State championships have been pretty tough to come by if you’re part of a boys program in the GISA’s AAA classification this year — unless you’re a John Milledge Academy Trojan.
JMA got its third boys state title of the current school year Saturday in Locust Grove, scoring a meet-high 144.5 points while no other school totaled more than 84. It’s the first track state championship in school history and it comes after the Trojans also won the top prize in boys basketball in March and football back in December.
Steve Franklin heads up the school’s boys track program and was named the GISA AAA coach of the year for leading the team to victory over the weekend.
“We’ve got a bunch of gutsy guys,” Franklin said. “They play multiple sports, so I’ve had to share with the soccer and baseball teams. These guys would come to me for half an hour then go straight to their other practices. That’s just the John Milledge way. A lot of schools prefer their guys to stick to one sport, but we encourage our guys to participate in all the events. I’d put my money on our guys any given day.”
In track, individuals earn points for their team based on where they finish in each event, and Franklin said the emphasis was not just on scoring — which the JMA boys did in 14 of the meet’s 16 events — but obtaining those higher values by finishing in the top four. The Trojans wound up with 16 top-four finishes at the competition, including five first places.
“It was all about making sure that our times were going to be comparable to state runners from the previous year,” said Franklin.
The athlete with the highest individual score is crowned the meet’s high-point winner. While that honor did not go to a John Milledge team member, looking at the standings it’s easy to see why the Trojans’ team total was tops. Of the nearly 100 males earning points at the AAA state meet, JMA had eight athletes finish in the top-20 among individual scorers.
The five event state championships came in the discus, shot put, 300-meter hurdles, 4x400 relay and 4x100 relay. Three John Milledge boys track records were broken or tied over the weekend. Senior Carson Dyer broke the old discus school record at region and set another new high mark at state when he hurled the disc 145 feet, 2 inches. His classmate Devin Kitchens, a Shorter University football signee, set a new JMA shot put record at region (48 feet, 8 inches) before tying the old record at state when he launched a 48-foot, 6-inch throw. The Trojan 4x100 relay team of Grayson Hopkins, Valynsky Calhoun, Patrick McDonel and Chaze Goddard now have their names in the school record book with a time of 43.46. The quartet nearly added their names to an even more exclusive list as they were just .02 seconds off from the GISA AAA boys 4x100 record set five years ago by Frederica.
“That’s not even the blink of an eye,” said Franklin. “Our anchor leg ran by himself for about 50 meters. He had no one to run with. If there was somebody battling, we probably would’ve tore that record all to pieces. We’ll take it, though.”
The JMA 4x400 relay team of Marcus Prestwood, McDonel, Spencer Beahm and Calhoun crossed the finish line with a time of 3:31 and junior Tommy Collier won the 300-meter hurdles at 41.63 to round out the Trojans’ podium-topping performances.
Second place certainly wasn’t a bad place to be at the state meet, especially while contributing to a team championship. Senior Je’Mazin Roberts, who has signed to play football at The Citadel, finished as runner-up in both the shot put (46 feet, 3/4 inch) and discus (136 feet, 11 inches). Landen Burney took second in the triple jump after leaping 39 feet, 11 inches. In the 4x400 relay, the JMA “B” team of Taylor Dixon, Carson Tom, Jeremiah Hill and Jamon Sneed clocked a 3:37 to earn runner-up and add eight points to the team total.
In girls action, the Lady Trojans took fourth overall as the top-four teams were separated by fewer than 20 points. The JMA team of Mariah Clements, Kaela Clark, Sydney Chambers and Ellen Ryan won the 4x400 relay with a time of 4:20. Clements, Ryan, Olivia Rhodes and Ella Hudgins finished second in the 4x100 by just .19 seconds.