By Michael Minnich
Tribune Sports Editor
CHARLESTON—A true team effort carried the Keyser Golden Tornado to the Class AA state track championship on Friday and Saturday.
KHS finished with 78 points, winning an individual event and two relays, pulling away from Nicholas County (56 points), Bridgeport (47), and Poca (46) early on Saturday afternoon.
“We only brought down 13 kids. I say only, because in the past we’ve brought down 16 or 17. But the 13 kids we brought down really, really did an amazing job,” said Keyser coach Scott Furey, who also guided KHS to the 2009 title. “So many kids qualified in four events, and then you start to move things around. And then you’ve got kids that are versatile, which we do, we’ve got a lot of super athletes and we’ve got kids that can run a 400 and jump back and run a 100, or long jump and go and run some hurdles. They can do pretty much anything that we need them to do.”
Furey, who was recognized on Saturday afternoon as the state track coach of the year, joins the legendary ‘Tack’ Clark as the only two Keyser head coaches to win multiple state championships.
Deavonta Johnson won the 300 meter hurdles outright, was part of victories in the shuttle hurdles on Friday and the 4x100 meter relay on Saturday, and missed out on the 110 high hurdles crown by .01 seconds.
“Deavonta…I don’t try to inflate his head by any stretch, but I let him know, he’s a special athlete. He needs to know that. And at the same time, he needs to be confident that he’s a special athlete and be willing to put everyone on his back and say, let’s go. And he did that. He came down and did what we needed him to do. And didn’t complain when we brought him out of the 4x4. He just said, okay, I’ll run anchor, and out-ran the RCB team that’s been beating us all year. He’s special, and we’re glad we have him back for another year,“ said Furey. “And even Maleik [Garland, who qualified for the finals in the 100 and 200 and narrowly missed out on placing]. There’s some tough sprinters in the state.”
Keyser won the title despite not earning any points in the 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, or 3200 meter runs.
The hurdles, certainly, were key, with Johnson in the individual events and the shuttle hurdles foursome of Brandon Tranum, Ethen Whitlock, Beau Horner, and Johnson earning 28 of Keyser’s 78 points, but the field was the real story.
“We talked about it coming down, that the field events would make or break us. And they came through with flying colors. It was unbelievable all the points that we accumulated,” said Furey.
Cole Weaver picked up 12 key points, eight in the discus with a second-place finish and four in the shot put with a fourth-place finish, on Friday.
“Absolutely. I just told him that. Those points in the shot put and being able to do what we expected in the shuttles was key to us being able to get things running. It takes pressure off of people. It really does. In the past, we’ve had 4x800s that won and that have placed high, and it puts everyone at ease. So we come out of Friday night sitting second by two points,” said Furey.
Amonte Turner beat his state championship jump of two years ago to take second place to start the morning.
On Saturday, what put Keyser over the top—pun intended—and into the lead for good was Brady Ours’ second-place finish in the high jump.
The sophomore, on the team for the first time this year, had only previously cleared 5 feet, 10 inches, but managed to up that by two more levels—and nearly a third.
“It speaks to the athlete that he is. And knowing that having the quarterback of your football team right there in a pressure situation, a football team that is successful, and having that pressure. He’s a first-year track athlete, but he’s not worried about anything. He accepted that challenge. He accepted the 4x4 challenge. He accepted everything that we threw at him. I honestly was not worried about him. And that’s a tribute to our football team and just the whole atmosphere that being successful like they are brings to all of their athletes. Sean [Biser, the head football coach] and I have already talked about it, and I said it in 2009, we benefit from each other. He brings us strength and working on the speed and agility part of things, and we work on starts and everything. It’s back to back. I think he and I work really well, hand in hand,” said Furey.
From there, the gap grew: Ethen Whitlock and Beau Horner placed fourth and fifth, respectively, in the final field event of the day, the pole vault.
