Lady Blue Devils shot putter Jordan Houseright launched the rock 38 feet, 7 3/4 inches on her first throw Saturday morning at Radford University, a mark that held up to win a VHSL 2A championship in that event.
"That's what it had to be. You've got to go out there and shock everybody with the first throw. Set the tone," said Houseright, a sophomore who has played a busy travel basketball schedule this spring concurrently with her field event training schedule.
She got in no throwing practice prior to last week's Region 2A West meet because she had to recuperate from a head-butt to the chin that happened while grappling for a rebound. Her concentrated efforts after the region came to fruition the first time she stepped into the circle Saturday.
"Yeah. I could feel it. I was just holding it until finals. The last throw I threw a small one because I knew I already won it," said Houseright, the granddaughter of Blue Devils state champion football coach Bill Houseright. Her father, uncles and aunt of the same surname are also woven into the fabric of Gate City athletic history.
Her winning throw deposed top-seeded Younique Morgan of Brunswick, the squad that eventually won the 2A girls team title with 127 points. Morgan, who came in with a season-best heave of 41-4, finished a foot shy Houseright's maiden throw of the meet.
Even though Saturday was Morgan's last VHSL state track meet, Houseright knows she'll have to keep gunning for 40 feet and beyond to stay on top of the shot-putting heap in future seasons. Saturday saw the first 2A meet in VHSL history, making her throw — like all of the 1A and 2A championships won over the weekend — a meet record.The bull's-eye is on her back from now until she graduates.
"I guess I'll try to come back here for two years and defend it," said Houseright, who was runner-up in the Group A meet as a freshman. "I think a lot of people were surprised that I'm just a sophomore. I'll probably lift more (weights) next year."
Houseright's meet-opening victory laid the cornerstone of a solid fourth-place finish for the Lady Blue Devils, who collected 45 team points.
Teammate Morgan Gose, who earned eight points Friday with her second-place finish in the long jump, took third in the 100 hurdles (15.21) , finished fourth in the high jump (5-2) and raised an ovation from the stadium after her valiant runner-up finish to Brunswick's Bria Stith in the 300 hurdles with a career-best time of 46.10.
Gose credited her grandfather, former Morristown East football coach Larry Smith for helping to improve her overall hurdling form over the last two weeks. But she also credited Stith — who won the 100 (14.7) as well as the 300 (45.54) — for providing motivation at crunch time.
"That girl definitely pushed me. If she hadn't been in front of me, I wouldn't have run like that," said Gose, who has been out front and all alone in both hurdles for most of this season. "She is a good athlete. I mean a really, really good athlete."
The Gate City 4x400 relay team of Sarah Kilgore, Hannah Kilgore, Kaely Gose and Rachel Kilgore capped the meet with a sixth-place finish that was good for three points. The Kilgore sisters and Chloe Lane gave Gate City a fourth in the 4x800 relay on Friday.
Brunswick's Brooke Stith — sister of Bria and daughter of Bryant — won the 2A 200 with a 25.76. Wise Central's Logan Reynolds, assigned the inside lane in the race for the first time, finished seventh at 27.04.
Discouraged about this year's showing at the state, the multisport dynamo wondered aloud if she might be spreading herself too thin. Track practice took a distant third to softball and travel basketball this spring.
"I'm not sure if I want to run next year. I just want to focus more on basketball for my senior year," Reynolds said. "Because I have so many things going on in the spring, it's really hard for me to train for track."
In 1A boys action, J.I. Burton's Ervin Beaty finished second in the 100 with an 11.37. He slipped to fifth in the 200 (23.72) because of a groin pull. Norton teammate Alex Keys took eighth in the triple jump (39-1). Thomas Walker's Justin Greer took fifth in the triple jump with a leap of 41-7.
In 1A girls action, Twin Springs teammates Kennede Matthews and Lenora Dingus each recorded an eighth-place finish, Matthews in the 100 dash (13.25) and Dingus in the 100 hurdles (18.67).
George Wythe's Meredith Willis was a girl on fire, leading the Lady Maroons (79 points) to the 1A team title. Willis picked up a win in the triple jump (37-8 1/4) to go with Friday's win in the long. She also won the 100 (12.42) and 200 (25.25) and anchored Wythe's winning 4x100 (48.05).