Cain mutiny: Senior star powers Thomas Walker to runner-up finish at state meet

George Thwaites • Jun 2, 2013 at 10:50 PM

RADFORD, Va. — Thomas Walker’s Cody Cain wasn’t able to lead the Pioneers to a state track and field team title Saturday. But he did manage to accomplish the next best thing.

The uber-athlete from Ewing won an event, took two seconds and added a third- and a fifth-place finish for Thomas Walker, whose boys collected the team runner-up trophy at the VHSL Group A championships at Radford University.

It was the highest-ever state finish for the commonwealth’s westernmost program, which doesn’t have a track facility on its campus.

“Cody scored points in all five events that he entered. That’s an animal. That’s just something you don’t see people do,” said Pioneers coach Rodney Ayers, whose team was outpointed for the title 67-42 by Radford.

The Bobcats were already leading by 15 when they wrapped up the meet with a surprise win in the 4x400 relay. Dan River finished third in the team standings, one point behind the Pioneers.

Cain, who missed last year’s state meet after injuring his knee in an off-road motorcycle accident, made the most of his final go-round. He collected a state championship in the high jump, clearing 6-6. He earned silver medals in the 100 (10.92) and 200 (22.26) meters. He collected a bronze in the 400 (51.22). He picked up four more points with his fifth-place finish in the triple jump (43-9¼).

“The sun takes a lot out of you. Most of our track meets this year have been under a lot of cloud cover,” said Cain, whose endurance was clearly challenged by the heat. “But this is everything I wanted to do. I’m happy with it.”

Cain didn’t go it completely alone. Teammate Tyler Scott contributed critical points with his third-place showing in the high jump with a leap of 6-4. But even so, Cain was one of the most conspicuously preoccupied athletes on the Radford campus as he shuttled back and forth between field events and sprinting preliminaries.

Cain and Covington’s Troy Helton were the last two competitors remaining in the high jump at 6-5 when Cain was called away to check in for the 100 finals. He ran to the opposite end of the field, checked in, ran back, won the high jump, then ran back to the bullpen for the sprint. After the 100, he was the lone triple jumper wrapping up his final attempts in that event.

Dan River’s Antwane Ferrell won the gold in the 100 (10.80) and the 200 (21.78).

“Cody did the best he could possibly do in this situation. We knew coming in that if we did all five, he probably wouldn’t win but maybe one. But for the points and for the betterment of the team, he decided to do all five,” Ayers said. “If the kid who won the 100 and the 200 had done all the events (Cain) did, I think you’d have seen tighter races.”

Cain wasn’t the only star athlete from Region D to make a good impression at state. On the girls’ side of the meet, Wise Central’s Logan Reynolds exploded for a personal-best 18-7¾ leap to win a state title in the long jump.

“I was just wanting to come down here and compete with the best of the best in the state. I just wanted to push myself. That’s what I did and the outcome was good,” said Reynolds, who scored points with a seventh-place finish in the 200 (26.68) and an eighth-place showing in the triple jump (34-3¼).

“Getting a state championship is pretty awesome. I’m glad I’m here and I’m happy with what I’m doing.”

Virginia High’s Nikolas Huffman successfully defended his 2012 state title in the shot put with a winning throw if 58-5. But as the discus competition dragged on into the afternoon heat, Huffman’s day took a bad turn. Radford’s William James, who’d finished a fairly distant second to the Bearcats thrower in the shot, collected the gold with a state-record fling of 176-10.

Huffman, who was already unhappy that he hadn’t cracked his 2012 state record shot put throw of 58-8, settled for second with a throw of 168 in the discus.

One weight events performer who was thrilled with her second-place finish was Gate City freshman Jordan Houseright, who collected a silver medal in the girls’ shot with her heave of 39-1½.

“I think I got some inspiration today. I’m hungry to come back next year,” said Houseright, who finished two rungs out of the money in the discus with a 10th-place throw of 97-2. “I’ll work on my discus, for sure. But shot is my strongest point.”

Another local youngster looking for better things in the future is Gate City sophomore Robbie Hicks, who picked up a fifth in the 300 hurdles with a time of 40.87.

“I thought it was a decent race. I stuttered way too much,” said Hicks, who contended with the field well into the turn. “I hit a hurdle. To tell you the truth, I probably expended too much energy at the beginning. I usually try to get people with my kick at the end.”

John Battle distance performer Brad Swiney made his mark in the 3,200, winning that event with a 9:38.80.

In other events, Virginia High’s Teonna Austin took fourth in the 100 (12.55) and joined teammates Alayah Eccleston, Tierra Richmond and Briana Simpson for a fourth-place finish in the 4x100 relay (50.61).

J.I. Burton’s McKenzie Blair flirted with a medal, taking fourth in the boys’ triple jump (43-10). Wise Central’s Sidney Jackson finished fifth in the girls’ 300 hurdles (50.27). The Warriors’ Austin Reed scored points in the shot put, taking eighth with a throw of 47-0½.

Saturday’s meet was the last of a Group A state format followed by the VHSL for more than three decades. Next year, the state meet at Radford will be a two-day event, with groups A and AA competing concurrently.

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