With her final effort, Hurricane junior Abby Watson tossed a state meet record throw, though not a personal best, to win the girls AAA shot put while leading the Redskins to an impressive first-place, first-day showing at the annual track and field state championships on Friday.
Watson set a new state record with her final toss (42 feet, nine inches) in the shot put, and while she raised the bar for future throwers, she fell below her own best-ever mark (43 feet, 5 inches) set in the AAA Region 4 Championship May 16.
“I was second up until then, so I was just happy to get first,” Watson said noting she didn’t win the event until her final throw.
The achievement marked just one of many great performances from Watson. She also placed second in the discus and ran a leg of Hurricane’s winning shuttle hurdle relay.
“Abby Watson coming back in the shot to break the meet record on her last throw, but also coming back to get second on her last throw in the discus, and in between that being one of the four legs on our shuttle team that won the state championship, just huge performances from her,” Redskins coach Jason Henley said.
Henley, a former St. Albans coach, added he had only once previously witnessed an athlete who set a new state record without breaking a personal best.
“It’s funny,” he said. “I’ve had one other athlete one time that did the same thing — one of my distance runners back at St. Albans.
“It wasn’t even her personal best record throw or for the year, but it was a state record. Everybody was just elated. That was wonderful.”
By winning as an individual and contributing to a first-place relay with Chloe Papa, Audrey Barber and Lauren London, Watson said she felt proud of her accomplishments in helping the team to its first-day lead.
“I think they both have two different meanings but they’re huge,” she said. “The shuttle team is three of my best friends, so it was fun to win with them, and then shot put, kind of coming from behind, that was good. I was predicted to get fifth in discus and I got second, so that was a big one for the team.”
In addition to contributing to the winning shuttle hurdle relay, Barber and London placed second and third respectively in the long jump behind Maddie McClintic, of Greenbrier East.
Hurricane also won the 4x800 with relay members Tori Dent, Joie Johnston, Ally Lawhon and Anna Gordon, edging Morgantown by two seconds.
“The 4x800 was incredible,” Henley said. “They did everything that they needed to do. The race was just so much fun to watch and they traded back and forth with Morgantown. They really pushed us.”
At the end of the first day, Hurricane led the team standings with 51 points, seven points ahead of Henley’s own predictions. Buckhannon-Upshur followed in second with 18 points, while Wheeling Park listed third with 17.
For the Hurricane boys, senior Garrett DeFries placed third in the high jump and fourth in the long jump.
“It’s been a big day, a good day to be a Redskin,” Henley said. “They’re very excited about what’s going on. We understand totally that this is day one and anything can happen in day two, so we’re not going to be overconfident. It’s a good place to be at the end of the day one, but we have a lot of work to do (Saturday) to close this thing out.”
Charleston Catholic earned wins in both the boys and girls Class A 4x800 relays, while Irish sophomore Payton Mullen captured an individual victory in the 3200 to exhibit the program’s long-distance strength.
Mullen finished with a personal-best time of 12:08.70, separating from Sherman’s Amelia Sebok in the final lap.
“The girl from Sherman challenged her, but she helped her,” Catholic coach Scott Welch said. “Finally, (Mullen) said she felt like she needed to get away from her. I said that’s exactly what you do. You don’t start going in and out, jostling back and forth. She decided to put the pedal down a little bit going into the last lap and pulled away.”
Meanwhile, Irish runners Peyton Keener, Lia Preston, Mary Katherine Kay and Quincy McKown combined to win the 4x800. The winning relay started the meet strong for the Irish who finished one point ahead of Welch’s projections for the first day. All Class A teams trailed Williamstown, who posted 38 first-day points. Catholic listed second with 32, while Tucker County posted 25 for third.
Also for the Catholic girls, senior Gina Marks placed fourth in the shot put and Catherine Casingal finished third in pole vault.
In the boys 4x800, senior Philip Mallory ran a blistering final leg to unseat Buffalo, the three-time defending champion, which finished second.
“We moved Phil Mallory into that (race) and they were supposed to get second,” Welch said. “Phil, on his split, ran a 2:01 final leg and that sealed the deal for us.”
In addition to Buffalo’s second-place showing in the 4x800, the Bison also claimed second in the shuttle hurdle relay, with a team of Gabe Garrison, Ty Smith, Hayden Erwin and Cody Sheppard.
Buffalo sophomore Hayden Harrison finished second in the 3200 with a time of 9:44.92, less than one-half second behind winner Hunter Riffle, a freshman from Doddridge County, who won the race with a come-from-behind effort in the final 150 meters.
Other meet highlights included a record-breaking performance by University senior Millie Paladino, who will run next year with West Virginia University.
Paladino finished the AAA 3200 race in 10:25.29, to break her own record, set last year, by 15 seconds. Paladino finished more than 30 seconds ahead of her closest competitor, Jefferson freshman Abby Colbert. Capital junior Payton Panger placed third.
In the boys 3200, Jefferson senior Andrew Milliron claimed first place in 9:25.55, eight seconds ahead of Paladino’s twin brother Andy Paladino, who will run next season at Syracuse. Preston’s Colin Radabaugh finished third, while George Washington senior Matthew Brafford, an Oklahoma commit, placed sixth.
Among top Kanawha Valley performances, Herbert Hoover junior Bailey Aab finished first in the AA girls high jump with a leap of five feet. Fellow Huskies athlete Taylor Marsh finished fourth in the pole vault. Sissonville junior Duncan McClung placed third in high jump (AA) with a leap of six feet.
At the end of the meet’s first day, Parkersburg South and Jefferson led the AAA boys team standings tied with 32 points. University listed third with 18 points.
In boys AA, Bridgeport held a one-point advantage to Ritchie County, 31-30. Keyser ranked third with 11 points.
Doddridge County tied with Gilmer County after the first day, as each team finished with 30 points. Buffalo finished third with 24 points following day one.
The Ritchie County girls paced AA squads with 30 points, while Oak Glen (21) and Bridgeport (20) ranked second and third, respectively.