CHARLESTON—The Keyser Golden Tornado won their second boys’ track state championship on Friday and Saturday at Laidley Field in Charleston. Here’s the full story, event by event, of how they did.
FRIDAY, 3 P.M.
You can’t help it as a Keyser fan. You’ve been through four years of chasing Bridgeport—and mostly failing.
That history included a loss to the Indians by six points in last week’s Region II meet.
And when Deavonta Johnson and Beau Horner stepped onto the track for the 110 meter hurdles preliminaries, it was the Indians that were already on top of the scoreboard, thanks to a first-place finish in the meet opener, the 4x800 meter relay, an event that Keyser didn’t qualify in.
Johnson entered the weekend as the favorite in both hurdles events, so there probably already was a little bit of pressure on the shoulders on the junior to qualify for the finals.
No problem: he glided the finish line in 15.43 seconds, the best time in the preliminaries.
Horner was unhappy with his run, hitting a few hurdles, but still didn’t miss out on a spot in Saturday’s final by much; his time of 16.86 seconds was just .27 out of one of the eight slots.
Not a perfect start for KHS, but good enough.
FRIDAY, 4 P.M.
By contrast, the state prognosticators had no love for Keyser’s shot put duo of Cole Weaver and Jared Smoot.
RunWV.com, the fantastic resource for state cross country and track, didn’t have Keyser scoring any points in the event.
Smoot was in the first flight.
After fouling on his first throw, his second was 41 feet, 3.25 inches. His third? Better, 42 feet, 0.75 inches.
Smoot had to watch and wait to see if that was good enough for one of the eight berths in the finals, as the next nine throwers, the top ones in the state based on their tosses at regionals, took their turns.
The news was good: that precious quarter of an inch moved Smoot on, and kept Roane County’s Cameron Currence out.
Weaver’s three heaves were more than enough to get him there, too: 43-2.75, 42-11.25, and 44 feet even.
Of the final eight, KHS had two, and Bridgeport three.
Smoot missed out on placing by one spot, tossing 42 feet and 7 inches in the last effort of his high school career to take seventh.
But Weaver’s second throw of the finals landed 45 feet and 9.25 inches from its starting point, good for fourth.
Four points that Keyser wasn’t expected to get, in the bank.
And, Weaver finished right in front of Bridgeport’s Christopher Trent and Lane Noel: just three points for the Indians’ duo that would have been five if not for Weaver. A six-point swing for KHS.
Poca’s Chase Dotson fired 55 feet, even, to win the event.
After two finals, Bridgeport 13 points, Poca 10, Keyser in seventh place with their first four of the weekend.
FRIDAY, 4:10 P.M.
Meanwhile, on the track, it was time for Maleik Garland to do his thing in the 100 meter dash preliminaries. His time of 11.67 seconds was the fifth-best in the field and qualified for Saturday’s final.
FRIDAY, 5:35 P.M.
That’s how Keyser looked at the shuttle hurdles, their first relay of the meet.
And why not? They were the favorite. They’d qualified with the best regional time in the state. They had Johnson, the fastest hurdler in Class AA, running the anchor.
Crazy things can happen at state meets, though, right?
Not this time.
Off shot Brandon Tranum, ironically out of blocks held by a Bridgeport athlete, showing why Bethany College has already signed him for their track team.
Back came Ethen Whitlock, who valiantly fought through injury at the state wrestling tournament to fall just short of placing in his senior year. To his right Fairmont Senior is right there with KHS.
Down the straightaway went Beau Horner, a pure athlete who lettered in five sports in his KHS career, building, building, building a lead with each leap.
And then there’s Johnson, coming home, pulling away, running towards Whitlock and the finish line.
And crossing it.
He knows right away.
He pumps his arms.
He screams for joy as Whitlock embraces him.
Now they’re both screaming.
A state championship.
Bridgeport comes in fifth, but their lead is down to one point.
Indians 15, Golden Tornado 14, Dots 10.
Time to go dab on the podium.
FRIDAY, 6 P.M.
The Weavinator is back.
Cole Weaver is joined at the discus by Erik Willis, his fellow Ed Kelley Award nominee.
