CARROLLTON — The Class 5A track and field state championships proved to Rome High head track coach Nick Bridges just how tough the competition has gotten.
It also showed him how the future of the program can grow and gain steam.
Rome’s boys took third in three of Saturday’s running finals at Carrollton High School’s Grisham Stadium, helping the Wolves finish in sixth place in the team standings with 31 points. By comparison, Rome’s boys earned 20.5 points at last year’s state meet and came in seventh.
Meanwhile, the Lady Wolves closed the competition with Jataria Jackson’s sixth-place finish in the finals of the girls’ 100-meter dash and closed out with 22 points and 11th place. It was the highest finish for either Rome team at the state meet.
“The field has gotten much better,” Bridges said. “I’ve been a part of track and field in Georgia for a while now and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a field so fast, especially in the relays.”
The Wolves’ 4x100-meter relay team qualified for Saturday’s finals and set a school record in Friday’s prelims with a time of 41.58 seconds. Rome's girls’ 4x100 relay team also set a school record Friday with a time of 47.66, but .01 seconds off the qualifying time for the finals.
“Unbelievable,” Bridges said. “Then we come back and run a 4:01.75 in the 4x400, and that doesn’t get in with the top eight of 3:55’s or better. It was the same thing with the boys.”
Both of Rome’s 4x400 relay teams also set school records Friday but did not qualify for the finals. The boys had a time of 3:25.27, while the girls had a time of 4:01.75.
“The thing we take away is the talent we have coming back and the chance we have to get better before next year,” Bridges said.
Rome’s boys’ 4x100 relay team was third in the finals with a time of 41.81 seconds, with the top three teams within .72 seconds of each other. Jakobe Hamilton finished third in the boys’ 110-meter and 300-meter intermediate hurdles, both times beating out fellow senior and teammate Montrell Millsap, who finished sixth.
Hamilton came in at 14.51 while Millsap had a time of 14.77 in the 110 hurdles, while the two Wolves posted times of 38.11 and 39.47, respectively, in the 300 hurdles. Hamilton’s time in the latter broke his own school record that he set Friday in qualifying.
Jackson leads a strong returning group of girls for the Lady Wolves as the junior has gained plenty of experience on the region and state level. She posted a time of 12.30 in the 100 finals.
Distance runner Nora Bailey will return for her senior season, while Jahlia Evans is the lone state champion for Rome this year after she ended an improbable sophomore season with the Class 5A girls' triple jump title.
“Jahlia is a sophomore state champion in the triple jump, and her first ever hurdle or triple jump experience was at the Floyd County Championships on April 4,” Bridges said. “So we’re talking a little over 30 days ago she was just starting to compete in her events.”
Bridges said he hopes his work helping set up a youth track and field contingent in Rome will be the catalyst for finding talent and being able to determine a kid’s specialty early on in their development.
“There is talent in the area. And selfishly I want to be a champion at Rome, but I want our entire community to be champions,” Bridges said. “I would love for there to be seven state champion schools from Floyd County. “