MOULTRIE -- Colquitt County's Jamal Hayes went into this past summer's track season with the reputation as a pretty solid runner in the 400 meters and 200 meters.
But a few minor adjustments turned him into one of the nation's top returning seniors and allowed him to bring back a more than 30 medals from a string of meets from Georgia to South Carolina to North Carolina to Indiana and to Louisiana this summer.
And in the USA Track Federation National Junior Olympic Championships held last month in Indianapolis, he teamed with Courtney Lester of Douglass High, David Chaplain of Redan and Kenneth Mitchell of Westlake to win the national championship in the 4x400 meter event.
Not only has Hayes developed into the dominant Region 1-AAAAA athlete in the 400 and 200, he is proving he can more than hold his own at the national level.
This summer he has gone head-to-head with college-level runners and has more than held his own.
Chaplain is heading to Iowa. Mitchell will compete at Georgetown.
And even when he finished third in Indianapolis, those head of him were Louisville-bound Jacob Scheuerman, who is heading to Louisville, and Bryan Webb, who has signed with Tennessee.
Scheuerman won the 400 at Nationals with a 46.77. Hayes' best time this summer was a 47.26.
"I just learned how to run the 400," Hayes said recently on what prompted the rapid improvement in his times. "I was running flat-footed. I didn't have any form."
But staying much of the summer with Chaplain and working out with him helped. As did some time spent with Carrollton track coach William Jones.
It was a full, busy summer for Hayes, who already had won medals in several local meets and the Region 1-AAAAA and state track meet.
In May, he took part in the DeKalb International Prep Classic and collected four gold medals, winning the 400, the long jump, the 4x100 and the 4x400. Ricardo Lockett and two runners from Lee County joined him in the two relay events.
In the USA Track qualifier in Macon, Hayes qualified in the 100, 200 and 400. Then it was off to AAU state meet at Collins Hill High, where he won the 200, 400 and the 4x100 and 4x400 with Chaplain, Montez Valentine and John Bradshaw, all of Redan High.
In the USA state meet in Roswell, he won gold medals in the 400, 4x100 and 4x400 and finished fourth in the 200. Lester, Chaplin and Mitchell completed the relay teams.
In the AAU Regionals in Charleston, S.C., he again won gold medals in the 400, 4x100 and 4x400, with three Redan teammates, and was third in the 200
USA Regionals were held in Greensboro, N.C., and he won first again in the 400 and 4x400 and was second in the 200 and 4x100. Lester, Chaplin and Mitchell completed the relay teams.
After USA Nationals in Indianapolis, Hayes finished the summer season in the AAU Nationals in New Orleans, actually competing on the first day of school back in Colquitt County. He was third in the 400, fifth in the 4x100 and seventh in 4x400.
After taking a couple weeks off to give his weary legs a well-deserved break, Hayes will take part in some indoor track meets.
After running virtually every weekend this summer, and traveling over the eastern half of the country to compete, he could use a rest.
He will try to get stronger and continue to work on the form that keeps him from wasting as little energy as possible. Then he will begin his quest for a 46-second 400.
"I'm right a the door of a 46," he said. The Georgia high school record is 46.44.
Meanwhile, recruiting letters are arriving from schools such as South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida State, Grambling State, LSU, Florida and Tulane
Hayes, who has a B average at Colquitt County, is making plans to take the ACT and SAT to position himself to accept a track scholarship.
"It's tough, but I'll get it," said Hayes, who wears T-shirts from the meets he has competed in, including one that is printed on back: "Warning! According to the Surgeon General it is OK to smoke an opponent."