Playing the same role as Smoot in the shot put, Willis comes in second in his six-man flight with a top throw of 120 feet, 11 inches on his first attempt and plays the waiting game.
Weaver, who had his best throw at regionals graze off of one of the ropes supporting the screen, is unencumbered this time.
One: 132-6. Plenty to get into the finals.
Two: 126-9. Okay, no problem, time to adjust.
And then, three: 144 feet, 3 inches.
A big throw from a big man, headed to Shepherd in the fall to play on the line of the defending Division II football runners-up.
As the other discus results pour in, it’s clear that both seniors have done their jobs.
Willis doesn’t end up scoring any team points, but he does something just as significant: he keeps Bridgeport’s Jacob Griffth out of the finals, one last denial by the linebacker against a foe he faced five times in his high school football career.
And Weaver? Second place. For a kid that wasn’t projected to score any points.
Instead, it’s eight more points for Keyser, and, with Trent finishing third, almost 11 feet behind Weaver’s huge heave, another peg down for the Indians.
Keyser’s in first for the first time with 22 points. Bridgeport, one back with 21. Poca, thanks to Dotson’s second throwing event win, nipping at their heels with 20.
FRIDAY, 6:20 P.M.
Maleik Garland’s strong day continues, as the junior qualifies for the 200 meter dash final in a time of 23.45 seconds, four tenths faster than his regional mark.
FRIDAY, 8:00 P.M.
It’s raining. Hard.
How would you like to run the biggest two miles of your year in that?
Bridgeport didn’t seem to mind.
Jimmy Lacaria and Mark Duez held serve, finishing in second and fifth, respectively.
Keyser’s Leland Henderson struggled, taking tenth in his final high school race. He’ll head straight to Morgantown and WVU on a Mountaineer Scholarship in the fall. Unlike the weather on this night, his future is bright.
Bridgeport heads to bed on top of the leaderboard: 31 points, nine ahead of Keyser’s 22 and 11 in front of the Dotson-delivered Dots’ 20. Behind race winner Jackson Reed, Nicholas County’s in the picture too now with 18 points.
SATURDAY, 9 A.M.
Amonte Turner is a winner.
The third Kelley nominee, along with Willis and Weaver, is a quiet kid but a beloved teammate.
All-state in football and a champion in the long jump as a sophomore, this is his last chance to bring a team title back to his home town.
Who else would you want leading off the last day of the state meet?
Tranum just misses out on qualifying for the final: a foul on the first jump reduced his margin for error.
But Turner is on his game, springing 21 feet on his first jump—way better than his winning leap of 20 feet, 3.5 inches in 2014—to take second place, four spots higher than he was predicted to finish.
And again, the high place directly impacts a direct competitor, as Poca’s Shawn Arthur is third.
Bridgeport doesn’t place, so their lead is shrinking: Indians 31, Golden Tornado 30, Dots 26.
SATURDAY, 10:20 A.M.
The 400 meter dash is another event that KHS can only watch from the sidelines, but Bridgeport and Poca are in the same boat. Nicholas County takes advantage, getting a third-place finish from Oliver Amick to gain some more ground.
Bridgeport 31, Keyser 30, Poca 26, Nicholas County 24.
SATURDAY, 11:10 A.M.
The 1600 meter run is another zero for Keyser. They can only watch Nicholas County’s Reed (second place) and Bridgeport’s Ian Frailey (third) pick up some more points.
Indians 37, Nicholas County’s Grizzlies now in second with 32, Golden Tornado 30, Dots 26.
SATURDAY, 11:30 A.M.
Brady Ours almost wasn’t here.
It took a jump-off, against teammate Wade Greason, to get the sophomore to the state track meet.
So expectations aren’t really a thing here, either, for the first-year track athlete, right?
But this is Brady Ours.
The sophomore hadn’t played quarterback, really, before this fall. He made the all-state team.
The bar is at 5 feet, 8 inches, the height that Ours cleared in his jump-off at regionals.
He clears it easily.
He’s feeling good.
“I can clear 6 feet, maybe even 6-2,” he says while the bar is, physically and metaphorically, being raised.
Keep in mind that his best jump entering the meet is 5 feet, 10 inches.
