MOULTRIE — Colquitt County’s Jamal Hayes decided at the 11th hour to enter the Volunteer Indoor Track Classic at the University of Tennessee and left around midnight Saturday morning for the meet that day.

He slept as his father drove during the seven-hour tip to Knoxville and he apparently arrived well-rested.

Hayes proceeded to run a 49.99 to win the 400 meters, beating Atlanta’s Evander Wells, who had a 51.02. The 400 drew 83 runners.

The Colquitt County High senior is one of just three high school runners ever to break the 50-second mark in the 400 at the Stokely Athletic Center.

The feat is even more remarkable because the Stokely track is 160 meters, with tight turns and no banking.

Most indoor tracks are 200 meters.

The Colquitt County High senior also finished fourth in the 55 meters, a race he generally does not enter.

Hayes is being heavily recruited in track this year, with LSU, Alabama and Houston in the lead, but LSU apparently having the inside track.

It is no wonder some of the top athletic programs in the country are trying to land the Packer.

In January, Hayes ran a 48.92 at the LSU Classic in Baton Rouge. It is the best time for a high school runner on a flat track this year.

LaJerald Betters of Waco, Texas, has the best time in the 400 this year, a 47.82, but it was run on a banked track in the Arkansas High School Invitational in January.

Hayes also was a member of the 4x400 team that won Junior Olympics national championship in Indianapolis, Ind., last year.

Colquitt County High track coach Dextra Polite is not surprised by the success Hayes is having.

“He trains to win,” said Polite, who led the Packers to what may be the school’s first region track championship last spring. “He’s seen millions of other runners and how they compete. He’s been all over and knows how they operate.

“And he wants to know precisely what he’s doing. That’s all that he thinks about.”

There is no one in Region 1-AAAAA who will be near him in the 400 this spring, but the Packers are likely to be without him for at least two meets.

On March 9, while the Packers are competing at Pelham, and March 11, while his high school teammates are in the Tommy Taylor Relays, Hayes will be New York City for the National Scholastic Championships.

He will run on a banked track in that event.

Hayes will be passing up the Nike Indoor National Championships in Landover, Md., another prestigious event that also draws some of the nation’s top young athletes.

The Nike Championships are being held that same weekend.

And on April 1, when the Packers are in Tallahassee for the Chiles Invitational, Hayes will be running outdoors in the Mobile (Ala.) Challenge of Champions.

Hayes also will run indoors one other time when he takes part in the AAU Indoor Nationals in Knoxville on Feb. 24.

“My goal is a 47 indoors,” Hayes said Monday.

Hayes is coached by William Jones of Carrollton and Ray McKinney of Covington and is affiliated with the Titans Track Club.

He has not been able to train as much as he would have liked recently because of what he calls “this crazy weather.”

Hayes said he tries to get some work in at the Moultrie YMCA in the weight room and the pool. He also is working on getting quicker starts.

He will need them as he faces a summer of more top competitive races around the country.

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