By Michael Minnich
Tribune Sports Editor
CHARLESTON—Scott Furey and the Keyser Golden Tornado have already put one state championship banner on the walls of the KHS gym, in 2009.
They have an excellent shot of doing it again this weekend, entering the Class AA state track meet in Charleston Friday and Saturday as one of the favorites.
RunWV.com, in fact, predicts KHS taking a tight meet with 56 points. Right behind them are Bridgeport, who pipped KHS by six points for the Region II championship last Friday, and Nicholas County, both projected to score 52 points.
Furey, who will be honored as the state track coach of the year during ceremonies between the two sessions on Saturday, lays out the formula for victory.
“We need to win the events that we should win. We need to place well. And we always need help. We’re light in the distances. We’re hoping Leland Henderson can go and do what we need him to do, but on top of that, we need Steven Shetler from Berkeley Springs to do what he can do in his events to knock Bridgeport down some spots, because we don’t have kids in the 400, the 800, the 1600, the 4x800. We need Berkeley Springs to help us out. And we know they have the athletes to do that. In 2009, Brandon Franklin from Liberty Harrison scored 40 points at the state meet. I talked to him at the regional meet; he was my MVP that year, because he took 40 points away that other people weren’t going to get.”
“So win what we should win, move up some spots that we know that we can, because I think the shot and discus, the long jump, the high jump, the pole vault, all those guys can move up and place. Even a sixth place is huge. You might not be happy with one point, but I’m ecstatic, because that’s a two-point switch. That’s one point that someone else can’t get.”
“We’ll see how she goes. I hope that as many people from around town can get down on Friday and especially Saturday. We understand that’s it a heck of a long trip, but we’re hoping to have as many people there cheering us on as possible.”
Making the task a bit more difficult was that sub-par (by their standards) regional meet.
“We picked a bad day to have a bad day,” said Furey. “We knew that it was a possibility. We knew that Bridgeport was super-strong in the distance and they’ve just got athletes everywhere.”
“But we qualified enough kids to go down there and still make a run for it. We know Bridgeport’s going to be be there. Nicholas County’s really good this year. And I never count out Berkeley Springs with the kind of distance program that they have. Their long jumper did a good job.”
Furey said it could be a jolt for his talented team.
“I hope. We’ve been talking about it for three weeks. They’re going to have to run better. They’re going to have to perform better,” said Furey. “I hope that it’s a wakeup call, and, if not, we’ll just be disappointed this weekend.”
“I think they got a little complacent towards the end of the year, especially after going out and winning the Bridgeport meet, winning the Doddridge meet. It was hard for them to muster up what they needed out there. But they didn’t understand that there was more help at the Bridgeport meet [from other schools] than there was at the regional meet,” said Furey. “It’s hard to get people to understand. ‘Well, you beat them before.’ You’re right, we did. And if everyone that was at the Bridgeport meet, we might have again. But there wasn’t.”
“Region I, right now, with Ritchie and Roane and those guys out there is tough, but our region was the top region, hands down. Everyone knows that. So to come out of there just six points behind the folks that won it, we’re feeling pretty good about that,” said Furey.
Keyser boasts a talented group of relays.
“If you have the type of kids that can go down there and place high in the top six with 40 schools there, then you’re going to be okay. We’ve lived and died by our relays for the last month or so. I just think that our relays are performing about as good as they have been all year. In 2009, when we won it, we won four relays in Charleston. And actually in 2010, when we were runner-up, we won more events than in 2009.”
And Deavonta Johnson is one of the favorites in the 110 and 300 meter hurdles in addition to being a part of the shuttle hurdles and 4x400 meter relays.