In all, 34 points from the field events; Keyser was only projected to score five by
“We did some projections on the way down. Our projections didn’t exactly match what everybody thought they were going to be. And when the kids saw that, and I was telling them, hey, I think we can score this, the kids were like, you think we can score that? And then they’re like, oh, well, okay, Coach says we can do this. And we projected 98. We didn’t quite get there. But put 10 more there from the 4x200 and we’re almost there. So they did amazingly. They kept their composure the whole time through a little bit of adversity. You could just tell they wanted to win. They were first all year, wire to wire, started slipping. Nicholas came on strong. Bridgeport came on strong. Losing the regional, like I said last week, if I had to lose one, that was the one I wanted to lose. It brought them back to earth really quick. They came down here extremely focused, and I’m grateful for that,” said Furey.
Johnson’s win in the 300s pushed the lead into double digits for good.
That ensured that the only negative of the weekend wasn’t catastrophic: Turner’s troublesome hamstring failed in the 4x200 meter relay, which Keyser was leading at the time, keeping the Golden Tornado from finishing.
“The way that everybody’s face just changed when Amonte went down…you could just see that they were like, we’re not losing this. Because it was killing him. He was worried that it was going to be an issue. And we made the move to put Deavonta in there and they did what they needed to do,” said Furey.
Furey was ready for the situation, though, moving Johnson from the 4x400 to the 4x100 to fill Turner’s spot and inserting freshman Reggie Redman in the 4x400.
“Depth is key in track. And, ironically, we don’t always bring down an alternate, but every now and again, I feel it important to have someone else there. I didn’t want Amonte to get hurt, but the fact that we had enough depth to throw in a freshman and still get third in the 4x4 while moving our best athlete over to the 4x1….it just speaks to the depth of the kids.”
Keyser won the 4x100 behind Ours, Christian Ravenscroft, and Garland, with Johnson bringing it home.
The three-time state champion said after the race that it was the fastest that he’d ever run.
“I would believe that. His split was super-fast, and of course Brady will never let him live it down, but Brady’s was faster,” laughed Furey. “But….yeah, he’s special. Throw it on top of the fact that Brady is a rookie and Christian is still a tenth grader. Man, oh man.”
Yep, Furey’s already thinking towards next year.
“We’ve just to put some pieces in place because we’re losing 20 seniors. It’s going to be difficult to replace that experience, that ability, but to have that nucleus back…that 4x1’s already talking about wanting to break the state record next year,” said Furey.
The meet ended with the 4x400 meter relay and the aforementioned third place finish for KHS’s Colton Broadwater, Ravenscroft, Redman, and Ours.
It was a great weekend for the Frankfort Lady Falcons, too.
You could look at it as the passing of the baton: Julianna Butcher and Kasinda King, who were part of FHS’s state championship team as freshmen in 2013, serving as a bridge as seniors to great state meet debuts for freshmen Abby Beeman and Kayla Grose.
On Friday, Butcher took third with a superlative late push in the rain in the 3200 meter run, with Beeman taking fifth.
It continued into Saturday, where a beaming King won the discus with a throw of 111 feet, 11 inches.
In the 1600 meter run, Beeman picked up another medal by taking fourth place in the 1600 meter run.
Then it was Grose’s turn to take fourth in the 300 meter hurdles, moving Frankfort into a tie for third place at the halfway point of the meet.
FHS finished 11th overall with 26 points.
The Keyser girls scored 15 points to take 14th place.
They got on the board in the first race of the meet, as Kyleena Purvis, Penny Summers, Crystal Kuglar, and Grace Burgess finished fifth in the 4x800 meter relay.
Then, it was another strong relay: Bajur White, Khara Teets, Emmy Stickley, and Lexi Turner finished fourth in the shuttle hurdles.
Keyser picked up six more Friday points in the shot put, with Kayla Willison taking fourth and Lexi Johnson fifth.
Keyser headed into Saturday in fifth place with 12 points.
McKenna White took fifth place in the 200 meter dash and teamed with Alyvea Fields, Bajur White, and Burgess for a sixth-place finish in the 4x200 relay.
The Frankfort boys were unable to score any points, coming closest in the 4x800 relay, finishing seventh with the team of Isaiah Dell, Bradley Grimm, Carter Houdersheldt, and Devon Alt.