KINGSPORT — As in past Times-News Relays, Southwest Virginia athletes took home their share of medals and awards in Friday’s 32nd running of the elite track and field event.
For some of them, “home” was a little farther up the road than average.
Consider Keifer Titus, the 6-foot-4, 195-pound sprinter who took the gold in the 200, owning the field with a 22.31. He came from Floyd County — about 146 miles up yonder, north and east of Wytheville.
“About two weeks ago, our coach told us we were going to try to get into it,” Titus said of the Times-News meet. “I didn’t know what the qualifications were. But we ended up getting in the 4x100 and I got in for the 200, and it worked out well.”
Talent from up the interstate certainly helped raise the competitive stakes. Even so, some of the more impressive performances arrived by way of U.S. 23.
Powell Valley’s Taylor Barton collected the Gary Buchanan Award as the top male in field events for his performance in the discus. He collected the gold with a terrific throw of 140-5 — then immediately ran off to get tuxedoed up for the prom.
Appalachia’s Forrest Stuart, meanwhile, made a big splash with his winning performance of the 110 hurdles — a showcase of speed and athleticism.
Stuart took the gold with a 15.22, outrunning silver medalist Nick Groves of Patrick Henry (15.27). Groves went on to take a bronze in the 300 hurdles.
“I came out on a slow start a little bit. I felt like I did,” Stuart said. “But when the other guys hit some hurdles I just tried to kick some speed in and keep going.
“This is my favorite race. It was good to come out here, gain the lead and have a real good time.”
Stuart came into the long jump seeded first, but ended up taking the silver with a leap of 20-7¾. Science Hill’s Ryan Mitchell beat him with a 21-5¾.
Lebanon’s Kaylynn Cobb claimed the Shannon Banks Award as the top male in running events.
Cobb took the bronze in the 200 behind Titus and Dobyns-Bennett’s Derrick Steele, but it was his victory in the super-tight 100 field that impressed meet scorekeepers.
Cobb clocked an 11.36 (11.352) to beat out Marion’s Spencer Fontenot (11.357) for the gold.
“I just went on YouTube and tried to learn some new forms. It started off pretty good but I had a little trouble keeping my head down,” said the Pioneers’ sophomore speedster, who said he didn’t feel any added pressure as the top seeded sprinter in the 100 field.
“I’ve gone to some bigger meets like at VMI and UT and guys up there run Olympic times,” Cobb said. “I knew guys around here weren’t running no Olympic times. So I didn’t feel any pressure.”
Coeburn’s Lindsay Lawson turned heads with her gold medal performance in the girls 400 (62.27), also a personal best.
“I was pretty nervous coming into it,” Lawson said. “I was coming up hoping to place and not expecting to win. But I worked hard in practice and I guess it pays off.”
George Wythe’s Martha Walters won the high jump at 5-2.