By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
It is quite possibly the longest of all high school sporting events. It is also the most under-appreciated, and deserves more attention than it gets.
After all, your best athletes are often on display on the track, and in the field.
One of the difficulties of trying to cover spring sports in this area with such a small staff is the vast number of games and matches and meets taking place seemingly every day of the week.
Trying to figure out what to cover each day can be a difficult task. I will sit at my desk at times, let out a big sigh, throw my arms up and simply stare at the schedule.
While spring sports do not have the same following as football or basketball, they deserve the same coverage that those sports get. It just isn’t always that easy.
Unfortunately, and no specific reason, track and field has usually wound up getting left out.
PikeView is the one school in our coverage area that reports their meets. The rest must assume that no one cares or we don’t care. We do care, and hopefully some of our readers do too.
In my last job, track and field was a big deal. I covered numerous meets, especially at Bullitt Park in Big Stone Gap with the athlete-laden Lonesome Pine District. I was able to see school and meet records broken, individual and state champions crowned and P.R.’s be achieved.
P.R. doesn’t stand for public relations. For track or cross country athletes, the goal is always to set a “personal record”, P.R. for short.
Athletes always have goals, and in track and field, it is simply to do better than you have ever done before. It is much the same in cross country or in a marathon.
These athletes don’t run for the glory or the headlines or even a picture in the local paper. All they want to do is do better, and then set a new goal to be even better the next time.
They always have their sights on the prize.
That is probably why track and field doesn’t get more attention unless it is around the time of the Olympics. The rest of the time, unless you are Usain Bolt — the so-called “Fastest man in the world” — even professional events get little media attention.
Yet, this area has had plenty of success on the track, including Bluefield’s Park High School, which won state team titles in 1963, ‘64, ‘66 and ‘68.
Unfortunately, the record book on the WVSSAC website doesn’t have past individual champions in various events, but the VHSL does, and Southwest Virginia is represented well.
Names like Julius Jones, who played at Powell Valley High School and is still the state record holder in the 300 hurdles. Calvin Talford, who was on the best athletes to ever play a sport in Virginia, set state records in the high jump and triple jump that have been untouched since 1988.
Justin Hamilton, who played football at Virginia Tech and spent a few years in the NFL, won the 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles and 200 meter dash while at Clintwood, and the Greenwave doesn’t even have a track.
Other area champions have included Graham products Britton Williams (shot, 2002), Mke Franklin (300 hurdles, ‘85) and Milton Byard (100 meters, ‘96). Tazewell has been represented by Jarrod Burton (shot, ‘06) and Starr Anderson (triple jump, ‘85, ‘86), while Alyson Blankenship won a discus title for Richlands in 1994.
Susan Lucas from Giles still holds the state record for the shot put, while Savanna Burton of Narrows (long jump, triple jump) and Katie Jo Lester of Twin Valley (high jump) have been recent title holders.
There have been many more track and field athletes from the area who have shone on the biggest stage, and there are more out just waiting to be discovered. I have run out of time to include more in this column.
Here’s hoping that track and field can get a more prominent role in spring sports, and that those athletes will get the recognition they deserve.
PikeView is the only school that reports track meet results to the Daily Telegraph.
Thanks to the Panthers, and other track coaches are encouraged to do the same, and please not just the day before the team is leaving for the state meet, which does happen every year.
The kids deserve it.
—Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org