From left, Baconton Charter’s Kimmie Davis, Mitchell County’s Akerian Florence and Miller County’s Mallory Diamond near the finish line in the 100-meter dash, which Florence won, Davis was second and Diamond was fifth.
ALBANY — Tim Martin and Derex Woumnm were hugging, celebrating like kids, smiling and laughing together, embracing each other and the moment.
“I think people thought we were crazy,’’ said Martin, who coaches the girls track & field team at Miller County. Woumnm coaches the girls at Mitchell County.
They’re the oldest of friends, “brothers,’’ Martin said.
And there they were on Saturday at Hugh Mills Stadium, ecstatic over what their kids had just done on the track in the GHSA girls state Track & Field Championships.
Mitchell had just won the Class A 4x100 meter relay in 50.36, and Miller had just finished second, right behind the Lady Eagles.
Both coaches knew their kids had won a lot more than a race, and by the time the day was over, Martin had tears in his eyes, talking about his program, and Woumnm was just as emotional about his.
“Finishing second in the relay was history for Miller County,’’ Martin said. “It’s the first time we have been the state runner-up since 1980.’’
Akerian “Kiki” Florence made history for Mitchell a little later in the day when Florence became the first girl from Mitchell County to ever win a state title in a race. Florence, who ran the anchor leg for Mitchell’s 4x100 rely team, won the 100-meter dash in a flurry of Southwest Georgia talent.
Florence won the race, beating Baconton Charter’s Kimmie Davis, who was second, and Mallory Diamond, who ran the anchor leg for Miller’s 4x100 relay, finished fifth.
The same three girls had strong finishes in the 200 as Davis finished second, followed by Diamond in fifth and Florence in sixth.
“Kiki is only the second girl at Mitchell to win a state title (Tiana Burley won the discus title in 2010) and the first to win a title in a race on the track,’’ Woumnm said. “She made history. She was dynamic! I’m really proud of her and really proud of these girls.’’
Mitchell brought just four girls to the state meet, but the Lady Eagles made the most of what they had, scoring 26 points to finish tied with Baconton Charter for sixth overall. The track program suffered a huge hit when the GHSA added a second qualifying round last year. Instead of qualifying for the state meet in the region meet, athletes now have to finish in the top four at region and then compete a week later in the sectionals to earn a spot in the state meet.
“The sectionals are the same weekend as our spring break, and the kids go to the beach instead of running on the track team,’’ Woumnm said. “We are trying to get the kids back, and I think (Saturday) will change everything at Mitchell County.
“I think this is the building of a foundation. We have got some of the most athletic girls anywhere at Mitchell County, and what these girls did today will change the program. I think we’re going to come back next year and win the (team) state title. I think that’s what (Saturday) means to Mitchell County. I really believe we have all the pieces to win a state title next year. Our principal has already said if we win state next year he will take the girls to Disney World.’’
Woumnm couldn’t get over how well his girls performed.
“It was an incredible day,’’ he said. “That’s the best word for it. We made history (winning the 4x100 relay and the 100), and we built the foundation. This is going to change a lot of people’s minds about track at Mitchell. Next year is our year.’’
Only one of the four girls on Mitchell’s team is a senior, Ja’Shara Burns, who ran on the relay team and also finished eighth in the triple jump. Antonio Jones, who ran on the 4x100 team and finished seventh in the 400, and Kayla Lawrence, who ran the opening leg of the 4x100, are both juniors.
Florence is also a junior, but she is already the leader of this team.
“I believe this will change things,’’ she said. “We only had four girls and look what we did, but I know there are five or six freshmen coming up, and I hope we can have more girls and come back next year and win region and state.’’
Florence ran a beautiful race to win the 100 in 12.34, holding off Davis, who beat Florence to win the 100 in the region meet three weeks ago.
“I just feel blessed,’’ said Florence, who was third in the 100 and fifth in the 200 last year. “I couldn’t be happier. It feels like graduation. I’m just so happy right now. I run for my mom every time I run. She has asthma and couldn’t run when she was in high school. I think about her when I run, but she doesn’t know it.’’
