Monroe’s Jahari Williams, left, and Redan’s Zindzy Jones battle on the final leg of the Class AAAA girls 4x400-meter relay at the Georgia High School Association’s state track & field meet Saturday at Hugh Mills Stadium. Williams helped the Lady Tornadoes edge Redan in the event and finish second in the team standings. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)
ALBANY — Jahari Williams could hear the footsteps of Redan High School’s Zindzy Jones.
As the two, running the final legs of the Class AAAA 4x400-meter relay, battled near the finish line, Williams somehow pulled away and lifted Monroe to victory by the narrowest of margins — 3:53.22 to Redan’s 3:53.24.
With Monroe’s 4x4 title, the Lady Tornadoes gained enough points to edge Redan for second place in the team standings Saturday in the final day of the Georgia High School Association’s state track & field meet at Hugh Mills Stadium.
The team of Kandice Clyde, Nikeria Marshall, DeAndrea Anderson and Williams played a key role in helping Monroe to the state runner-up finish. When Anderson handed the baton to Williams for the final leg, the Lady Tornadoes were in third. But Williams surged past Marist’s Zuri Davis, then battled Jones in what was one of the more exciting finishes in any event.
“I felt the batons hitting each other,” said Williams, who also won state titles in the 100 (11.94) and 200 (24.32) after winning the long jump on Thursday.
“I knew what we needed, and I really wanted to win first in the 4x4,” Williams said. “I just had to push myself harder.”
Monroe track coach Billy Glanton said with the adversity his team faced late in the season, Saturday’s runner-up finish was satisfying.
“I thought I’d never be happy to finish second in anything,” he said. “But considering what these girls have gone through this season and then to be able to pull together and finish second in the state, we are very pleased.”
Marist, who won the title with 96 points, had staked itself to an insurmountable lead after getting a pair of top finishes in the 1600 Friday night. Glanton said he knew there wasn’t much of a chance the Lady Tornadoes would catch Marist, but he felt pretty good about his chances of finishing second. Monroe entered Saturday’s finals with 28 points.
It started with Clyde, who finished fourth in the 400 (57.35) to net five points, then Williams’ titles in the 100 and 200 gave them 20 more points. Clyde also earned a sixth-place finish in the 200 (25.44) for three more points.
Treasure Frazier finished eighth in the 800 (2:36) for another point.
When it came time to run the final event of the day — the 4x400 relay — Redan had surged from seventh place into third with 54 points. Monroe had 57.
Glanton said he wanted the final team outcome to be decided by the relay. Since Marist had ran away with the title, Monroe believed a strong finish was necessary.
Clyde and Marshall kept the Lady Tornadoes within striking distance. By the time Anderson got the baton, she was in third. Monroe could have won with a third-place finish, but Anderson said that wouldn’t have been good enough.
When she handed the baton to Williams, she said she knew her team was in excellent shape.
“I knew she could do it,” Anderson said. “We believe in her. She knows how to keep the race.”
When the final team awards were announced, the Monroe athletes danced and strutted their way onto the award stand.
Anderson said holding the runner-up trophy felt good.
“Finishing in the top two is going to do even more for next season,” said Glanton, who returns the bulk of his team as well as the entire 4x400 relay team.
“We came in here half-loaded. We lost at least three events that we probably could have come in here and placed at state. That sort of hand-cuffed us a little bit, but I’m very proud of where we finished.”
Outside of Monroe, Albany High’s Lindneshia Hudson was the only other Dougherty County athlete to place on Saturday. She finished eighth in the 100 hurdles (15.29).
CLASS A PUBLIC: Mitchell County’s 4x100 relay team of Kayla Lawrence, Teryetta Chester, Derykah Yates and Akerian Florence took the state title with a time of 49.39. Mitchell finished tied with Baconton Charter for seventh in the public school standings with 28 points.
Florence took the baton from Yates and sprinted to the finish line, just ahead of second-place GMC.
“I know it hasn’t been our best year,” Florence said while crying tears of joy. “But I didn’t want to leave my senior year knowing that we had a state-winning team that didn’t win state.”
The Lady Eagles also got a third-place finish from Florence (12.66) and a fourth-place finish from Lawrence in the 100 (12.67), then Adrianna Harvey finished fifth in the 100 hurdles (17.16).
Lawrence also finished sixth in the 200 (26.64).
Baconton Charter got another strong performance from Kimmie Davis, who won the public school 200 with a time of 25.93. She also finished second in the 100 (12.64) after she won the long jump on Friday.
Terrell County finished 14th in the team standings with 17 points. The Lady Greenwave used a second-place finish from Timarius Whitting in the 300 hurdles (50.25) after she had placed sixth (17.99) in the 100 hurdles earlier.
“It was scary, and I was a little nervous at first,” Whitting said. “I thought I wasn’t going to place. But the Lord helped me and I had a chance. I’m going to work harder next season so that hopefully I can finish first.”
Whitting also teamed with Brittany Williams, Tiera Lewis and Cortia Mitchell to finish fourth in the 4x400 (4:28.96).
Meanwhile, Miller County’s Briana Kelly finished eighth in the 400 (1:07.07).
CLASS AA: Early County’s Tiara Lindsey finished sixth in the 100 (12.61), while Pelham’s Raniesha Florence finished fifth in the 100 hurdles (16.22).