Among those competing in the 2019 WVSSAC State Track and Field Championships this Friday and Saturday in Charleston will be two athletes each from Fayetteville and Valley high schools.
That in itself is unremarkable. But, in the wake of the FHS baseball team and the VHS softball squad being eliminated from postseason play on Wednesday, the track and field quartet will be the final athletes donning the team uniforms of their respective schools in high school events as the two schools — minus final work by teachers and staff, moving equipment and continued planning for the arrival of elementary- and middle-level students in the buildings next fall — are now effectively closed.
In Class A, the Fayetteville Pirates will be represented by Jack Ellis and Liz Rahall, the latter a recent Fayetteville graduate, and the Valley Greyhounds will be represented by junior Kaylee Nickoson and Crystal Coleman, who accepted her Valley diploma last Saturday.
Ellis, a junior, has qualified in the 110-meter hurdles and the 300-meter hurdles, while Rahall will compete in the 3200-meter run. The Class A boys 110 hurdles preliminary heats will begin at 3:50 p.m. Friday, with the finals set for Saturday. The single-A boys 300 hurdles finals are planned for 11:50 a.m. Saturday. The A girls 3200 final is expected to leave the start line at 7 p.m. Friday.
For Valley, Nickoson advanced in both the high jump and the long jump. In fact, she was Region 3 champion in the long jump for the second straight year last Thursday. Coleman will join Nickoson in the long jump field. The Class A girls high jump final will begin at 2 p.m. Friday, while the long jump will be staged at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Fayetteville head coach Chris Selvey anticipates his athletes' participation in the state meet. He said earlier this week his squad recently practiced in Fayetteville, rather than making the normal trip to Oak Hill, where the team can more accurately gauge its progress. It was fitting for the runners to practice at their own home base, said Selvey. At least one practice included a fun run down to the Dairy Queen for ice cream, he said.
"There were some misty eyes," said Selvey. "The kids have bought into being a Pirate; it (closure) is a tough deal."
Selvey himself is one of the many Pirates who have made big contributions to the school's track and field history. He was a member of the 1984 FHS squad, coached by Walter Beene (head) and Willie Marshall (assistant), which was the Class AA-A state boys team runner-up. The Pirates fell just shy of winner Dunbar. Selvey, who was a solid 300-meter hurdler and sprinter back in the day, was a member of Fayetteville's 4x400 relay unit (David Miller, Donald McDowell and Kent McKown were the other three members) which established a state record of 3 minutes, 26.99 seconds in winning the race in 1984.
The qualifying times of Ellis and Rahall aren't among the leaders in their respective events going into the weekend. "We've got some definite work to do," Selvey said. "But (as to advice to his athletes), give it your all and that's all we ask."
Valley head coach Veronica Argento noted that Nickoson and Coleman provided big contributions as the Greyhound girls placed fourth with 36 points in last week's Region 3 meet, their best showing in the team race in a while.
"There are a lot of up-and-comers (on the team)," she said, many whom plan to attend Riverside High next fall.
While several of the boys squad members seemed to lose interest as the season progressed, Argento said the girls "hung in there."
Nickoson "is goal-driven and is a competitor," said Argento. Nickoson, who added a Gazette-Mail Relays winning high jump of 4-10 to her accomplishments earlier this spring, is, however, nursing some injuries as the state meet arrives.
There have been emotional times for the Greyhound students and teachers this year, admitted Argento, a veteran teacher at the Smithers school who will be on staff next fall when the elementary/middle school opens in the current school building.
"They (the students) didn't want to have to go somewhere else," she said. "There were a lot of tears the last day."
She said the fact that Nickoson and Coleman will be the school's last two athletes will figure into the equation, but not be the be-all and end-all. "I think they're competitors, and they're just out there to compete. Each (wants) to do their best."
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