ELKINS - The 100th running of the state track meet will get underway today at Laidley Field in Charleston, and Elkins High School has five boys and eight girls competing in hopes of bringing a state title home.
Seniors Austin Hamrick, Remington Knight and Michael Beckwith, along with juniors Matt Wallace and Chris Bodkin will suit up one last time this season for the Tigers.
Wallace, who qualified both this year and last year in the 1,600, is accompanied by the rest of his 4x800 relay team, which includes Hamrick, Knight and Bodkin. The relay team captured the Big 10 title and were Region II runners-up. The group only lost two races all season and boast the fourth-best qualifying time.
State meet qualifiers from Elkins High School are front row, from left, Bailey Topping, Kathlyne Simmons, Olivia Underwood and Lindsay Roy; second row, Skout Barger, Hailea Harper, Jontasia Sitton and Paige Harrison; and back row, Austin Hamrick, Chris Bodkin, Michael Beckwith, Remington Knight and Matt Wallace. The state meet will get underway today at Charleston’s Laidley Field.
"Those four guys have been pretty dominant all season long, so I'm looking forward to them starting off our weekend with a bang," EHS boys coach Matt Lewis said. "They know it's going to take a stellar performance to earn a spot on the podium, but they're up for the challenge one last time. It's definitely going to be the most competitive race of the day where you have the top 10 teams being able to cross the finish at the same time."
Beckwith will look to add to his stellar season as he competes in the shot put for the Tigers. He launched an effort of 44 -3 1/2 to claim second in the Region II championships.
"It's been a few years since I've had a thrower qualify for the state meet, and I'm so glad that streak has come to an end," Lewis said. "Michael has thrown so well over his career it's nice to see him cap it off here at the state meet."
The Tigers will wrap up competition Saturday with Wallace taking to the track along side Knight, as the duo will compete in the 800-meter run at 3:50 p.m.
"Anytime you can get two guys qualified in the same event for the state meet, it shows you just how tough they are," Lewis said. "This duo have been such extraordinary performers in the 800 over the years, it's unreal. I think we'll definitely end our day on a high note with these two and I can't wait to see what kind of performance they're capable of on fresher legs."
There will be one other highlight for the Tigers this weekend. Knight, who will miss his graduation ceremony this evening to compete in the state meet, will officially graduate at 12:45 p.m. Saturday on the Laidley Field turf. He will receive his diploma from Lewis.
"It'll definitely be an experience I won't forget," Knight said. "Especially since I'll get to spend my graduation with my team and the atmosphere of the 100th running of the West Virginia boys state track meet."
"All of our guys and girls have prepared all season for this meet," Lewis added. "I'm so excited we have a great bunch of athletes that'll represent Elkins High extraordinarily well. No matter what happens, they've achieved amazing feats this season and I wish both teams the best of luck."
For the girls, sophomore Jontasia Sitton will make her second straight trip to Charleston to compete in the shot put and junior Kathlyne Simmons qualified in the long jump for the third consecutive year. Freshman Olivia Underwood also qualified as a individual this year in the 100-meter dash.
Simmons and Underwood combined efforts with junior Paige Harrison and sophomore Lindsay Roy to help the 4x200-meter relay qualify for the state meet. Their time of 1:51 is closing in on the EHS school record of 1:50.30, set in 1997 by Abby Weikart, Ariel Davis, Jessica Clegg and Sara Shepler.
In addition to that relay, which will take place on Saturday, Harrison will also join forces with sophomores Skout Barger and Hailea Harper, and freshman Bailey Topping as they take part in the shuttle hurdles relay at 5:15 p.m. today.
"Much of what we've been able to accomplish this year has come from people working together as a group," EHS girls coach Scott Biola said. "That includes our coaching staff. The girls have had a lot of help from Matt Lewis, Eric Sandeno, Robert Miller, Shellie Burda, Matt Taylor, Greg Hott and Evan Hott.
"In a sport where fractions of a second or inches determine who goes to Charleston, the more attention we can get for our athletes, the better."