Traditional powers head to Jefferson

Marcia Bryan

As much as anyone can count on beautiful blooms and increasing temperatures as a sure sign that May has arrived, one can also expect Georgia’s top athletes to make their way to Jefferson to take part in the Georgia Olympics. The GHSA Track and Field state championships take place each and every year at Memorial Stadium in Jefferson, and after the decision was made to hold all of the class championships at one site, the event rightfully earned the title “Georgia Olympics.” Folks in attendance can count on seeing new state records as well as performances worthy of All-American distinction and many of those performances have come from some of the same programs year after year. With so many amazing performers taking part in the Georgia Olympics each year, it is incredible that some programs have managed to rise above and stand out from the rest.

Programs such as Southwest DeKalb, Landmark Christian, Carrollton and Stephenson have annually taken home both individual and team titles as they are four of the most prestigious programs in the state. Southwest DeKalb has captured eight GHSA titles since 1987 with the program’s heyday lasting throughout most of the 1990s.

The Panthers won the Class AAAA title in 1990 before winning back-to-back crowns in 1993 and 1994 and then three straight from 1995 through 1997. Southwest DeKalb’s most recent team title came in 2007.

During the incredible run from 1995 through 1997, the Panthers had two of the greatest track and field athletes ever to grace Memorial Stadium in Angelo Taylor and Terrance Trammell. Taylor won the Morris M. Bryan Memorial Trophy as the Georgia Olympics’ most outstanding performer in 1995 and Trammell captured the prize in 1997. Taylor earned the award after earning more points than any other AAAA athlete that year, a feat he repeated in 1996 as he would win the Herman J. Stegeman Award. Trammell outscored the rest of AAAA in 1997 en route to the Morris M. Bryan award. Kelly Carter (1986, 1987), Hason Graham (1990) and Corey Taylor (1999) also earned the prize during Southwest DeKalb’s incredible run under Raymond Bonner and Napoleon Cobb. Several of Trammell’s individual class records still stand today. The Southwest DeKalb program has also boasted such incredible athletes as Kim Carter, Chris Morris and Malcolm Brock over the years.


When the Landmark Christian Academy program is discussed, many people immediately think of legendary coach Bill Thorn.

An honorary meet director for the 37th Georgia Olympics, Thorn will be forever linked to the Landmark Christian School. He not only helped found the track and cross country programs, but he is one of the founding members of the school. Under Thorn, the boys track and field program won eight titles between 1996 and 2008 with two additional runner-up finishes. His seven straight state titles from 1996-2002 is the longest consecutive stretch in the modern era.

Thorn has had his share of tremendous athletes including Nathan Kosibi and Matt Day, the latter winning the Morris M. Bryan Memorial Trophy in 1996, but Thorn never once had one athlete win the Herman J. Stegeman Award for collecting the most points in the class. Thorn won his titles on the strength of the team, something that helped him capture so many team titles in a highly individualized sport. Kosibi’s 3200-meter run in 1999 was one for the ages, and Day’s 1600-meter run in 4:17.02 was a remarkable feat in 1996, the fastest time in the single-A classification.

Stephenson has plenty of history at the Georgia Olympics. The Jaguars of coach Don Sellers were major players in the early 2000s, winning the Class AAAAA title in 2002. Stephenson featured Michael Grant, who won the 200-meter dash in 2003 and the 100-meter dash in 2003 and 2004. He also took home the Class AAAAA Herman J. Stegeman Award in 2003. Sellers has also coached Joshua Walker and several relay teams to not just state titles but Georgia Olympics top performances.


Any discussion of the Georgia Olympics and boys track and field in the state of Georgia isn’t complete without talking about the Carrollton program. Carrollton has won the last three Class AAA team titles and won three of four from 2002-2005. Unlike many other programs in the state, though, Carrollton has staying power. Carrollton captured its first title in 1955 and won seven total from 1955 through 1963, including six straight at one point. After managing to win just one state crown from 1964 through 1979, the program returned with a resounding fury, snagging seven in the 1980s. During the 1990s, Carrollton won five titles (three AAA and two AA).

