Tigers run wild in Columbus

By Harold Scott

The sport is known as track and field. It is the purest form of athletic competition around. It involves simple events like running and jumping. Although simple, it tests the athlete’s strength, speed, stamina, endurance, agility, and mental toughness. In many events, there is no equipment or aids; it is simply the athlete against their opponent, the athlete against themself, and the athlete against the elements.

On May 12-14, the GHSA Track & Field Championships were held at Kinnett Stadium in Columbus.

The state high school track championship is an event like no other. This event brought together the best athletes from throughout the state to compete for the title of state champions. These athletes also compete against the best times of others throughout history. If they better their time or distance, they become a state recordholder.

Five females and eight male athletes represented the Swainsboro Tigers. Combined, they participated in 13 different events.

The championship event began with preliminary and qualifying rounds on Thursday and Friday. The top performers from those events moved on to see who the state champions would be. The athletes are awarded points for the top eight finishers in each event. At the end of the meet, the total points are tabulated for all team members, and the team with the highest score becomes the team champion. The first-place winner in the finals of each event is the state champion for that event.

The Lady Tigers were represented by: TeeT Worthen, Molly Montgomery, Hannah Howard, Jayden Wynn, and Joy Jackson (alternate) in the 4x100 relay and Wynn in the high jump, triple jump, and 100 meters.

The Tigers were represented by Ty Adams, Qindarius Brown, Jordon Williams, DeMello Jones, and Solomon Johnson (alternate) in the 4x100; Jaquavious Lattimore in the high jump; Trevon Waller in the 110 and 300 meter hurdles; Jones in the 100 meter dash and the triple jump; Darius Phillips in the discus; and Adams in the 200 meter dash.

The meet began Thursday with the field events. Lattimore finished in second place and earned 8 points in the high jump. In the triple jump, Jones finished in eighth place and earned 1 point.

On Friday, qualifying for the running events occurred. The Tigers’ 4x100 relay team qualified by running a blazing time of 41.94 seconds. Official data from all Tiger history currently does not exist, but this time is believed to be the fastest in the school’s history. This time was also not far from the state record of 41.54 seconds. This should be a school record in the modern school era.

On Saturday, Waller finished second in the 110 meter hurdles and earned 8 points.

He also finished fourth in the 300 meter hurdles despite being slowed by hitting one of the hurdles. He earned 4 points for this event.

The highlight of the championship occurred on Saturday with the Tigers’ 4x 100 relay team. The relay team won first place and earned the maximum of 10 points.

For those who are not familiar with this event, the 4x100 relay is an event that consists of four team members running 100 meters each around a 400-meter track. The runners must maintain their assigned lane throughout the race. The relay race involves the passing of a baton to a teammate. This is extremely difficult as the person delivering the baton is at full speed, and the person receiving the baton must coordinate the arrival to their start and be at the same speed while receiving the baton. The runner cannot look back for the baton; he must rely on his teammate to place it in his hand while both are moving at as close to full speed as possible.

The Tigers won first place and the state championship in this event with a time of 42.11 seconds. This time was slightly slower than the previous day but more than enough for first place.

All members of the relay team will be returning next year, and it is conceivable the state record will be within the Tigers’ reach.

Many of the athletes representing the Tigers are underclassmen. For several of them, this is the first time they have participated in track and field. Qualifying for the state championship is extremely difficult. The accomplishments of these young, inexperienced athletes are impressive and are a testament to their ability, determination, desire, and hard work. It is also a testament to the motivation and training of coaches Dwight Smith and Cornelia Jackson.

Other team members did not qualify for the state but played an integral role in the season’s success.

When athletes are successful, numerous people work behind the scenes to assist. I was impressed with how these young men and women competed. I was equally impressed with how they conducted themselves with class, excellence, and dignity both on and off the field. This is a reflection on the leadership of Swainsboro High School. Principal Brandon Andrews, Athletic Director Johnathan Moses, and the entire administration should be commended. This would be impossible without the parents/guardians and their guidance, unyielding love, and support. Everyone is to be congratulated for an outstanding job and for positively representing Swainsboro High and Swainsboro as a whole.

