Though Earl Watson was out of town during spring break, he called twice that week to check on some of his athletes.
The Evans High School track coach's 4x100 relay team was at the track at 9:30 a.m., preparing for that weekend's Taco Bell Invitational.
"We provided rides to whoever couldn't get here," said senior Perron Jones, who runs the first leg of the 4x100 team. "We came out here and did work, and then went to work."
The Knights finished second at Taco Bell, a meet held in Columbia that draws competition from all over the Southeast. Their time of 42.37 ranked them in the top 100 nationally. The time also qualified the team to compete at the Nike Outdoor Nationals in June.
Evans coach Ryan Bennett doesn't want the team to get too cocky as it prepares for the Region 3-AAAA meet this weekend, but he knows that the Knights have the fastest team in the area, and maybe the fastest in Class AAAA.
"They're on a mission," Bennett said. "I'd really hate to see them not accomplish what they're trying to do."
All four on the 4x100 -- Jones, Josh Butler, Jamerson Turner and Jonathan Finch -- expect to race at the next level.
Jones signed a national letter of intent to run the 100 and 200-meter at Georgia Tech. Butler will run at Anderson University.
Finch, a junior, likely will have several options next year. The sophomore Turner still has time, but his teammates expect he could be on their level when the time comes.
"No pressure," Turner said of being the team's youngest. "I just try to beat these big guys over here."
Said Jones: "He's not a regular sophomore. We wouldn't have him if he wasn't fast."
Jones has good acceleration and runs the first leg. Butler excels in the straightaway, Turner is strong in the turns and Finch is the closer.
"It's not like we're just throwing people out there," Finch said.
The team points to its chemistry as a major factor in its success to this point. The four were all starters on the Knights football team.
During practice, their main focus is to ensure their handoffs are correct.
'We practice every day to get our handoffs right," Butler said. "That's the biggest thing."
The Knights know the smallest slip-up can derail the season. Evans was disqualified at the state meet last season after a false start.
"You can lose five yards in football and get back up and gain 10 yards," Watson said. "You drop a baton, you're done."
The team's preparation began during the season, when coaches put them on a running program designed to increase endurance. The process included five 20-yard runs with a slow finish, four 50-yard sprints, two 100-yard sprints, and five 100-yard cool-downs.
"It makes a big difference when you run 400 meters and you're used to running 500, 600," Bennett said. "That's why a lot of our guys win on the finish, because a lot of teams are tired."
As in their races, the Knights 4x100 team is trying to finish strong. The second-place finish at Taco Bell gave them a confidence boost headed into region and state.
"It let us know what we need to work on, and how hard we need to work at it," Jones said. "We have just as good a shot as anybody else."
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