Terrell County’s Michael Cooper ran a 15.18 in the 110-meter hurdles in Saturday’s GHSA Class A public school state championship to win the race, holding off second-place finisher Jahleel Hicks of Mitchell County. (Photo: Kyle Hess)
JEFFERSON — Terrell County’s Michael Cooper had one thought as he stood at the podium Saturday at the GHSA boys state track & field meet to receive his first-place medal after winning the Class A public school 110-meter hurdles.
“Can I repeat next year?” the junior hurdler said.
That was the kind of day it was for Cooper, who beat second-place finisher Jahleel Hicks of Mitchell County by 0.31 seconds — the largest margin of victory in any public school class in the 110 hurdles.
Cooper led the Greenwave to a fifth-place finish in the Class A public school team standings with 41 points, while Mitchell County — which was paced by McKinley West’s state championship in the 200 — finished seventh with 35 points.
West edged out Central-Talbot’s Raytez Jenkins by 0.04 seconds to claim his state title in what turned into a big day for both Mitchell County and Terrell County, who had Southwest Georgia’s only individual state champions in the three-day meet and were the only Southwest Georgia schools to finish better than 10th place.
West, who also finished third in the 100 and third as a member of Mitchell County’s 4x100 relay team, had a winning time of 21.89 in wet conditions after a brief rain shower just before his race.
But the sprinter powered through and then flashed a smile toward his mom as soon as he saw the official results.
“I looked over at her, and she was just crying,” West said. “It was what I had worked so hard for, and I got it.”
West started his race slower than normal, but once he got adjusted to the wet conditions he took off about 25 meters into the race and held off a charging Jenkins.
Mitchell County coach Myron Grimes said it was the type of finish West deserved after his hard work throughout the season.
“After the race, I just congratulated him on an excellent season and said I was proud of him for what he accomplished, taking on the work load (in school work) he did throughout the season and keeping himself injury-free and in position to compete for that title,” Grimes said. “He had been working all year for this.”
Hicks came close in two events for the Eagles, finishing second in the 110 hurdles behind Cooper and fourth in the 300 hurdles. Mitchell County also picked up points with a third-place finish in the 4x100 relay.
Cooper, whose winning time in the 110 hurdles was 15.18, finished second in the event last season, and Terrell County coach Carlos Diaz remembers the conversation he had with his hurdler after coming up just short.
“I told him to stand there and watch how much this young man enjoys the ambiance of winning that,” Diaz said. “I said, ‘That could be you next year. You have two more years, and you are just one or two steps away from winning a state championship.’ ”
Cooper was listening.
“That pushed me,” he said. “That motivated me to get this state championship.”
Diaz said it might just be the beginning for Cooper, who also stars on Terrell County’s football team.
“I’m hoping that a (college) coach that came out here (Saturday) paid attention to that young man, especially when we don’t have the type of facilities that give us any type of advantage,” Diaz said. “There’s no telling what he can do if he goes to a school and has a hurdle coach with him all the time who can teach him the techniques and fundamentals. He has so much raw talent.”
The Greenwave, who finished second as a team last season, picked up points from all over the meet, starting Thursday when Keontae Terry finished fourth in the shot put and Blake Mathis placed second in the high jump.
On Friday, Luis Zermano gave Terrell County two points with a seventh-place finish in the 3,200. On Saturday, Mathis (4th, 400), Rokeem Johnson (8th, 100), Joseph Ward (7th, 200) and the 4x400 relay team (3rd) all added to Terrell County’s total.
CLASS A: Calhoun County finished 17th with 13 points thanks to Jalen Reid, who finished third in the 1,600 and fourth in the 800. Also for the Cougars, Roderick McKenzie placed seventh in the 400.
Miller County also earned points in the state meet with a seventh-place finish from Tracy Johnson in the 800.
CLASS AA: Early County finished 10th with 17.5 points, and Pelham placed 21st as a team with eight points. The Bobcats got on the board early Thursday with a third-place finish from Xavier Smith in the high jump, a second-place finish from Randy Wade in the shot put and a fifth-place finish from Javian Williams in the triple jump.
Pelham scored its first points Thursday with Guthrie Edwards’ eighth-place finish in the 1,600, and then on Friday Williams placed fourth in the 3,200 and teammate Brett Bailey came in ninth in the same race. Pelham’s final points came Saturday when Christian Drake placed seventh in the 100.
CLASS AAAA: After climbing as high as sixth place during Thursday’s field events, the Westover Patriots came home with a 14th-place finish on Saturday.
Westover’s meet was highlighted on Thursday when Brenton Wimberly (4th, discus), Antravious Parks (5th, shot put), Scott Sanders (7th, long jump) and Chris O’Neal (8th, shot put) all scored points. The Patriots’ only other Top 10 places game late Saturday when Tyler Sheffell finished seventh in the 800 and the 4x400 relay team came in sixth.
The only other athletes from Southwest Georgia to score points in the Class AAAA meet were Americus-Sumter’s Andre Martin — who finished eighth in both the 100 and 200 – and Albany High’s 4x100 relay team, which came in seventh.
CLASS AAAAA: Four Bainbridge athletes took home Top 10 finishes: Chase Harris (3rd, 3,200), Dominic Douglas (5th, high jump), Craig Cooper (6th, high jump) and Victory Bodison (10th, long jump).