The Chronicle had an opportunity to speak with a few athletes, parents, and a coach, asking the athletes how it feels to compete in a state championship, if they’d had a chance to reflect on their accomplishments, what their future goals are, and how it feels to be a Swainsboro Tiger. Parents were asked how it felt, watching their child compete in a state championship, how they help their students balance academics, athletics, social life, and household responsibilities, and how it felt to be a Tiger parent. Below are their responses.

Jayden Wynn: It feels awesome competing in the state championship and going up against some of the best athletes in the state. I know there are more girls who want it as bad as I do. What goes through my head is that I am nervous to be competing with other girls who are just as nervous as me, but I made it here for a reason. I just go out there and do what I know how to do—compete and have fun. My goals for this year were to make it to state in all my events and win state. Next year, my goal is to compete and win on the state level in every event that I do. It feels great to be a Tiger and to be a part of the Tiger community. I am also proud to be the daughter of an alumni Tiger, and I know she is just as proud of me as I am.

Niki Robinson, parent of Jayden Wynn: The first thing that goes through my mind is nervousness. I want my child to be a state champion but in reality, I know she is competing against the best of the best and this is probably her first or second time actually seeing real competition because our region is so small. Jayden has really figured out how to balance it herself. I stay on her about her grades because she knows that they come first and she knows that once her grades slip, all extracurricular activities come to a halt. Most of her friends are also her teammates, so having a social life comes easy because they are almost always together anyway. Being a parent is a difficult job within itself because you are also on the go, but being a parent of an amazing athlete is even harder. However, it is very rewarding. You’re proud and exhausted, but it’s a feeling that you wouldn’t change for anything in the world.

Qindarius Brown: It was awesome that during my first year of high school we won the state championship. I give all the glory to God and my family for always having my back, and I can’t leave out my Swainsboro Tiger family for their support. What went through my head was I was nervous at first, then I thought about what Coach Shon [Nobles] always told me. Coach Shon said, “Never be nervous. Just go out there and give it your all,” and I did just that. My goals this track season was to win, and we did it. My goal for next track season is to go for it again. It feels great to be a Swainsboro Tiger!

Valerie Williams, parent of Qindarius Brown: I was excited, nervous, and scared all in one. I knew they had worked hard and they deserved it, but this is my son’s second sport of choice. I don’t want him to push himself too hard and possibly injure himself. My son has pretty much balanced things on his own. He knows that schoolwork comes first and sports come second. He understands the importance between the two, and that’s enough for me. It’s not easy being a Tiger mom. It can sometimes be overwhelming because these boys have worked so hard. My job as his mom is to make sure that I’m there cheering him on for every win as well as encouraging him after every loss. I wouldn’t trade being a Tiger mom for nothing in this world.

Jordon Williams: It feels good competing at the highest level. I try to keep my composure and trust myself and my teammates. I haven’t taken time to reflect on my accomplishments yet. My goals are to run 40 seconds in the 4x100 relay next year and to get my time down to 10.7 seconds in the 100 meter. It feels good to be a Tiger because we are the champs.

Shaakira Williams, parent of Jordon Williams: Knowing my son is only a sophomore and has competed in and won a state championship is mindblowing. This is a great group of guys who have worked hard and made improvements with each track meet they have competed in. I never doubted these guys because the talent, work ethic, and speed were there from the start. The day of the finals, I texted Jordon and simply said, “Just run, son.” He and his teammates did exactly that, and now they are state champions. To say I’m proud of these guys is an understatement. Balancing sports, schoolwork, and a social life can be challenging for Jordon and me at times, but, for the most part, he will get the job done. As a supportive parent, I’m always making sure he has what he needs and I get him where he needs to be. The texts messages from the school of upcoming assignments and test help to balance things out. Being a Tiger parent is one of the most rewarding titles I carry. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in this world.

DeMello Jones: I am very blessed to be at this stage. It feels great to have the opportunity to compete at the level of state championship. At first, I am nervous to be going against the best athletes in the state, but I realize they are probably nervous as well. If we can compete at the level we are capable of, I know we could achieve our goals. My goal for this year during track season was to make it to state in all my events. Next year, my goal is to win every event I compete in.