In recent years, standouts such as Reggie Brown, Robert Kondelin, Montrell McClendon, John Wynn, Alex Shell, Willie Smith, Arthur Boykin, Jerome Winters, Steve Hicks, Justin Jones, O’Darine Bassett and Jonathan Jones have suited up for the Trojans and their storied program. Head coach Craig Musselwhite has led the team to six team titles and was an assistant for three other title squads.

Musselwhite knows what it takes to churn out state champions as he has helped more than 50 athletes earn individual titles, and he has overseen countless other relay teams. Two Carrollton athletes have been awarded the Morris M. Bryan Memorial Trophy: Shell won it in 1986 and O’Darine Bassett took it home in 2004. Jones didn’t win the Bryan Trophy last year, but he was once again the AAA Herman J. Stegeman Award winner.Southwest DeKalb, Stephenson, Carrollton and Landmark Christian aren’t the only legendary programs that have dominated the Georgia high school boys track and field championships. Many other programs have made their mark at the Georgia Olympics. Under the direction of Jamie Glover, Sandy Creek won back-to-back Class AAA state titles in 2007 and 2008. Christian Taylor certainly helped the Patriots’ cause with a pair of individual titles in the triple jump for both of those teams. His championship leap in 2008 of 52’ 6.5” still stands as the the best mark not just in AAA history but in Georgia Olympics history. Athens Christian has captured three Class A titles since 2007 including the last two while Cedar Shoals won three from 2002-2005. Fitzgerald captured four straight titles from 1987 through 1990, and Griffin won six titles between 1976 and 1985.

DeKalb and Carroll aren’t the only dominant counties at the Georgia Olympics in Jefferson. Gwinnett County has proven that it is great over the last four years in the state’s largest classification. Brookwood has won two titles in the last three years while Parkview and Peachtree Ridge each have a title during the current successful Gwinnett run. Since the late 1990s, Cobb County has been a major player. Marietta has taken home four state titles while McEachern has earned three. The programs shared a championship in 2008. Wheeler took the top team prize in 2003 and last year, Kell brought the Class AAAA title back to Cobb. Last year, Kell brought the Class AAAA boys title back to Cobb County. Jefferson, the host school, is another program that has experienced its fair share of success.

The Dragons most recently won the 2010 Class AA title after winning the 2004 Class A crown. From 1970 through 1983, Jefferson won five titles. Since 1959, the Jefferson program has won nine GHSA boys track and field state team titles. Marc Mason captured the Class A Herman J. Stegeman Award to help the Dragons win a second straight title in 1978 while James Hardman won the award in 1983. Interestingly enough, Chris Keen won the Class AA Herman J. Stegeman Award in 1986 and 1988 but Central-Carrollton and Washington-Wilkes finished higher the first year and Fitzgerald won the team trophy the second year. Josh Kles was the 2010 winner of the award, the last time Jefferson won the team title.

With reclassification, many old rivalries were ended while new rivalries were created. It will be interesting this year to follow along as many of the DeKalb County powers compete against one another for not just county bragging rights but for state bragging rights.

In years past M.L. King and Stephenson runners wouldn’t see Tucker or Southwest DeKalb standouts at the Georgia Olympics, but each of those former team champions can meet for the AAAAA title along with 2001 champion Mays and 2009 champion Miller Grove. Elbert County, the 2011 AA champion, will now compete in a suddenly-wide open Class AAA after Carrollton moved to AA. Only Chapel Hill (2004), St. Pius X (2006) and Swainsboro(2007) have won titles since 2000.

Will a new program rise to the forefront and lay the groundwork for a future dynasty at these Georgia Olympics? In 40 years will we look back and say that is when a particular program started its incredible run? Will a familiar program add another thrilling chapter to its glorious legacy? While it can be comforting to see familiar programs do well, it is a treat for any track and field enthusiast to sit in Memorial Stadium and watch these athletes compete for the ultimate prize: a spot in the fabled lore of the Georgia High School Association’s Georgia Olympics.

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