MOULTRIE – Janaz Graves knows how to run a touchdown-scoring route.

He can even go deep down the field and make the catch that will turn a game around for his team.

This spring, the Colquitt County High senior put that running ability to work in a different way. It might be safe to pronounce that he turned in one of the most successful 400-meter seasons for Packer track and field, and it’s a season far from done.

Graves was winning and winning when it came to the 400 meters, but things didn’t start counting until April 24 at Lowndes High. Graves became the Region 1-7A champion with a time of 49.73 seconds. That’s not the only reason, however, that Graves is representing Colquitt County in one of the two Class 7A sectionals taking place Saturday.

Graves joined Jeffery Lowery, Nakerran Porter and Camari Louis to win the 1-7A 4x100-meter relay in 43.07 seconds. The Packers’ 4x400-meter relay, second in region, consists of Graves, Louis, Porter and Timothy Parker.

They are joining several others like long jump champion Robert Wood and two-time qualifiers Jay Ward and Orion Bonner for the state sectionals taking place at McEachern High School.

“I had never run in the region before,” said Graves. “I wanted to keep doing it. I’m ready to see what goes on at sectionals. I’m ready to race.

“The way (the relay team) won that is it’s a competition between our ‘A’ team and the ‘B’ team. We are really the same speed, but it’s a competition we didn’t want to lose. We were losing at first, but it’s the fact we don’t want to lose. The will to win. We have good chemistry. They work on stick hand-offs all the time while I’ll be conditioning for my 400.”

In football, Graves caught four touchdown passes in 2018, but perhaps his most impactful catch came against Grayson High on the road. In the third quarter, he hauled in Jaycee Harden’s deep ball for 50 yards on Grayson’s 5-yard-line. The Packers went on to score, take the lead and eventually win 26-14.

“Running the 400, I think that’s the hardest race on the track,” said Graves. “You have to run full speed consistently. If you slow down, you get in the back. If you run too hard, you’re going to die right before the finish line.

“I think scoring touchdowns is way easier than running the 400.”

So Graves and his teammates are preparing hard for the most serious competition they will face at McEachern. The format for all running events is as such: there will be two heat races; no finals. The top two runners in each heat plus the next four fastest times from both heats combined advance to the state finals May 9-11.

“I think I probably have to run a 47,” said Graves.

There is a list of all qualifiers to Colquitt’s sectional, and Graves is in a stacked group of runners – eight others in fact – who did the 400 under 50 seconds at their respective regions. The ones to watch include Nicholas Ramey of Brookwood, who almost beat 47 (47.22). Jarel Terry of Marietta (48.31) and Garrett Shedrick of Hillgrove (48.5).

Some of the best 400-meter relay times were turned in by Brookwood (42.99), Discovery (42.39), Hillgrove (41.6), Marietta (41.59), McEachern (41.55), Mill Creek (42.18) and North Cobb (42.33).

Colquitt County girls track athletes will also run their sectionals Saturday at McEachern. Angela Deberry goes in as 1-7A high jump champion (5-2). There are a handful of 5-foot qualifiers in her sectional, two from North Gwinnett, but no others 5-2. Adrienne McCray won region in the 800 meters (2:34.05); Parkview has two 800-meter runners who ran below 2:30, one going below 2:20.

Graves, after high school graduation, plans to attend Georgia Military College and play on the football team for two years with aims of transferring to a four-year college.

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