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Westwood off and running on state title quest

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- Here's what you need to know about the Westwood track & field program.

There was Miller Singleton, just crossing the finish line in the 100-meter dash, falling and spilling onto the track.

Her knees were scraped and bleeding. It felt like someone had just poured acid on them when the trainer sprayed disinfectant and then covered both knees with bandages.

Everything burned.

But Singleton had only one thought.

"Can I take the bandages off before I run in the 200? I don't want to feel constricted,'' she said.

That's Westwood, where they're not just fast, but tough.

"She's tough, real tough,'' said Westwood track coach Earl Ford, who has both the boys and girls team poised to win state titles this weekend at Hugh Mills Stadium, where they held the first day of the three-day GISA state track & field meet Thursday.

"She is not going to let bumps and bruises affect her,'' Ford said. "She bounces.''

So does Westwood, where they want to bounce back.

Westwood's boys and girls had won three consecutive state titles ('07, '08, '09) but those streaks were broken a year ago. They're looking for a sweep this weekend.

All three classes held prelims Thursday.

Westwood's boys and girls not only qualified everyone in the Class A meet Thursday, but Ford has two entrees in every event, including the 4x100 relay, where his first and second boys teams made the finals and his first and second girls teams also earned a berth in the finals Saturday.

The field event finals will be held today, and Singleton plans on defending her title in the pole vault. Westwood also has Toni Hall in the pole vault. It's like that everywhere you look for the Wildcats.

"We had a good day, a very good day,'' Ford said. "I don't think there were any surprises, good or bad. We were consistent.''

The girls team looks solid. Virginia Vereen, who broke the state record in the 300 hurdles last year and is favored to win both hurdles events Saturday, didn't have to run. There were only eight finalists in the hurdle prelims, so Vereen moved right to the finals. She left the meet and drove to Pelham to work out on the track there, getting in one more day of practice.

Singleton ran the fastest times in the 100 and 200, and eighth-grader Liz Delk qualified for the finals in the 100 and 200. Hope Bailey and Ivy Foister qualified in the 400, and both relay teams made it. The only final that was run Thursday was the 1,600, and Westwood's Claire Collins finished fifth.

The Westwood boys were even better. Jake Kotter, who anchored the 4x100 relay team, was third in the 1,600 and Brandon Butler, a freshman, was fifth to give the Wildcats nine points. Mason Worsham and J. T. Edore both qualified for the finals in the 100 and 200, and Chason Worsham and Riley Anderson made the finals in the 400.

Anderson suffered a slight hamstring injury, but Ford said he would probably be ready to run Saturday. Anderson, who won the pole vault title last year, will try to defend his title today and is hopeful to run Saturday.

Ford, meanwhile, is concerned about Thomas Jefferson's boys team.

"Thomas Jefferson looks like they are ready to compete,'' Ford said. "If we're going to compete with them, we're going to have to step it up. Everyone of their kids looks strong. We're going to have to respond to them. We're capable, and I think we will.''

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CLASS AAA:

Deerfield-Windsor had hopes of finishing as high as third in the girls meet, but the Lady Knights suffered a big blow when star Amber Young limped off the track with a pulled hamstring.

Young, a junior, is the heart and soul of the girls team. She anchors both relay teams, and had hopes of winning three individual events -- the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash and the long jump. She anchored the 4x100 relay team that earned a berth in the finals early in the day, but pulled her hamstring in the middle of the 100-meter dash.

"It's kind of been there for two weeks, and before the race I felt it, but I was thinking I will just get with (my trainer) and stretch it after the race,'' Young said. "I got about a quarter of the way in the race and I felt it. It felt like a bomb exploded in my leg.''

Somehow Young gathered herself and finished the race, staggering across the finish line in pain in a gutsy performance.

"I just tried to run through it,'' she said. "Then I knew I couldn't do it. I just cried (at the end of the race). I felt like I let my team down.''

Young's courageous effort won't be forgotten at Deerfield, where her injury touched everyone.

"I hate that happened to her,'' DWS girls track coach Allen Lowe said. "She is such a great competitor. She worked so hard. It's a shame, but it just can't be helped. She keeps saying, 'I let my team down,' but it can't be helped. Thankfully, she will have a chance to come back next year.''

Young made so much progress this year, emerging as a force in track. It would surprise no one if she didn't come back and have a remarkable senior season.

She had made such an impact on the track team that DWS had hopes of finishing strong in the state meet.

"We had a shot at third place with her,'' Lowe said. "That's pretty much a dagger as far as points go. Next year we have a chance to be even better, to build on something. She will be back next year.''

Lowe was pleased with the rest of his team as several girls ran personal bests.

"We had a great day except for what happened to Amber,'' he said. "We had some personal bests and you can't ask for more than that."

Candace Cosby and Mary Catherine Crisp ran personal bests to reach the 400-meter final, and Savannah James, an eighth-grader ran a personal best to reach the 200-meter final. Madison Sauls finished eighth in the 1,600 and Sabrina Curry ran a personal best in the 300-meter hurdles.

DWS' boys team was led by Mac Lanier, who ran the best time in the prelims to qualify for the 110-meter hurdles, and Taylor Withers, who qualified for the 400-meter run. Chandler Lane qualified in the 300-meter hurdles and Dallas Knight, a ninth-grader, ran a personal best (by 13 seconds) to finish seventh in the 1,600.