The Westover boys will look to repeat as meet champions today. In this Herald file photo from last year, Westover’s Craig Reddix, left, and Bainbridge’s Alton Miller race to the finish line in the 400 final during the 23rd annual Smith and Benson Relays at Hugh Mills Stadium. (File photo)
ALBANY — If you’ve been around Monroe track and field coach Billy Glanton this week, you can feel his excitement for the L.C. Smith and Winfred Benson Relays that begin this morning at Hugh Mills Stadium.
It’s not just an ordinary meet — 30 of the top programs across the state will converge on Hugh Mills Stadium. After the event, several high school athletes will have a pretty good idea of where they stand with a little more than a month left before the state competition.
“We’re very excited about it,” Glanton said. “You don’t want to miss this one.”
Most schools from Southwest Georgia will be competing. Four metro Atlanta schools — Banneker, Miller Grove, Morrow and South Atlanta — will also compete as well as Carrollton High and several programs from the Middle Georgia area.
One team from Florida — Godby High of Tallahassee — will also compete.
Field event begin at 9 a.m., while the first running event begins at 10 with the girls 3200-meter event.
Glanton said there will be several athletes to keep an eye on, especially Banneker’s Ryan Clark. His time of 10.54 in the 100 is the best in the state so far this season, while his time of 21.88 in the 200 is the fourth best state-wide.
The Miller Grove boys’ 4x400 relay team has run a time of 3:23, one of the best in the state. Glanton believes Monroe’s 4x400 team of Carl King, Tumaashe Kendrick, Xavier Douse and Jordan Bell, which have compiled a time of 3:26 this season, can give them a stern challenge.
Westover’s Antravious Parks and Craig O’Neal are two local standouts to keep an eye on in the shot put.
On the girls side, defending Class AAAA discus champion and reigning Herald Track & Field athlete of the year Ashley Harrell from Monroe is a favorite, while a pair of sprinters — Kandice Clyde and Jhari Williams — will be competing for top honors in the 100.
While Glanton said there is certain to be some exciting finishes, the relays will showcase some of the top athletes in the area.
“It’s definitely one of the biggest,” he said. “This meet will give us an idea of what we need do and where we need to put some of our athletes.”
Westover boys coach Harley Calhoun said today’s events will give his athletes a chance to compete against some of the best and prepare them for the Region 1-AAAA meet in a few weeks.
“You get a chance to see a lot of different athletes,” Calhoun said. “It’s sort of a miniature state meet where you get a chance to see people you don’t normally get to compete against.”
The relays have become known as one of the better meets in the state after the L.C. Smith and Winfred Benson Relays consolidated in 1999. Last year, the Westover boys claimed the their first title, while Shaw won on the girls side.
Dougherty County athletic director Johnny Seabrooks, a former track & field coach himself, said the meet is chance to bring strong state competition to a first-class facility in Hugh Mills Stadium.
“People get a chance to see what they’re doing in South Georgia,” Seabrooks said. “And folks in South Georgia get a chance to see what they’re doing in Middle and North Georgia.”