seventh to third in the final 100 meters of the race.
Raven Burney, Jr., Bainbridge
Why She’s here: Won the Region 1-AAAAA long jump title for the second year in a row. She also competed in the 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams and the 400 dash for the Lady Bearcats.