Monroe’s Ashley Harrell competes in the Class AAAA discus competition at the first day of the state GHSA girls track & field meet at Hugh Mills Stadium. Harrell finished second in both the shot put and discus to help the Lady Tornadoes finish Day 1 of the meet in second place. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)
ALBANY — It was wet, nasty and muddy.
But none of that seemed to matter to Monroe High School track & field athlete Jahari Williams.
Light rain showers may have dampened the first day of the Georgia High School Association girls state track & field meet at Hugh Mills Stadium on Thursday, but it didn’t stop Williams, who took top honors in the long jump.
She was one of two Monroe athletes who helped the Lady Tornadoes finish in second place in the team standings after the first day. The Lady Tornadoes led after five field events, but Marist had two placers in the pole vault to grab the team lead with 38 points. Monroe is second with 28.
Ashley Harrell, last year’s Albany Herald track & field athlete of the year, earned a pair of second-place finishes in the shot put and discus to keep Monroe near the top.
But Williams, who could win several more individual championships before the meet ends on Saturday, stole the show among Southwest Georgia athletes.
She didn’t beat her season-best jump of 18-feet, 7 1/2-inches, but she still managed an 18-2 to finish as the Class AAAA state champion.
“I believe I really could have jumped farther but it was kind of wet, so I kind of took it slow,” Williams said.
Williams won the long jump with ease. Her next closest competition was Shaw’s Breanna Mahone, who finished second at 17-4.
Harrell finished second in the discus behind Liberty County’s Courtney Bennett, who won the event with a throw of 122-9. Harrell threw a 121-5, disappointing by her standards.
“I know I could have done better,” Harrell said. “I’m not going to say I didn’t do well, but I did my best in the rain.”
Then she finished behind Grady’s Nyla Woods in the shot put. Woods won the event with a heave of 39-9, compared to Harrell’s 38-2.
Williams and Harrell accounted for 26 of Monroe’s 28 points on the day. Williams believes the Lady Tornadoes could still have a chance at the state championship on Saturday.
“We all have to stay positive and keep working hard,” said Williams, who will also compete in Saturday’s finals in the 100-meter dash, 200 and the 1600 relay.
“I believe we can win state as hard as we have worked.”
Other Dougherty County finishers included Westover’s Bryshea Jackson, who finished sixth in the triple jump at 35-6.
Intermittent rain showers played a key role on Thursday. Each time it seemed field events would start, light rain would pepper the track and force another delay.
This week’s rain made the Hugh Mills Stadium infield look more like a mud-bogging pit. Somehow, maintenance crews kept the facilities dry enough for the meet to continue.