Kim Brown, parent of DeMello Jones: The first thing that went through my mind is, “Wow! You have a chance to be the state champions, and that’s big. One of the things I tell Mello is you must keep God first, trust Him in all you do, and everything else will fall into place. I also tell him he must get his education because no one can take that from him. I believe you must earn things in life; nothing is given to you. When it comes to household responsibilities, DeMello has two things I require of him—cleaning his room and taking out the trash every day. He asked if he could get a job this summer. I told him we should focus on volunteering around the community. As far as his social life, he has friends at Swainsboro High and Emanuel County Institute so really trying to balance his time with them is funny, but at the same time, I tell him always be respectful and be a leader, not a follower. It’s often said there’s nothing like being a Tiger on a Friday night, but I say there’s nothing like being a Tiger parent any day of the week.

Ty Adams: I was nervous and excited, but I looked at it like a regular track meet but with more competition. Also, this was my first year running track. I thought about what my mother always told me; if you want to get better, you got to compete against the best, so give your all. Plus, I had faith in my teammates. I looked at all the medals I received and was amazed because this was my first year running. I’m hoping next year will be even better. It feels great to a state champ, and it feels good to be a Swainsboro Tiger.

Meyoshi Worthern, parent of Ty Adams: In my mind, I’m nervous because I want my child to go out there and give it his best, even though he may be going up against some better. I tell him to go out there and give it your best. I listen to them talking about the goal they were trying to accomplish at this meet. Being in the stands yelling as your child and his teammates are out there running and trying to reach their goal to be state champs was an experience I’ll never forget. I stay on him about his schoolwork because the teachers have my email and phone number to let me know what’s going on. I set up parent/teacher conferences when needed because he knows education is very important. The coaches know if his grades are not right, Ty can’t play. Ty manages school and sports well. As far as his social life, he goes places with his teammates or cousin, but he’s mainly at home. When he is home, he’ll help. I really don’t have to fuss lol. As a parent, it’s hard because you have to juggle the challenges you face while being on the go and trying to make sure your child has the basis thing in life while also showing your child how proud you are of them for being such an amazing athlete. What we experienced on Saturday was only the beginning, and I’m super proud of the journey my child has taking me on so far. I wouldn’t trade this for anything.

Below are a few questions asked of Coach Dwight Smith after the meet’s conclusion. His answers follow.

Have you had a chance to reflect on the season and this past weekend?

Coach Smith: Yes! I’ve been reflecting since we left Kinnett Stadium in Columbus. We had such a great year, and we took some major steps in the right direction in getting this program back where it should be. We took 14 student-athletes to compete at the state track meet, which is by far the most we’ve taken since I took the program over six years ago. The numbers are up, and we are slowly approaching the expectancy of this program, which is to compete for state championships in a yearly manner.

Were you surprised by anything that occurred?

Coach Smith: Knowing these kids, I don’t even know why I was surprised, but I was shocked at how comfortable the team was competing on the biggest stage with the brightest lights. Considering how we had so many first timers at the state meet, they were extremely comfortable and confident they were going to perform well—and they did. Our boys finished sixth overall in Class AA with just seven competitors, and that’s a testament to them and how hard they worked all year.

What were your biggest challenges during the season and over the weekend?

Coach Smith: We had a lot of nagging injuries that we had to work around. Our fastest guy, Qin Brown, didn’t run for six weeks with a strained hamstring. He came back for the region track meet and was limited to just one event so we could further monitor the healing process. One of our faster girls, Hannah Howard, injured her back doing the long jump in our first track meet and she was out until the sectionals meet that was held 2 weeks ago, so we had to move a lot of parts to try and make up for those two big losses. Those injuries, along with the more common track injuries such as shin splints and soreness, were things that gave us tremendous challenges this season, but our kids handled these adversities like champs, and we pushed through to have a rather successful season.

What impressed you most about your team?

Coach Smith: The thing that impressed me the most about this team was how competitive they were. They competed in everything. During our conditioning meter work, we would have specific times they were required to make the run in, and they just threw those times out the window. It was, “Who’s going to finish first?”, and being around that everyday made it a very rewarding environment to be a part of. When we had to use alternates such as Solomon Johnson and Joy Jackson, they stepped in and didn’t flinch at all because of the environment that they had trained in. It was a pleasure to be a small part of this group’s success.

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