He clears 5-10 again, on the first try. Five guys left. He’s guaranteed to place.
The smile is getting bigger.
He jogs over to say hello to his parents, who are standing by the bleachers on the press box side, watching the event.
Then, it’s six feet.
First try, no. Second: no.
A little arm pump, more smiles. New personal high at the state meet, no biggie.
And then there were four.
6 foot 2?
He does it again; no, no, and YES.
Now there’s only three guys left.
The second attempt is the best, juuuuust a bit too low, but finally Ours is out.
But because of his ease at the first two heights, he wins the tiebreaker against North Marion’s Franklin Thomas, who also is rebuffed by the 6 feet, 2 inch barrier.
Eight more ‘bonus’ points for Keyser, from a kid in his first state meet event ever.
Bridgeport gets a half-point from Tristan Shaw, who ties for sixth; thank-you note in the mail from 1 Tornado Way to Petersburg’s Cody Southerly, who matched Shaw.
The high-flying Arthur gives Poca 10 more points, too, winning with a leap of 6 feet, 6 inches.
Because of yours, mine, and Ours, Keyser’s in front by the smallest of margins.
Halfway through the meet, it’s KHS 38, Bridgeport 37.5, Poca 36, Nicholas County 32.
And guess who’s up next?
SATURDAY, 11:55 A.M.
It’s the last event before lunch on Saturday, the 300 meter hurdles.
And Keyser is hungry for more points.
Horner has a fantastic first heat, shaving almost two seconds off of his regional time to finish just a hair behind Nicholas County’s Juvenal Perez.
Then, it’s another episode of The Deavonta Show.
Coming around the turn towards the home stretch, Johnson has the lead.
Over the first hurdle on the straightaway he goes.
A camera frame later, Lincoln’s Cordell Nix, in second place, hits a hurdle, and the lead grows.
Two hurdles to go: Johnson leaps, and is landed and already moving as the four hurdlers to his immediate left and right clear their obstacle.
He exhales hard: one last hurdle, one last push to go.
Grit your teeth, pump your legs, lean forward juuuuuust to be sure.
You’re a state champion again.
Nix, who comes in third, knows he’s been beaten by the best, smiling as he leans in for a handshake and a pat on the back from Johnson.
No points for anyone else in the final four.
A double-digit lead for Keyser: 48-37.5-36-32.
SATURDAY, 1 P.M.
With more bad weather approaching, the pole vault gets going during the lunch break.
It’s a wise decision: a heavy rain halts the event near its conclusion.
Horner’s been eliminated, but has clinched fifth. Whitlock is in the top four.
More on that later.
SATURDAY, 1:18 P.M.
Deavonta Johnson has some company in the 110 hurdles.
He’s cleared three hurdles, but Poca’s Arthur is right there with him, continuing his own fantastic state meet.
Arthur brushes the fourth hurdle, and Johnson opens up some daylight.
But the Poca man closes the gap: with four hurdles to go, they’re even again.
They’re mirror images: Arthur’s left leg clearing the hurdle, Johnson leading with his right, their arms making an ‘X’ as they cross into each other’s lane.
Two hurdles to go: the bottom of Arthur’s left shoe, black at the heel and striped black and red at the top, is just a bit lower than Johnson’s black-and-gold boot.
Last hurdle: Arthur’s light brown hair is sticking up like Bob’s Big Boy, while Johnson is flashing the old Derek Zoolander Blue Steel, lips pursed.
They leap: Arthur’s right toe is just off of the ground, while Johnson’s left toes are still touching the track.
They land: Poca’s New Balances inches ahead of Keyser’s Nikes.
Arthur’s looking out of the corner of his eye to the left: he knows it’s going to be close.
Johnson’s eyes are slits, every muscle focused on making up that little bit of ground.
They dip across the line, Arthur’s head down, back muscles tensed, Johnson’s face a mask of concentration, eyes now closed even more, teeth clenched, left arm leading ahead of the right.
But it’s over.
There will be no 4-for-4 for Deavonta Johnson.
Shawn Arthur: 15.18 seconds. Deavonta Johnson: 15.19 seconds.
