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by Gray Yates, Head Girls Track Coach

This article is a post-series reflection of our series entitled The Last Dance, inspired by the ’96 Chicago Bulls documentary. The original Last Dance 10-part documentary series provided an in-depth look at the greatness of the Chicago Bulls‘ dynasty through the lens of the final championship season for the team in 1997-98. The Mount de Sales Academy girls 4×100 meter relay team has been together for three years and owns school records for the 4×100 as well as individual events. Katelyn Perazzola, Jai Dudley, Graham Blackwell, and Jordan Kelly make up this team and hold the title of defending state champions. Reflections included within The Last Dance series have been published after competitions. 

When I began writing reflections for the blog series, The Queens Have Returned, a few months ago I knew I wouldn’t want to write this one. There seemed to be a strong sense of the same sentiment from our girls Saturday morning in Columbus, Georgia as they went onto the track. I have not seen our group of girls nervous about an event in two years. One of the major negatives of the GIAA meet is that the coaches have to work the event. The time came during the event when I was able to step away from my timing obligations to check on the girls warming up. When I checked on them, I could see it blatantly expressed on their faces. As the girls warmed up for the last race as a group they told me that the reason they held these expressions was because they didn’t want to make a mistake or drop a handoff. Deep down I knew it was because they were not ready for this journey with one another to… end. 

At times, it was apparent that everyone at the meet had eyes on Katelyn, Jai, Graham, and Jordan observing their combined skill in awe – you could tell there was a very keen sense of admiration. Seeing this, and hearing first-hand before the final from an opponent that our girls are “so good that we should have to scratch”, increased the level of respect I already had for them – they handled the success as gracefully as they handled all the work.

Thursday during our state qualifiers, a coaching friend of mine stood by me, and halfway through Katelyn’s first leg he commented, “It’s over.” As soon as Katelyn handed it to Jai, he then said, “…and now it’s embarrassing!” Like always, Jordan and Graham sealed the deal in both races, and both qualifying and state finals were smooth sailing.

Returning to school I have been hit with a lot of congratulatory and positive sentiments about what this group has been able to accomplish. When this all began two to three seasons ago, there was a direct feeling that this group would be special for a long time…and that is exactly what happened. Records eventually fall and change, but in the coming years, they will be remembered as the best team ever at the state track meet when their record time is read.

I’m not sure how long they will hold the title of being the best, but watching them achieve it has been one of the biggest joys of my coaching career.