By the end of the boys’ high school state track championships on May 11, John Williams felt the same way he did 13 years ago.
The Stone Mountain boys track coach had good reason to feel nostalgic. He watched his team finish sixth in the Class AAA meet, paced by first-place finishes in the 200 and 400 meters by senior Tamaric Johnson. The Pirates also broke a 28-year-old state record in the 4x400 meter relay with a winning time of 3:15.28.
Johnson’s feat was the first back-to-back sweep in both events by a county athlete since Southwest DeKalb’s Hasan Graham did it in 1989-90. Johnson also was the first county runner to win consecutive state titles in the 200 since Williams did it for the Pirates in 1999-2000.
“As a coach, I felt the same way when Tamaric won as I did when I was in high school as a runner,” Williams said. “To see all the hard work materialize is an indescribable feeling. For everything to pan out 100 percent was a very special moment to see him repeat.
“Tamaric sets the tone at practice,” Williams continued. “He does everything 100 percent and this was his just reward.”
Johnson, who has signed a football scholarship with Jackson State, also ran the anchor leg on the relay team. The other members of the Pirates’ winning relay team are Korey Bryant, Aaron Sibley and Fredarious Scott. Bryant is expected to sign a track scholarship with Mars Hill College, Sibley has signed a football scholarship with Portland State and Scott will attend Johnson C. Smith University on a football scholarship.
The win in the 4x400 relay was a statement of sorts for the Pirates. The event is something that Williams has focused on since becoming the Stone Mountain track coach in 2010. He keeps the advice of former Pirates’ coach Jay Rollerson (who is now at Clarkston) in the front of his mind.
“The first thing he said was the state meet comes down to the 4x400,” Williams said. “It’s the final race of the meet. If you’re going to be competitive, you’ve got to do well in the 4x400.”
The 4x400 is an event runners often shy away from because it is at the end of the meet, but Williams has tried to make it a source of pride for the team.
“Usually more kids shy away from it than embrace it,” Williams said. “We’ve tried to embrace the challenge of the 4x400 and make it a cool thing to do. We wanted to create an atmosphere where kids want to run it and now we