Buckhannon-Upshur's Emily Godwin (16) capped a stellar career with a victory in the Class AAA 100-meter hurdles Saturday, her 13th state title. Running second was John Marshall's Tori Derrow (right) and third was Anacia Hines of St. Albans (left).
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Several remarkable careers wrapped up in rewarding fashion Saturday at the 39th girls state track meet at Laidley Field.
Buckhannon-Upshur's Emily Godwin, Frankfort's Bria Welker and St. Marys' Maggie Drazba not only piled up even more hardware for themselves, but two of the three led their respective teams to championships.
With North Carolina-bound Godwin racking up another 40-point effort with four first places, B-U captured its third Class AAA crown in four years, beating pre-meet favorite Morgantown by 18 points.
Welker, like Godwin, won four events for a second straight year, only this time she and the Falcons emerged as Class AA team champions instead of settling for a close second-place finish. Frankfort, taking the first track title in the school's 37-year history, bested Bridgeport for the title by 18 points.
Drazba, a West Virginia University recruit and one of the state's finest distance runners ever, wound up with three more victories, bumping her state meet career total to 13. She couldn't lead the Blue Devils to a team championship, though, as a deep Williamstown squad overwhelmed the rest of the Class A field, winning by 47 points for its third straight crown.
Only two more records were produced in the girls meets Saturday after four marks fell on Friday - Welker tied her record of 57.13 seconds in the AA 400-meter dash and D'Andra Swiger of Doddridge, the high-point winner in girls A with 36 points, ran a time of 45.41 seconds in the 300 hurdles.
Godwin and the rest of the Bucs were on pins and needles most of the day as they battled Morgantown for AAA honors, but she did the most she could, winning all four of her events on Saturday - the 100 hurdles in 14.96, the 300s in 44.75, the long jump at 17-7 and the high jump at 5-8.
"I was pretty pleased with most things from this meet,'' Godwin said. "It's hard to think this was my last meet because you're so focused on state and you're worried about each event. It's hard to think about what's after it.
"But now looking back when all my events are over, it's kind of bittersweet and sad because I'll never really run here for Buckhannon again. At the same time, I'm really excited about my future - to go to North Carolina and work with their coaches. To see how much more - if I work hard and I just train on track - how much farther I can get.''
She didn't turn in any records this weekend, but retires with meet marks in both hurdle events, one set as a junior and one as a sophomore. Like Drazba, she's accounted for 13 state meet victories over her career - all of them in individual events.
Welker's quest presented more of a personal challenge.
For the second time in three years, she's recovering from an ACL tear, the most recent one occurring during soccer season last fall. Not only did she manage to duplicate her four wins from last year's meet, she also got to savor a team title after Frankfort lost by two points to Berkeley Springs in 2012, that coming in the meet's final event.
Last year, Welker had 40 points and distance ace Katie Jan 34, scoring all 74 of Frankfort's total. This year, Welker (40) and Jan (31) again provided the bulk, but the other Falcons chipped in 11. Jan took the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 this weekend to boost the school's title chances.
"Katie Jan's my teammate and best friend,'' Welker said, "and I know we've been wanting this for four years. We knew we were so close and since we brought our team this year, we thought we were going to get it. We had the confidence that we were going to get it.''
Welker won the 100-meter dash in 12.47 seconds, the 200 in 25.67, the 400 in 57.13 and the 300 hurdles in 45.45. She said the grind of rehab made the ultimate journey worth it.
"My doctor wasn't so sure I could run or anything,'' Welker said after her second knee injury, "but I really worked at it in the weight room every day and on the treadmill when I couldn't run.
"With my freshman year, just knowing I had the potential when I won my three state championships. I couldn't run my sophomore year, so coming back for my junior year was even more incentive because I won all four of my events. And then coming back this year, I just knew I had to have it. Like it was in my blood - I had to have it.''
In just three years, Welker won 11 times at the state meet, all individual events, and holds two records. She's being courted to run at WVU or Coastal Carolina.
Drazba's career finished with the same flourish, as she again swept the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 at the state meet with respective times of 2:21.42, 5:03.53 and 10:31.83, and concludes her prep days with meet records in all three.
"When I was in middle school,'' Drazba said, "I never really expected anything like this happening. But over the years, I just progressed in my training and took a big leap and progressed through high school, and it's helped me to succeed the way I have.''
Her 3,200 time of 10:31.83 on Friday was not only a meet record in Class A, but the best that's been run by a female athlete in any class at the state meet. For the last two years at least, she's managed to set those marks without being pushed like other athletes.
"I wish we could run the classes together,'' Drazba said, "because there's a lot of talented girls in the other classes. It'd be really nice to push yourself like that, but you go out as hard as you can.''
Between Drazba's three wins and three more for Doddridge's Swiger (200, 300 hurdles, long jump), there weren't many more to go around in the Class A meet. Williamstown took only four events, but scored in 14 of 18 and had multiple place-winners in six events, claiming a third straight team title with ease.
The last girls team to win three in a row in Class A was Doddridge with four straight from 2004-07.
"It means a lot to us,'' said Andrea Chidester, who accounted for half of the Yellowjackets' wins by leading the 100 and 400.
"Our team has worked hard through all three years and we never give up. We're all together. Our whole team is close - whether you're a distance runner or a sprinter, we're all friends, and I think that helps.''
The lone girls win Saturday for a Kanawha Valley team or individual was turned in by Winfield junior distance runner Barkley Castro, who toured the AAA 800 in 2:17.57.
Castro, who ran fifth in the same event last year, shaved nearly two seconds off her season's best time, which was tops in the state.
"I had no idea I would ever come this close to being a state champion,'' Castro said, "and now that it's here, I can't realize it's happened.
"I knew there were many people behind me trying to push me, so I just went all out from start to finish.''
Another triple winner was Devyn Hosby of Washington (AAA 100, 200 and 400).
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.