Monroe track athletes hope to shine at state meet despite small roster
by Aaron Garcia
Before he dismissed his track and field team from its practice on a dreary day this week, Monroe High head coach Johnny Sowell gathered his athletes at center court of the school’s gymnasium. The Redhawks had been forced to practice in the gym because of the rainy conditions, but Sowell seized the opportunity. He pointed to the rafters, where a banner from the school’s 1990 boys track team hung. He proceeded to tell the small gathering of onlookers how, with just seven athletes, that team captured a state championship.
It was a cogent point, especially for the seven girls who will make up the contingent of Redhawks at the Class 1A championships Friday, May 20, at Greensboro’s N.C. A&T State University.
“Sowell was like, ‘That could be you up there,’” said Jamie Glenn. “That would make me very happy.”
The possibility is more than a simple pipe dream. At last week’s 1A Midwestern Regional, the Redhawks finished just 10 points behind winner North Rowan. Junior Janieyah Collins followed up a win in the 200-meter dash (24.5 seconds) with another in the 300 hurdles (47.22). Freshman Reneazia Collins (no relation) also qualified for the state meet in two events, finishing fourth in the 100 hurdles (18.44) and the 300 hurdles (51.00). Glenn, meanwhile, qualified for three individual events, winning both the shot put (36 feet, 4.5 inches) and the triple jump (36-4.5), and taking third in the long jump (16-9).
The Redhawks also qualified three relay teams for the event. Reneazia and Janieyah Collins teamed with Asha Jordan and Daya Jordan to win the 4×400 (4 minutes, 16.7 seconds). The Collins girls also joined Julice Crowder and Kendall Cox to claim gold in the 4×200 (1:44.10). Glenn, Crowder, Desure Robinson and Shakira Jordan also placed third in the 4×100 (52.49).
To further prove the point that Monroe has a legitimate shot at winning a state title this year is the fact that the Redhawks finished fourth at last year’s event despite only qualifying Janieyah Collins and Glenn.
Luckily for the Redhawks, the team seems to be peaking at the right time. Janieyah Collins started the year strong but suffered a broken bone in her toe, which took her out of competition for much of the season. But rather than make excuses, the other athletes combined to fill the void.
“I knew with (Janieyah Collins) being gone,” said Reneazia Collins, “she usually scores more, so the rest of us had to step up.”
The emergence of some of the younger athletes wasn’t much of a surprise for Nichole Jackson, who coaches the Monroe girls squad.
“During the indoor season, a few kids came out for the team and I was like, ‘You know, we’ve got a pretty special group coming,’” Jackson recalled. “I said to Coach Sowell, ‘We’re going to have to watch these girls in the spring.’ They’ve stepped up and done exactly what I thought they were capable of.”
Janieyah Collins said it was nice to watch the other athletes step up in her absence.
“I’m proud of them, very proud,” she said. “Somebody had to do it, and they all did it.”
That included Glenn. Last year, as a sophomore, she competed in the 4×100 and the long jump. This year, she’s added the triple jump and shot put to her repertoire.
“When (Janieyah Collins) was out, we needed more points to at least try to win a few track meets,” Glenn said. “I knew I had to step up, if I could, and do a few more events so that we could win.”
After last week’s runner-up finish, the Redhawks know it’s not the size of the team that will determine their success.
“It doesn’t matter how big the team is; it only matters how good and talented you are and how much you can bring to the table,” said Glenn.
Added Reneazia Collins: “I think we can win with just us girls, if we put our hearts into it.”