By Chapin Jewell
If not for the cancellation of in-person school and all spring sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the West Virginia State Track and Field Championships would have been held at historic Laidley Field in Charleston this coming Friday and Saturday.
As such, athletes from Keyser and Frankfort, both boys and girls, would be busy readying themselves for the trip and competition.
In the absence of a 2020 track and field season, we’re left wondering what might have been, both in terms of local, regional and state competition. Both Keyser and Frankfort had athletes looking to make their mark, but again, it’s impossible to know what may have been.
What we can do, however, is reflect back to one year ago, to what was quite a memorable 2019 West Virginia Track and Field State Championship. Memorable for what were impressive performances for Mineral County’s participants, the weather, and a few remarkable individual performances.
Friday’s events can best be summarized by one word--WET. Saturday’s events can also best be described in one word--HOT.
Friday’s events began at 2 p.m. and progressed well into the early evening until it happened: first visible lightning and then a deluge of rain, the combination of which halted the events a little after 6 p.m. After a near 4 1/2-hour weather delay, the events would commence again. Frankfort’s Zach Dalonges ran his 3200 meter Run, finishing essentially at 12:00 midnight. It was a night most certainly to be remembered.
As a result of the-late night finish on Friday, Saturday’s events were pushed back an hour and began at 11 a.m. instead of 10 a.m. If Friday was WET, Saturday was HOT. Not just a little uncomfortable hot, but dangerously hot. It was not uncommon throughout the day to see athletes literally collapse from exhaustion and the heat onto the turf at Laidley Field. Medical attention was rendered to scores of athletes by trainers, paramedics if needed, and most evidently, from each other.
Despite the lightning, despite the rain, despite the long delay, despite the late start, these committed athletes did what the most committed of athletes do, competed hard, tied records, broke records, and displayed performances and a spirit of competition that won’t be forgotten by those in attendance.
Without a doubt, the most memorable performances of the 2019 Track and Field State Championship was displayed by Weir’s junior speedster Sebastian Spencer. After football season in this his senior season, Spencer, Weir’s quarterback who played against both Keyser and Frankfort this season on the gridiron, signed to continue his academic and athletic careers in Track and Field at the University of North Carolina.
Like every other senior from the class of 2020, Spencer did not have the opportunity to compete in track this season, and therefore was not given a chance to see what the elite level sprinter might have done in terms of setting records. Thankfully for Spencer, his performance as a junior was impressive enough for him to leave his mark on West Virginia history.
In fact, on Saturday, the second day of state competition in 2019, Spencer delivered not one, not two, not three, but four winning performances, one of which made headlines across the country and can be seen widely circulated on YouTube and other media platforms.
Spencer began the day by winning the class AA 100-meter championship, and in doing so, established a new state record time of 10.6 seconds. Spencer bested the time of the previous state record holder by one-tenth of a second, ironically, the previous record holder was his older brother Donavan.
Spencer also won the class AA 200-meter championship, and ran the anchor legs in the 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 winning relay teams for Weir. It was in the 4 x 100 relay that Spencer put on a performance that electrified the crowd and all those who’ve seen the video that circulated widely on the Internet.
A previous bad exchange put Weir and Spencer behind the eight ball when he accepted the baton, placing the Red Riders in sixth place as the final leg began. Spencer then turned on the jets and remarkably passed six different competitors in the final 100 meters to secure the victory, a performance to never be forgotten.
Woodrow Wilson’s Mikah Alleyne also had a remarkable Saturday afternoon performance, winning four individual events (200 meter, 400 meter, 300 meter hurdles, 100 meter hurdles).
Also, Ripley distance runner Tori Starcher, fresh off her win in the prestigious and national Penn Relays, delivered the winning anchor leg in the 4 x 400 meter to leap frog her team to first place, winning the team state championship. Starcher also won three individual titles in addition to the relay title.
As for Mineral County’s part, a total of 36 athletes competed in the state track meet, some in an individual event, some in a multitude of individual events, some in in a group event, some in multiple group events, and some in a combination best described as "all of the above." 20 of those 36 athletes came from Keyser, 16 came from Frankfort.
There were most certainly a wide array of successes accomplished by athletes from both schools. Collectively, the two schools and combined 36 athletes earned four second place finishes, one third place finish, three fourth place finishes, two fifth place finishes, five sixth place finishes, three seventh place finishes, two eighth place finishes, one 10th place finish, one 11th place finish, two 12th place finishes, seven 13th place finishes, and one 16th place finish.
Frankfort’s girls would earn Mineral County’s best finish at the events, finishing in 6th place in class AA. Keyser’s boys finished in 12th place; Frankfort’s boys finished in 15th place; Keyser’s girls finished in 22nd place.
Kayla Grose was the big winner of the day for Frankfort, with two of the Falcons second place and two sixth place finishes. Grose finished second in the 400 meter Dash and second in 300 meter Hurdles. In addition, the talented Frankfort senior earned sixth place finishes in both 100 meter Dash and 200 meter Dash. Grose concluded her decorated high school career by leaving the state track meet in Charleston even more decorated, earning four medals to hang around her neck. Grose now runs track at West Virginia Wesleyan.
Speaking of highly decorated, Frankfort’s Abby Beeman basically became a legend on the basketball court, scoring over 2,000 points, becoming the school’s leading scorer, and leading the Falcons to the state tournament in back to back seasons.
Beeman, also an excellent cross country and track and field athlete, enjoyed success in the four events she participated in at the State Track Meet. Beeman finished second in the Long Jump, 6th in the High Jump, 8th as part of the 4 x 800 relay team, and 13th in the 800 meter Run. Beeman currently plays basketball at Shepherd University where she completed a re
markable, record-breaking freshman season.
Keyser’s big winner of the weekend was Brendan Pattison, who finished in second place in the Pole Vault, also tying a school record in the process. It was the final event of the entire State Track Meet, falling victim to the rain delay, pushing the event from Friday to Saturday. Pattison also earned a fourth place finish as part of the Shuttle Hurdles relay team. Pattison would have also competed as a senior this year for the Golden Tornado if not for the cancellation of the season.
One thing is for sure, over the span of two days, sportsmanship ruled the day. This was evident as every triumph and tragedy was observed. There were amazing performances, there were disappointing performances. There were records tied and broke, there were false starts and injuries resulting in disqualifications and the shattering of dreams.
Through it all, however, there was positivity and encouragement on display amongst the athletes seemingly at all times. Athletes were seen collapsing in each other’s arms, comforting one another, and celebrating each other’s successes. This can certainly be specifically said for Mineral County’s finest as well.
The 2019 State Track and Field State Championship was one for the record books in terms of spectacular performances. Who knows what 2020 would have brought?