“I’ve told him, and I guess it’s good to be humble, to an extent…Maleik’s the same way…humble is okay, but not confident in yourself is another thing. We’ve had a rash of kids in the past that have been the same way. Super-talented….I don’t want them to be cocky at all, but be confident you’re going to go win. I think Deavonta knows what kind of talent he has. It’s just a matter of him going out and doing it. He was really close to getting beat, twice, at the regional meet. And he knows that. So him getting first and second [at state] instead of third and fourth will make all the difference. The field events are going to be huge for us, but if we slip in some of those areas that we’re accustomed to getting 10 points in, that could be an issue,” said Furey.
Having a few relays on the shorter Friday portion of the meet could serve as a catalyst for KHS.
“I hope so,” said Furey. “And also the shot put and discus are on day one, so right now, none of our guys are picked to place in either of those events. So if they do what I think they can do, and if the shuttles can set the tone, correct, we’re happy moving into Moving Day. That’s Saturday. If we’re looking good going into Moving Day…looking at the weather forecast, we need to make hay while the sun shines, no pun intended.”
“The way things are set up on Friday, we have a good chance to hopefully qualify kids in to the finals of the 110 hurdles, the 100, the 200. Christian Ravenscroft making the finals of the 200 would be a big thing for us. We want to eat as many lanes as possible.”
One or two points either way, clearly, will make a big difference.
“It’ll come down to who can pick up the most junk points, to be honest with you,” said Furey. “It’s a very fickle sport. You’ve got to have a lot of things go right. And I think that our field events didn’t have a good day collectively at regionals. And if they have the kind of day that they can have in Charleston, I think we’ll be happy coming out of there.”
“I think we’ve got the caliber of kids that, when it’s on the line, they’ll step up and do what they need to do,” said Furey. “I like our chances if we do our best.”
Keyser trained at Laidley Field, the state venue, last night, in advance of today’s first day: “get them used to it, do the whole ‘Hoosiers’ thing, that it’s a big stadium but the same track,” said Furey.
The Keyser girls enter off of the best finish in school history (third) and return half of last year’s 4x400 meter relay state champs (Grace Burgess and Penny Summers) and Kayla Willison, who won the shot put as a freshman.
To match that (RunWV has the Lady Tornado seventh) will be a tall order, but coach Dan Dawson says it’s possible.
“That depends. and what it will depend on where those relay groups finish up. We only have three or four people in individual events. If Kayla Willison performs well in the shot put again, if Grace Burgess performs well in her events…McKenna White has had a outstanding senior year, and she has a chance to place high in both of the sprinting events. So if we can do that, we’ll be okay. Right now, it looks like Bridgeport is going to run away with the state meet, but we’ll see,” said Dawson. “If we could finish in the top three again, it would be a great finish. But five, six, whatever it is, as long as we go down and perform where we expect us to perform, we’ll be fine.”
Dawson was happy with his team’s performance at regionals, where they finished third as a team.
“Pretty much, yeah. We qualified in all of the events that I thought we would qualify in. Maybe two or three more events that we should have been in, but that’s the way region is. When you look at our region, where there’s seven girls going in the 100, seven in the 800, seven in the 1600, seven in the 3200, you’ve got to be on top,” said Dawson. “I thought the relay teams did an excellent job. Most of them really improved in time and performance. I’m pleased with that.”
Keyser is sending a team in every relay, so which have the best chance to place?
“Wow. Honestly, I think all of them. The potential for the time improvement is there. On the 4x800, if every girl would run their best time that they have already run, we’re in the hunt for first or second. On the 4x400, same thing would occur. Big improvement in the 4x100, big improvement in the shuttle hurdles. Right now, they’re No. 3 going into the state meet, so I think we have a good chance of placing high in all five of the relays,” said Dawson.
Relays are the
The Frankfort girls will bring only six competitors to the big event but have plenty of potential to score; RunWV has them picking up 21 points to finish 12th.
“We’re very young this year,” said Frankfort coach Bill Cessna.
But he does have two holdovers from the 2013 team that won the state title: thrower Kasinda King and distance runner Julianna Butcher.