Davis, who suffered a nagging leg injury at the sectionals, capped off a monster state meet with her second-place finish in the 200. She won the long jump state title (16-8 1/2), finished second in the 100 and second in the 200 to score all 26 points for Baconton Charter by herself. She’s only a junior.
“I knew I could win the long jump,’’ Davis said. “I went into the long jump with a lot of confidence.’’
Davis, Florence and Diamond are all juniors, and have been battling it out all season.
“They have been 1-2-3 all year in the 100, so we were a little disappointed when Mallory finished fifth,’’ Martin said. “But it was great to have three girls from our region do so well.’’
The Lady Pirates had the only mile-relay team from Southwest Georgia on Saturday on the final day of the three-day meet in which all the running finals are held and on a day that saw Kell’s Kendell Williams run the fastest time in the nation (13.29) in the 100 hurdles.
Miller’s mile relay team of Deanna Tiggs, Kelley Whitacker, Diamond and anchor Gerianna Sheffield (the team’s only senior) took third place to give Miller 22 points and an eighth-place finish overall. Tiggs, Sheffield, Diamond and Tykeria Holmes made up the 4x100 relay team.
“We just had one girl who was different on the two relay teams,’’ Martin said. “We brought just five girls, but they had a great day. I think this will motivate them to do even better next year. We did this all year with just seven girls.
“I’m so proud of them. I’m getting a little teary-eyed,’’ Martin said. “This is a new beginning for our track program. We don’t have jumping pits and are building our program and this is a day that can make a difference. This was a big day for Miller County, a big, big day.’’
Florence was the only girl from Southwest Georgia to win a state title on Saturday. Davis had the two runner-up finishes, and Monroe’s Chakeria Fletcher came within a stride of winning the 300 hurdles. She was neck-and-neck with Rutland’s Adriunna Brown at the end of the race but stumbled just a bit over the final hurdle and took home second. Monroe freshman Nardesia McKinney finished eighth in the 300 hurdles, and Monroe’s Kandice Clyde was fourth in the 200.
The Lady Tornadoes, who had won four consecutive state team titles — the best streak by any large school in Georgia — saw the streak end. Monroe, which was led by Ashley Harrell, who won the discus title and finished third in the shot put, finished tied with Shaw for fourth with 34 points.
Westover was next and scored all 33 of its points in the field and the 3,200 and 1,600, where Ericka Taylor finished fifth and third, respectively. Westover didn’t have anyone in the running finals on Saturday.
“We did a lot of good things,’’ said Westover AD Harley Calhoun, who oversees the track & field program with track coach Lewis Smith. “All of our kids had PRs this week. We had a good meet. We maximized what we had. We would have liked to have had our mile relay team on the track (on Saturday) but we had a real good meet, and finished in the top five.’’
Quannesha Gatling ran the fastest time of her life in her quest to become the first girl from Dougherty to win a state title, but it wasn’t enough as Gatling finished fourth in the 400 in 57.71.
“I feel good because I ran my fastest time,’’ Gatling said. “I knew I did my best. Did I visualize me winning? Yes I did. I pushed myself as far as I could go. I have no regrets at all. I know my coach is proud of me and I know everyone who supported me is proud of me.’’
Gatling made a statement all year as a senior and was one of the top softball players and basketball players in Southwest Georgia before finishing a brilliant career at Dougherty on the track on Saturday.
“She did a real good job,’’ Dougherty AD and track coach Donald Poole said. “She was just short. She did a real good job all four years she was here at Dougherty, representing the East Side.’’
Early County’s Justice Lee finished third in the Class AA 400 and eighth in the 200, and Early’s Tiara Lindsey was seventh in the 100.
Terrell County’s Tiara Lewis finished fifth in the 300 hurdles, and Terrell’s Timarius Whiting was sixth in the 300 hurdles and seventh in the 100 hurdles. Terrell’s Brittany Williams was eighth in the 400, and the Lady Greenwave 4x100 relay team of Sha’Myia Peak, Chelsey Reid, Jasmine Taylor and Williams finished fifth.
For complete results go to GHSA.net