Jones takes flight for Missy Gators|[05/08/08]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 8, 2008

Briana Jones has the speed. She’s got the sparkle. All she needs is a catchy nickname.


“Briana has been like the FDIC. Insurance in the bank,” Vicksburg High track coach Deborah Brown said. “She knows without her 34 points in every meet, we’re not doing what we’ve done in district, regional and North State.”

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Jones has been insurance and money in the bank for the Missy Gators. The junior sprinter has not lost a race this year, won the North State championship in the 100 meters, 200 meters and long jump, and will be a favorite in all three events at Friday’s Class 4A state meet at Pearl. And thanks to those 34 points, a splintered field of contenders and a strong lineup in the running events, Vicksburg is a favorite to finally get over the hump and win its first team championship.

“It’ll be almost like a Cinderella dream. It’s something I’ve wanted since I took over the varsity program in 2002. A dream come true,” Brown said of winning a state title.

The Missy Gators have been close several times. They were second in 2004 then lost the 2005 Class 5A championship to Natchez on the last relay. This time, the Class 4A field poses a trickier challenge. Jones is the Missy Gators’ only athlete in the field events, meaningIf you goFriday2 p.m. – Class 2A/4A meetSaturday10 a.m. – Class 1A/3A/5A meetAll meets at Pearl High School they need a strong performance throughout the lineup in the track events, where they qualified for seven races.

Two of those, the 100- and 300-meter hurdles, will be run by senior Kina Hasain. She said getting points in every race, even, if it isn’t for first place, will be crucial.

“It’s going to push me to run at the end and give it my all for the whole 300 meters instead of slacking off at the end,” Hasain said. “It’s very important because we’re lacking in the field events. Everybody’s got to do well in their individual events and push us up.”

Vicksburg’s main competition is West Jones and McComb, which are spread out more evenly.

“I’m a strategy person. We’re all balanced in eight, nine, 10 events,” Brown said. “The North’s field events are much stronger than the South. So if they can knock my enemies off, I’m good.”

And, of course, if Jones turns in her usual day they’ll be even better.

As a sophomore, Jones wasn’t around for the state meet. She had the talent, but not the right attitude. Calling her “misfocused,” Brown cut the speedster early in the season.

“I was disappointed because I love to run. I got my heart into track,” Jones said.

There was no ninth grade team in Jones’ freshman year, so when she returned for her junior season with a new attitude and purpose, she had not run competitively in two full years.

It hardly showed.

Jones blitzed through the division, regional and North State meets without losing a race. She heads into the state meet with a slightly slower qualifying time than West Jones’ Kristin Bridges – 12.21 seconds for Jones, compared to 11.83 for Bridges – but isn’t worried. She said strong competition usually pushes her to go faster.

“I like to win. I don’t like to see anyone ahead of me,” Jones said. “I love to see the green team go past the finish line first.”

VHS’ Williams dominates shot put

Carlos Williams was studying the numbers, trying to figure out how far he needed to throw the shot to have a chance at the North State championship. Oxford’s Charles Mosby was around the 50-foot mark, and Williams figured he needed to throw it at least 51 feet to win.

No problem.

Williams threw it 54 feet, beating Mosby by more than six feet. The mighty heave was also six feet further than Moss Point’s Darrion Simpson threw to win the South State championship. It, more than Williams’ second-place finish at the 2007 Class 5A state meet or his perfect record this year, are why everyone is looking up to the Vicksburg High junior heading into Friday’s Class 4A state meet at Pearl.

“I really don’t think it’s going to be close. I can’t see it being close,” Williams said. “It ain’t no cockiness. It’s just a fact. South State won with 48. That’s six feet.”

Six feet might as well be six miles. Williams learned the hard way last year that one foot can seem just as far away. He finished 10 1/4 inches behind Ocean Springs’ Andrae Crumbly last year at the 5A state meet. The loss stayed with him all through this season, and he’s used it as fuel.

Williams won the Southen Miss Invitational as an unattached thrower, then ran through the high school season undefeated. He won by 8 feet at the division meet, 5 1/2 feet at the regionals. Then, with Mosby pressing him last week, he obliterated the competition.

“I knew what I had to do when I came in there. The boy from Oxford was throwing 50 and he was in my head,” Williams said.

Now, Williams will try to get in the heads of the rest of the throwers in 4A. Based on his performance in 2007 and 2008, he’s established himself as one of the top shot putters in the state. A state championship on Friday would set him up nicely for a run at a repeat next year and establish a true legacy.

“I really don’t even know. It’s hard to say,” Williams said when asked what a state title would mean to him. “I hope I can continue in college.”