“They both have a very, very good chance of doing well on Friday and Saturday,” said Cessna. “They both work very hard. Julianna, of course, is a tremendous cross country runner and is going to Fairmont State. Kasinda just signed with West Virginia Wesleyan for shot put and discus. She has a lot of ability. I remember when she was a freshman, the first time I had her throw the shot put, she actually did a back flip and a cartwheel out of the circle. I thought, wow, this girl is very talented and very athletic.”
“I think our best shot in the 4x400 and the 4x800 relays for the guys and the girls. And usually that’s not our strength,” said Cessna. “Coach Phillips and Coach Snoberger do a great job with those particular kids in cross country and they go right into track.”
The Frankfort boys don’t have anyone predicted to finish in the points this weekend, but have the potential to change that.
“Nathan Strietbeck had a great regional. He’s in three different relays at the state meet and the open 400, so he’s in four events, which is really good,” said Frankfort boys’ coach Tim Haines.
As for the regional?
“It was about normal. There’s always a couple of surprises both ways. And then we had to wait to see if a couple of wild cards got in, as usual, but we have about the same number-wise,” said Haines. “Mostly relays, and then there’s Nathan Strietbeck in the 400 and Brian King in the 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles.”
Who could place?
“Hopefully Nate will, and a couple of relays, hopefully, will place if they run like they are capable of running,” said Haines.
Action gets underway today at 2 p.m. (see below for full schedule) and will continue through 8:30 p.m. Friday, then get rolling again at 9 a.m. Saturday.
The list of events, with local competitors indicated:
2:00 Pole vault (G)
2:15 4x800 (G) (Keyser, Frankfort)
3:00 4x800 (B) (Frankfort)
3:35 100 hurdles trials (G): Khara Teets
3:55 110 hurdles trials (B): Beau Horner, Deavonta Johnson, Brian King
4:00 Shot put (B): Jared Smoot, Cole Weaver
4:15 100 meters trials (G): Kayla Grose, McKenna White
4:30 100 meters trials (B): Maleik Garland
5:00 Shuttle hurdles (G): Keyser
5:45 Shuttle hurdles (B): Keyser
6:00 Discus (B): Cole Weaver, Erik Willis
6:00 Shot put (G): Lexi Johnson, Kasinda King, Kayla Willison
6:25 200 meters trials (G): McKenna White
6:45 200 meters trials (B): Maleik Garland, Christian Ravenscroft
7:15 3200 meters (G): Abby Beeman, Julianna Butcher
8:00 3200 meters (B): Leland Henderson
9:00 Discus (G): Kasinda King, Makenna Layman
9:00 Long jump (B): Brandon Tranum, Amonte Turner
10:05 400 meters (G): Grace Burgess
10:20 400 meters (B): Nathan Strietbeck
10:40 1600 meters (G): Abby Beeman, Julianna Butcher, Kyleena Purvis
11:00 High jump (B): Devon Alt, Brady Ours
11:00 Long jump (G)
11:10 1600 meters (B)
11:40 300 hurdles (G): Kayla Grose
11:55 300 hurdles (B): Beau Horner, Deavonta Johnson, Brian King
12:05 SESSION BREAK: Keyser's Scott Furey gets coach of year award
1:00 High jump (G)
1:00 Pole vault (B): Beau Horner, Ethen Whitlock
1:03 100 hurdles final (G): TBD from Friday’s trials
1:18 110 hurdles final (B): TBD from Friday’s trials
1:27 100 meters final (G): TBD from Friday’s trials
1:33 100 meters final (B): TBD from Friday’s trials
1:50 4x200 (G): Keyser
2:20 4x200 (B): Keyser, Frankfort
3:00 4x100 (G): Keyser
3:15 4x100 (B): Keyser, Frankfort
3:30 800 meters (G)
3:45 800 meters (B)
3:57 200 meters final (G): TBD from Friday’s trials
4:03 200 meters final (B): TBD from Friday’s trials
4:22 4x400 (G): Keyser
4:58 4x400 (B): Keyser, Frankfort