WARNER ROBINS — This wasn’t what Jesse Fowler had in mind when he joined the Warner Robins track and field team in January.
Running didn’t bother him. In fact, Fowler, who considers football his primary sport, came out for track hoping to regain speed he’d lost over the holidays. It wasn’t long, however, before one of the assistant coaches put a discus in Fowler’s hands and pointed him to the throwing area.
The marriage proved a good one. Fowler’s first-day victory in the event at the Region 1-AAAAA meet helped propel the Demons to their seventh region title of the decade and first since 2007. Now, Fowler and his several of his teammates are moving on to the state meet, which begins Thursday in Jefferson. More importantly, they’ve enjoyed a banner year.
“Football is my sport, and that’s what our goal was this year to win a region,” Fowler said. “That didn’t happen, and it was disappointing.
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“But it’s kind of good for closure in my high school career that we actually won. Coach (Steve) Ruzic puts a lot of emphasis on winning, and he’s real competitive about it. I’m glad we could get that win for him and for us and for these guys that have been running all four years to get another region title.”
Warner Robins finished second to Tift County in each of the past two years. When the school’s best distance runners chose not to run this year, the Demons chances for reversing that trend seemed lost.
But with depth it displayed throughout the year at relay meets in Albany, Statesboro and at home, Warner Robins slipped past the Blue Devils by 14.5 points. Ruzic said he brought 23 athletes to the meet, and 21 of them scored points for the team. Warner Robins placed no worse than third in 10 of 16 events.
“That’s how you win region,” he said.
Now the Demons turn their attention to the state meet. In addition to Fowler, Warner Robins is sending region champions in the 400-meter dash (Quintavis Walker) and the 800-meter run (Tim Snow). Both Demons relay teams also won. In fact, the Warner Robins 4x100-meter relay team is now a three-time defending region champ. Derrick Blackshear ran a leg each year.
“If we run our fastest time that we can run, we can win,” he said. “We’re capable of it. We have the athletic ability to do it.”
According to qualifying times published at ghsa.net, the Demons will have their work cut out for them in the 4x100 and the 4x400. Warner Robins has a team-best time of 3:20 in the 4x400, according to Blackshear. Morrow comes in with a time of 3:15.
“We run better against faster people,” Blackshear said. “When we go to state, we’ll run our best time because everybody else is going to be fast.”
Senior Isaiah Leggette runs legs on both relays. He also qualified in the 200 with a competitive mark of 22.26. He said he’s thrilled to be closing his high school career on a positive note.
“Of the sports I played, football and basketball, we were real close to making the playoffs but we didn’t make it,” he said. “This feels like the playoffs.”
Ruzic, who will coach football and track at Veterans High next year, is also happy to be going out a winner.
“I’m just so proud of the seniors,” he said. “They didn’t have to come out. They could have been doing something else. Instead, they chose to work their butt off. I couldn’t be prouder.”