But on the big board, the order is reversed: Keyser is first with 56 team points, Poca second with 46.
Bridgeport (37.5) and Nicholas County (32) stand pat.
Seven events to go.
SATURDAY, 1:33 P.M.
It’s dumping rain. Again.
With umbrellas in the background, Maleik Garland is fighting the elements as well as the seven other young men sprinting in the 100 meter dash final.
And he’s just short: 11.54 seconds, seventh place, .13 seconds out of scoring a point for KHS.
He’ll get his chance again next year, quite possibly against most of the same field: of the eight finals, just Wayne’s Kade Sebastian in third is a senior. Five, including Garland, are juniors.
SATURDAY, 1:49 P.M.
The pole vault is a unique event in and of itself.
I mean, where else do you get to carry a giant metal rod and use it to clear an obstacle and then land on one of those giant foam pads that look like something out of an adult Chuck E. Cheese?
Whitlock’s good at it; this is his third state meet in the event.
Coaches are allowed in the pole vault area in a little paddock, and Ethen’s father, David, is there now to provide encouragement, advice, and, when Whitlock’s final attempt to clear 12 feet fails, a big hug.
But, like so many of his teammates, Whitlock’s done the job yet again.
Fourth place, four more points, and, combined with Horner’s two for finishing fifth, a lead of 16 points for Keyser.
Both exceed their projections by one position.
Golden Tornado 62, Dots 46, Indians 38, Grizzlies 34.
Five events to go.
SATURDAY, 2:20 P.M.
The value of that lead became abundantly clear halfway into the 4x200 relay.
Keyser was flying: Brady Ours and Christian Ravenscroft had the Golden Tornado in front, and baton was in Turner’s sure hands.
After the second exchange, photographers cross over from the inside of the track to the surface of the track itself, to take photos of the finish line from a clear angle.
So our backs were to the track, but Ravenscroft was clearly following his teammate.
And his face and his words narrated what was happening.
“What is going on?” Ravenscroft said as a look of confusion crossed his face.
His hands went on his head. Something was wrong.
And when the final runners of the relay headed around the final turn, it was clear: Keyser’s lane was empty.
Turner’s hamstring, which had given him problems all year, had given out.
Ours, Ravenscroft, and the would-be final leg, Garland, along with Johnson, who was already on the infield after just accepting his first-place medal for the 300 hurdles, had to perform a perverse and unexpected relay: they had to carry their friend, their teammate off of the track and to the medical area near the finish line.
Amonte’s parents Jermaine and Trina, as friendly and as supportive a pair as you’ll meet, rushed across from the stands.
The emotional gamut had been run.
The fortunate thing for Keyser: Nicholas County AND Bridgeport both were disqualified for making their first exchange out of the zone.
And Lincoln, sweet sweet Lincoln, the killer of the last two girls’ basketball seasons in Mineral County, actually did Keyser a favor, as their sixth-place finish kept Poca out of placing by .32 seconds.
Despite Turner’s injury, the playing field was the same: Keyser by 16 over Poca, by 24 over Bridgeport, by 28 over Nicholas County.
SATURDAY, 2:35 P.M.
It’s the achievement of a career.
When it was announced Scott Furey was the recipient of this year’s state boys’ track coach of the year award, the immediate thought with a loaded team returning was, well, this might be the greatest sports weekend of Scott Furey’s life.
So here we are: Keyser has a commanding lead, but Furey’s just watched one of his best kids, on and off the track, suffer an injury.
So he can’t even fully enjoy the moment, right?
The wheels have to be turning. He has to make a move to fill Turner’s spot in the 4x100 relay, and fast. That’s the next event.
Still, the warm and gregarious Furey was smiling pretty hard as the WVSSAC officials handed him his certificate.
And he had his move ready: Johnson would move from the 4x400 relay, the final event of the day, to take Turner’s spot in the 4x100.
And freshman Reggie Redman, the ‘break glass just in case’ option that KHS had brought along for the meet, was in the 4x400.
“We’ll see if I earned this,” Furey joked about the move, pointing to his fresh certificate.
SATURDAY, 3:15 P.M.
Garland got it rolling, bursting out of the blocks with force.
