GEORGETOWN, Ga. --
It has been a longtime coming, but the Quitman County High School Lady Hornets' state track championship trophies are finally back home.
Jerry Tew -- the coach of Quitman County's 1973 and 1974 Class B state championship teams -- met with six of his former runners Saturday afternoon to present them with the state championship trophies, so that they can be displayed in the high school, which re-opened in 2009.
"I wound up with the trophies when Quitman County High consolidated (with Stewart County High to become Stewart-Quitman)," said Tew, who now lives in Claremore, Okla., and still teaches physical education part-time at an elementary school. "The school superintendent at that time called me up and asked if I'd like to have them. I wasn't sure I deserved them, but I didn't want them to just go to pot. I wanted to take care of them, so I came and got them."
Since then, Tew has had the trophies, but he said he always knew he wanted to bring them back to their rightful home.
"Honestly, they were sitting in a barn at my house," said Tew, who also presented the runners with photos of the state championship teams. "However, when I was applying for a position a few years ago, I found out that they re-opened the school and I knew then that I wanted to get those trophies back here. Those ladies' kids and grandkids go to school here and they need to be able to see these trophies. It's something that needs to be commemorated and I'm just glad I could bring it back home."
A pair of facts make the Lady Hornets' state titles even more impressive. First is that Quitman County didn't have a track team prior to the spring of 1973, so the Lady Hornets won their first state title in their first year as a team.
The other fact is that Quitman County is one of the smallest public high schools in the state, totaling just 240 students when it won the 1973 title, so Tew had fewer students to choose his runners from. In fact, the first state title team had just eight on its roster.
Annie Ceasar Williams
was on both state championship teams and won a pair of individual titles in the 75- and 100-yard dashes in 1973. She said that Tew helped make her and her teammates the champions that they were.
"I'm so proud of this amazing team," said Williams. "(Tew) was a good coach who worked us to our core. He made us be our best and I think it's wonderful he kept the trophies. He was proud of us and proud of them. It's just a great feeling to know they're going to be back in school here."
Julia Jones, a member of the 1974 team whose son -- Jon-Erik Jones -- is principal of Quitman County High, said it was exciting not just to see the state championship trophies again, but to meet up with her former teammates.
"This is just great," said Jones. "Most of us still live here in Quitman County, but we don't see each other a lot. I can't really express the emotions I'm feeling right now.
"I still remember the day (Tew) asked me if I wanted to run track and here it is 40 years later and the trophies are right here in front of me. Knowing that they'll be in school is just an awesome feeling that brightens my day."
Quitman County High School burned in the 1970s and Jones worried that all of the mementoes of the state championship teams might have gone up in flames, but she was glad to find out otherwise.
"I was overjoyed when I found out (Tew) still had the trophies," said Jones. "I thought we lost everything when the school burned down. I've told my grandkids I was a track star and they didn't believe me. Now they'll have a chance to see I was telling the truth."
Minnie Jones Martin, who was on both championship teams, hopes the trophies can help inspire future students to possibly rebuild the Lady Hornets' track program to what it once was.
"It's a good feeling to have them back here," said Martin.
"It makes me feel like I've got it, even if I don't. (The state titles) are a big legacy. It's something the kids here need to see and maybe it'll make them think about running track and rebuilding track here to what it used to be."