DAWSON — They might not have a track or much tradition, but the kids from Terrell County have enough talent and heart to change all that and more this weekend when the Greenwave try to win the first track & field state title in the school’s history.
There’s not a kid on this team who doesn’t believe they can win it all. Terrell County is sending seven individuals and two relay teams to the GHSA boys state meet that begins today in Jefferson, where they hope to bring home the Class A state crown.
It’s a history lesson.
“I’ve been telling them we can make history,’’ said Terrell County coach Carlos Diaz as his team left Dawson for Jefferson on Wednesday. “And they believe it. They are becoming aware that they are on the verge of making history. We have talked a lot about how this team has a chance to do something no other team has ever had a chance to do.’’
Diaz doesn’t plan to stop talking.
“I’m going to keep telling them,’’ he said on Wednesday. “I’ll be in their bedrooms (on Wednesday night at the hotel) telling them what this means.’’
Diaz has meant so much to the program. He has built a powerhouse without a track. Seriously. It’s a made-for-TV movie, and a man-bites-dog headline: “Kids without a track win state!”
Honest. It could happen.
It’s Cinderella at the big dance. All Terrell County needs now is that dramatic finish. The kids from Dawson could go from the parking lot to the podium — literally.
Without a track, Diaz has had his own home-improvement, do-it-yourself approach to coaching. His kids practice in the school’s parking lot and use make-shift pits for the long jump and triple jump in the back of the school. Diaz was creative enough to borrow some mats for his kids to land in after leaping in the high jump.
Nobody went to Lowes or Home Depot.
They just did to it themselves.
“When I got there five years ago we didn’t have a track,’’ Diaz said. “So I went to a track with a measuring wheel and measured everything. Then I went to our parking lot and marked off the track, the spots for handoffs, the starts and finishes for the races.’’
He still didn’t have a place to jump. But girls coach Terrence Moon, who is Diaz’s assistant coach with the boys, had a backhoe from his business, so they brought in the heavy equipment and built their own jumping pits.
“We dug them with his backhoe and filled them with sand,’’ Diaz said.
They still needed some help for the high jumpers, who had nowhere to land.
“We went to Schley County (High School) and they had some old mats under a tree, and we asked them if we could have them,’’ Diaz said. “That’s where we got our mats.’’
Today, Jatori Jones has a chance to take home first place in the high jump, and if he does everyone involved with the track & field program will be jumping with him.
“It’s been a long journey,’’ Diaz said. “It’s been quite a journey. It’s been challenging, but fun.’’
But they are here with a chance to win it all — a chance at history.
“They know they can make history, and they are excited about it,’’ said Diaz, who has seen the program make strides every year. Two years ago, Terrell County finished 12th in the state meet, and last year the Greenwave finished seventh.
The GHSA has now split the public and private schools in postseason competition, so Terrell County will be competing for the Class A public school state title.
“I think the teams to beat will be Twiggs County and Claxton,’’ Diaz said. “Twiggs has a lot on the track and Claxton is strong in the field. But we have the combination of both. It’s going to come down to performance. We will need some luck, but I believe our kids are ready to compete, and we believe we have a chance to win it.’’
That’s where Diaz started, even before there was a painted parking lot or jumping pits.
“The first thing we had to do is get the kids to believe,’’ Diaz said. “They do believe, and we’ve had a lot of young men step up this year.’’
Jerkerious Scott leads the way. He’s seeded No. 1 in the 100 and No. 5 in the 200, but Diaz believes he can win both and Scott runs on both relay teams. Terrell’s 4x100 team — DeWalt Davis, Justin Page, Bernard Lumpkin and Scott — is seeded second, and the mile relay team — Blake Mathis, Rokeem Johnson, Davis and Scott — is seeded third. Mathis, a freshman, will also compete in the high jump.
Jones, who is seeded first, could bring home the high jump title, and Micah Williams can rack up points in the shot put and discus. Lumpkin is seeded fourth in the 200, and Ismael Hayes is seeded third in the 800.
“We’ve had a lot of senior leadership this year,’’ Diaz said. “These young men have come a long way. I don’t know if it has hit them yet what they can do, but I believe when they walk on the track it will hit them and they will realize they can make history. We just want to make the Greenwave family proud.’’
The field events will be held today for all classes, and the running prelims will be held Friday with the running finals on Saturday. Baconton’s Bryton Wenzel has a chance to make noise all three days in the Class A meet. Wenzel, the state cross country champion, is seeded first in the 1,600 and 800 runs and is seeded second in the discus.
The athlete who has the potential to have a monster meet is Monroe’s Kevin Williams, who could be a one-man wrecking crew for the Tornadoes.
Williams, one of the best receivers in Southwest Georgia, has a chance to win both the long jump and triple jump and could finish first or second in the high jump.
“I think Kevin can win all three,’’ Monroe assistant coach Paul Jones said. “He is ranked No. 1 in the state in AAAA in the long jump and triple jump and No. 2 in the high jump behind the kid from Veterans, who has gone over 7 feet. But Kevin might win the high jump, too. He could be the star of the meet.’’
If Williams wins all three he could give Monroe 30 points, but even if he wins two and finishes second in the high jump, that’s 28 points for the Tornadoes, who expect to get four or five points from Brentavious Glanton, who is seeded fourth in the shot put.
Westover’s boys have finished second in the state the last two years, and expect to do well again with a team loaded with depth.
The Patriots are led by Jackie Childs, who is seeded first in the 110 hurdles and sixth in the 300 hurdles. Quintavious Moran is seeded fourth in the pole vault, and Westover will send three athletes to the shot and discuss area today.
Don Mills is seeded fourth in the shot put and sixth in the discus, and Chris O’Neal is seeded fourth in the shot put. Brenton Wimberly is seeded ninth in the shot put but is expected to score for Westover.
The Patriots will also have a chance to score with Craig Reddix in the 200 and 400 and Tyler Sheffel in the 800, and Westover’s 4x400 relay team is seeded seventh.
“Banneker and Marist will be the teams to beat, but we will do what we do,’’ said Westover Athletic Director Harley Calhoun, who oversees the track & field program along with track coach Lewis Smith. “We have a chance to be in the top four. We’ve got a chance to get on the podium.’’
Albany High will be led today by Juwon Young, who has a chance to win the shot put and score in the discuss, and Dougherty’s 4x100 relay team has a chance to score points for the Trojans.
Pelham is sending four individuals and its 4x100 relay team to the AA meet, including Christian Drake, who is seeded first in the 100, Guthrie Edwards, who is seeded seventh in the 3,200 and 11th in the 1,600, and Chris Butler (discus) and Brett Bailey (3,200).
Early County is sending five and its 4x400 relay team. The Bobcats are led by Xavier Smith (seeded fourth in the high jump), Randy Wade (fifth in the shot put), John Davidson (fifth in the 1,600), Kenneth Wynn (12th in the high jump) and Labon Green (12th in the pole vault).
Bainbridge is bringing seven individuals and its 4x400 relay team to the Class AAAAA state meet. Chase Harris (800 and 3,200), Alton Miller (400), Terry Lewis (100), Craig Cooper (high jump), Dominic Douglas (high jump), Derek Allen (300 hurdles) and Stephen Johnson (triple jump) will lead the Bearcats.