Then, it was Ravenscroft, who again handed off with the lead.
Ours kept it.
It was a two-horse race heading down the final 100 meters.
Keyser had their fleet thoroughbred, Johnson, while RCB had their plowhorse of a fullback/thrower/sprinter, the unique athlete that is Juwan Jones-Wright.
Both were straining hard, but Johnson had Jones-Wright by a few steps—could he keep him there?
It was a contrast in styles in the hair game, too: Johnson’s short cut staying put while Jones-Wright’s beefy dreadlocks, held in place somewhat by an UnderArmour headband, were all over the place.
Jones-Wright tried and tried, but it was Johnson, his eyes wide and his white teeth showing, that crossed the line first.
For the third time in less than 24 hours, no one was catching Deavonta Johnson, who said it was the fastest that he's ever run.
Again, an outburst of joy: Amonte Turner’s shoes could not have been filled any better.
Joy, too, from the other relay members as they migrated towards the finish line to celebrate: Garland had a huge smile on his face, yelling as he was the first one of the three to arrive.
Handshakes and hugs were exchanged between the Keyser athletes and their new state-wide friends.'
And then there was Turner, who gingerly walked over, and, though he's a young man of few words, spoke volumes of gratitude to his teammates by silently and sincerely hugging them.
It was over.
No, really, it was over: Bridgeport was sixth, Poca seventh, and Nicholas County didn’t compete.
Keyser, with 72 points, had clinched the state championship with three events to go, leaving Poca (46), Bridgeport (39), and Nicholas County (34) in their dust.
SATURDAY, 4:03 P.M.
Now the only question was, who would finish second?
Nicholas County and Bridgeport made their cases in the 800: with Reed and Frailey going 1-2.
Because of a thin Reed, the race was separated by a thin reed: Bridgeport 47, Poca 46, Nicholas County 44.
In the 200, Garland was chasing an individual medal to go with his relay one, and just missed out: 23.61 seconds, seventh place, .11 ticks off.
Nicholas County’s Jacob O’Dell was fifth, moving the Grizzlies into a tie for third with Poca, one point behind Bridgeport.
SATURDAY, 4:21 P.M.
It rained again.
A storm of Forest Gumpian proportions, this time carrying lightning with it, halted the meet midway through the 4x400 girls’ AA heats.
Keyser’s wait for a second state championship would have to wait just a little bit longer.
SATURDAY. 4:58 P.M.
Colton Broadwater was in the blocks.
That alone is a story.
Just a year ago, Broadwater, who was already a key member of the soccer team in the fall, decided to give track and field a shot.
And he was good, working his way up during small meets to be in the mix for KHS in the middle distances at larger events.
But he it took him a little bit longer to get used to breaking out of the blocks, so he was an oddity, going from a standing start before he finally got the hang of it late in the season.
A year later, he was so accustomed to it that he was the first leg of the 4x400 meter relay.
He got a good clean start, putting KHS in a good position.
Ravenscroft, the second leg du jour, kept it going, passing to Redman, so new that he had to write his number, 869, in pen on his bib.
Other than that, no problem: he passed to Ours, one first-year track athlete to another, who brought it home for a third place finish.
And that’s the scary part about this team: although the reclassification is bringing some great athletes down from AAA to AA next year, you’d have to like the chances of a Keyser team that brings so many of their relay athletes and the superlative Johnson back.
But I digress.
SATURDAY, 5:40 P.M.
Erik Willis had his hands out.
And like a good fullback, he didn’t fumble the hand-off: the state championship trophy, for the second time in program history, belonged to Keyser.
And how about this: Keyser scored 78 points, with a literal lightning division in the middle of the meet, and the trophy was handed to the young man who won the award named for Ed Kelley, the Keyser native who won the Congressional Medal of Honor, posthumously, with the 78th Lightning Division in World War II.
Final score: Keyser 78, Nicholas County 56, Bridgeport 47, Poca 46.
Golden minutes: Keyser wins a championship, and how
CHARLESTON—The Keyser Golden Tornado won their second boys’ track state championship on Friday and Saturday at Laidley Field in Charleston. Here’s the full story, event by event, of how they did.