The Press Box For May 23
Attending the West Virginia state track meet is a big deal. Being there as a qualifying athlete is an even bigger deal. If you have never been to one, you really don’t know what you are missing. The state track championship, held each year in Charleston, brings together the best athletes in the state in all three classes. It also draws fans, from all over the state, to the capitol city for the two-day event, drawing perhaps the largest high school crowd of any sport.
I’ve attended the past nine championships, and this year’s was just as exciting as my first. Just to get the opportunity to watch, as the best high school track and field performers in the state of West Virginia do what they do best, is an honor and a privilege.
To think that small schools like Hundred and Paden City can produce athletes who can run with the best in the state – and do well enough to place and score points, is a testament to their dedication and hard work.
In a way it falls in the face of those who argue over public and private. The difference is athletes who participate in single, individual events can be as good as they want, regardless of what class they’re in. If one was to check the record books, they would find very little difference in state records between Class A through AAA.
You would see there most of the larger metro areas are where most of the records come from, but in no way did the private schools dominate this year’s meet in Class A. In fact, they didn’t win in the boys or girls division.
Something that really catches the eye at the state track meet is the great display of sportsmanship among the participants. It’s great to watch as the kids buddy up together and wish each other well, as they congratulate each other on their triumphs and as they help each other at the starting blocks. It’s neat to see kids from different schools interacting without the interference of parents and coaches on the field.
Not once did I witness a display of anger or hard feelings. What I saw was kids shaking hands and hugging each other. I saw kids from different schools getting their pictures taken together and proud to do so. Makes me think when you take the parents and coaches out of it, you take away a lot of problems.
I watched as a boy had an accident and received serious injuries. It seemed as if it hurt every athlete just as much as it hurt him. The accident occurred on Friday night, and on Saturday they called for a moment of silent prayer for his well being. Everyone participated.
The Magnolia boys team, who won the Class A title, had a controversial call give them a setback on Friday evening. The head coach questioned the call and filed a protest. The officials ruled against them, and they went back to work and won the event. Another example of following the rules and good sportsmanship.
Another thing I liked was watching parents from all the different schools sitting together on one side of the stadium. No major problems, actually not even any minor problems that I observed or heard of. What I saw were people cheering for their teams and congratulating each other on their kids’ performances.
I like the way the event is run; I think it’s one of the few sporting events you’ll ever attend which has little chance of getting out of hand with a problem. The WVSSAC does a fine job with this event. There are plenty of officials, plenty of help on the track, plenty of security and no over kill on spectator rules.
I used to really enjoy watching Wetzel County Superintendent of Schools Ed Toman when he was a board member of the SSAC, and he would be on the field to hand out awards. For past couple of years, Tyler Consolidated Volleyball Coach Richard Summers, an SSAC board member, has been doing it. I really enjoy watching when they call out his name to hand out the awards. It’s also fun to watch as his wife Tracy is right there near, making sure he does it right. She does the same thing for him in volleyball. They are a fantastic pair;they were made for each other.
Every year, one thing you can count on, is getting a sun burn. Seems as though the sun shines its hottest on the state track meet. This year’s meet was under a constant threat of storms, but it held off until near the end when a brief storm put down some hard rain. However, it quickly dissipated and the last and most important event of the day got off without a hitch for Magnolia, the boys 4×400 meter relay which they won in high fashion – taking the Class A title back to New Martinsville, a place it’s been many times before for both boys and girls.
It seems as though state championships are getting fewer and farther between for the small schools, but track may just be where you separate the domination of private schools over public.
Going to the state track meet as an athlete, parent, fan or coach is a great time and one for all to enjoy; however, along with that comes responsibility and example setting. Adults are going to be adults; if you’re a parent and your child is there with a school, you have more freedom.
If you’re an adult and you’re there as a coach or a chaperone over athletes, you should set examples for the kids to follow. I think most understand that, especially when they are getting paid to coach the kids.
Other than that, I offer my congratulations to all the area athletes who made it to Charleston. You really deserved it. Not everyone can say, I ran in the state track meet at Charleston. And if you placed and medaled, it is even that much more special. However, you are all winners.