For The Independent
Raceland boys track coach Randy Helton clutched his chest near the end of Saturday's Class A Region 7 meet.
Helton did not have a myocardial infarction — because his Rams took the team title over Bath County, 130-114.5, at Rowan County High School.
“This thing's too tight for my comfort,” Helton said as he watched Ram junior Andrew Salyers round the final turn in the 1,600-meter relay.
Raceland not only avenged last year's second-place finish to Bath County: the Rams won their first team crown since 2009. Helton — or somebody — should maybe max out six or seven credit cards to buy at least several Rams dinner because of what they did.
Start with sophomore Connor Messer. He won the pole vault (12 feet), the 110-meter hurdles (15.99 seconds) and the 300 hurdles (48.24).
“Pole vault's my favorite event, but I didn't have a good day,” Messer said. “Thirteen-6 is my (personal record), but I had 12.”
Continue with senior shot putters Cole Thomas and Alec Risner because they finished 1-3 with throws of 45-5 and 37-2.5, respectively. Like Messer, Thomas was hardly happy.
“My farthest throw this season was 48-6, and I was looking to beat it here,” Thomas said.
Next was junior Austin Manis for his 99-9 throw to win the discus. Risner was second with 99-0.
“My discus has went up 30 feet in the last year,” Manis said.
Bath County — or more accurately senior Evan Staviski and junior Seth Christopher — was strongest in distance races; Staviski took the 1,600 in 4 minutes, 43.71 seconds and the 3,200 in 10:24.91, while Christopher was tops in the 800 with a 2:10.69.
Staviski, Christopher and sophomores Dale Curtis and Travis Woodard won the 3,200 relay in 9:13.44.
Fairview took third with 79 points largely because of two Eagles. Senior Devon Turner won the 100 and 200 dashes (11.82 and 23.80, respectively), and senior Mason Rutherford captured the long jump (20-4), triple jump (40-11) and high jump (6-0).
“I'm so blessed,” Turner said after the 100. “I got prayed up for this race.”
Rutherford had a shot in the 100, but he was disqualified. “(High jump's) probably my best event,” he said. “The 100's been one of my premiere events; I guess I false-started.”
A mini-Bear den
It wasn't known if University of Pikeville track coach John Biery was the only college coach at the meet, but he was likely the most visible. An example: Thomas and Raceland senior John Valencourt hung out near the shot put ring. Biery said he kind of “stole” Thomas.
“Nobody else recruited him,” Biery said. “He's going to get better. I expect great things from him.”
Fairview senior Brooklyn Bowen will join Thomas and Valencourt at UPike. Bowen said choosing the Bears was easy.
“It's just like Westwood,” Bowen said. “Everyone's close. It's like family there.”
For the seventh straight time, Fairview captured the girls team title, but it was a little closer this year. The Lady Eagles defeated Raceland, 172-134.
“Normally, points haven't been an issue,” Fairview coach Becca Chaney said. “Raceland has been so good.”
At times, it seemed like some combination of Lady Eagles won every event.
That didn't happen, but Fairview grabbed gobs of gold: senior Paige McKnight in the 100 hurdles (in 16.71 seconds), 100 dash (13.13) and 300 hurdles (48.24); wins in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 relays; Haley Layne in the 1,600 run (5:51.32); Morgan McIntyre in the pole vault (10-7) and 400 dash (1:02.81); Bowen in the 3,200 (12:56.73); Layne's and Lyndsey Burke's 1-2 in the 1,600 (5:51.32 and 6:04.17); and Katie Richard's win in long jump (14-8) and triple jump (29-10.5).
It was too bad McIntyre's vault didn't count as a state record because it wasn't accomplished at the state meet. A question: is she a pole vaulter who runs or a runner who dabbles in bending a piece of fiberglass and contorting her body over a horizontal standard? The answer: a vaulter, thanks to Chaney's persistence.
“(I) thought trying it can't hurt,” McIntyre said. “I ended up loving it.”
Raceland won three individual events: sophomore Jonda Williams in the 800 (2:34.41); junior Makenzi Speaks in high jump (4-8); and sophomore Abby Jones in the 200 dash (28.21). Williams seemed pleased with second place.
“We worked hard for it,” Williams said. “We practiced almost daily. We have a really young team — we had one senior and one junior.”