CHARLESTON – On a day full of West Virginia’s best track and field stars, the Eastern Panhandle’s top girls’ sprinters shined brightly on the Laidley Field track.
Martinsburg’s Kelsea Anderson earned top-three finishes in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes, Spring Mills’ Sydney Banire finished fourth in the 100 and a young Jefferson relay team won a state title in the 4x100 in Saturday’s concluding second day of the West Virginia State Track and Field Championships.
“From the beginning of the day, every single time I saw an Eastern Panhandle girl competing, the thing wasn’t ‘I’m competing against you,’ it’s ‘Let’s bring home medals for the Eastern Panhandle,’” Anderson said. “I’m really proud of what everyone’s done. I know for a fact they’ve been working just as hard as I have, and it’s relieving seeing so many faces from the Eastern Panhandle competing well. The Eastern Panhandle doesn’t get that much respect, so coming out here and stepping on their throats is a good feeling.”
The state meet was not just an opportunity for the best of the best to collect medals. It was also an opportunity for athletes from across the state to perform on the biggest stage and in front of the biggest crowd that they’ve ever encountered.
“It’s really exhilarating,” Jefferson sophomore Hailey Dillow said. “You get really excited. You want to impress everyone. Coming together, you meet a lot of new people around the state, so you make new friends.”
Dillow, along with sophomore Jordan Carr, freshman Trinity Blue and senior Jillian Andrews, showed a glimpse of the future on Saturday. Those four combined to win the 4x100 relay, with a time of 48.86 seconds. A Martinsburg team featuring Anderson, Leonna Holmes, Jaleah Carr and Alisha Joseph finished third.
An even younger Jefferson crew, with sophomore Clara Barnette in place of the senior Andrews, checked in with a third place finish in the 4x200. A Spring Mills team led by Banire, Mary Givens, Britaney Jenkins and Elaysia Becton finished fourth in the 4x400.
In the longer races, Musselman’s Madison Gray came into the day tipped to compete for points in both the 400 and the 800, and the sophomore capped an excellent first season of track by coming through on both counts.
Gray scored four points in the 400 with a fourth-place finish, running a season-best time of 58.77. Later on, Gray scored another fourth place finish in the 800, doing so in oppressive afternoon heat.
Runners struggled all afternoon to struggle with the conditions at the meet, dealing with heavy sun and heat in the high-80s. However, Gray felt prepared to deal with the elements heading into her first state meet.
“I think it’s hard to block out, but starting from the beginning, we knew the heat was going to come,” Gray said. “Training in the cold in the beginning of the season and then coming into 80, 90 degree weather. You just have to be smart with your body.”
Washington’s Emily Pizutti, the only area girls qualifier in the 110-meter high hurdles, surprised with a third-place finish and a time of 15.83. The time improved on her Friday preliminary finish by over a half-second – Pizutti came into the final as the sixth seed.
In throwing events, Spring Mills’ Jada Brooks registered a third-place finish in the discus with a throw of 113 feet-11 inches, to go with her third-place finish in the shot put on Friday.
Ripley won the Class AAA girls’ state team title with 82 points, beating out Wheeling Park by two points. Spring Mills finished seventh with 25 points, Martinsburg eighth with 22 points, Jefferson and Musselman tied for ninth with 22 points, Hedgesville 19th with 7 points and Washington 20th with 6 points.