By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Katelyn Odle has set the stage to have a memorable 16th birthday on Saturday.
The sophomore at PikeView High School will travel to Charleston today with 20 other members of the school’s track team to prepare to compete in the state track meet at Laidley Field.
Saturday is the concluding day of the event, and by coincidence, it is Odle’s birthday.
“It feels good to know that we’re going as a team,” Odle said. “It’s going to be a lot more comforting to know that they’re going to be there to support me.”
Odle finished first in last weekend’s Region 3 tournament in the 3,200-meter run, the 1,600-meter run and the 800-meter run. She was the anchor of the first-place four-by-800-meter relay team, along with Lauryn Hatfield, Laura Hill and Sophie Klein.
PikeView head coach Angie Hill said about Odle, “She’s just been phenomenal. She has a great work ethic. From the start of the season to now, she has put in a tremendous amount of time.”
Odle said that Hill’s pep talks prior to regionals last week helped motivate her and the rest of the team. “She talked a little about how it’s been a long time since the girls have won the regionals,” Odle said. “It encouraged me to try my hardest, not only for me but for my teammates.”
She said there will be pressure this weekend “because there’s a lot of competition.” Her plan is simply “just try to push and stay with them.”
• • •
Last spring, five PikeView track-and-field performers got to the state level. More than four times that number qualified for the 2013 state championships.
PikeView assistant coach Mike Craighead said, “All these folks, boys and girls, have put in a lot of time in the weight room, and it’s paying off. It’s looking good.”
Freshman Hunter Klein said, “We have a very good team.”
Angie Hill said, “I recruited like crazy (to expand the team). Our four-by-800 team is made up of all basketball girls — and two of them played soccer. Every girl who was not already on the softball team, I begged them to come and run.”
Jason Weitzel said about the 21-member PikeView contingent, “That’s an incredible number, compared to last year.”
Chris McBride, a member of the boys’ first-place four-by-800 relay team, said about the “big difference” between this season and last, “All the people who ran cross-country last year came out for track this year.”
McBride and Weitzel, both juniors, were the last two runners on the relay team.
Fellow junior Vaughn Campbell and Klein completed the quartet.
Klein said about his role, “I just try to keep that lead, or keep pushing myself to get in front of the next person. I mostly stay where I’m at, and let Chris or Jason take us from there and get a big lead.”
Weitzel, like Odle, took first places in the relay and won the individual races at 3,200 meters, 1,600 meters and 800 meters.
“I was a favorite in all of them,” he said. That adds some pressure, but “it also helps me be confident about how I’m going to do in the meet,” he said.
“I just think about how hard the other good runners that are running are training. That keeps me motivated to keep running hard.”
He didn’t have much time to savor his multiple victories. ““I guess I was immediately thinking about the next one,” he said.
He added, “I was pretty tired after that meet, fell asleep pretty early.”
He already has a reputation as one of the state’s top cross-country runners, and was a key member of the Panthers basketball team last winter. But each sport has its place.
Weitzel said, “I mean, it’s just been what I’ve been practicing for, all year, and the previous years that I’ve been running track and cross country. It makes me proud to be able to do it.”
Klein is also “really happy about being on the teams that have competed and done well. Obviously, the four-by-eight team is doing real well ... but also running the 400 as a freshman and doing so well.”
His second place in the 400-meter dash also qualified him to run in that event. He will also be competing on the four-by-400-meter relay team that took first place in the regionals. He was a member of the four-by-200-meter relay quartet that made the state field as a “wild card” with one of the best fourth-place finishes in the state.
After looking at the times of all state qualifiers, he said, “Other than me, there’s no other freshman — there’s mostly seniors and juniors.”
Klein said about the coaches, “They’ve been really good, helping us push ourselves in practice every day.”
“Once we’re already tired, we’ll start pushing ourselves even more, after our workout, and doing something else — to know what it’s like, having to push yourself when you’re already tired, and run the race all the way to the finish.”
“It kept me ready and able to push myself in each of the races. After a race, I’ll be tired after that. But with the practices we’ve done, I’ve been able to keep myself going to a higher level and push myself and not get tired, easily.”
The PikeView group plans to leave about 9 a.m. this morning. Their first events are scheduled for about 2 p.m. today at Laidley Field.
— Contact Tom Bone at email@example.com