The track and field athletes from The Herald's circulation area definitely put on a show at this year's state meet at Spring Valley High School.
As quick as a wink, they began winning gold medals by the bunches during the Class AAAA and Class AAA meets, which were run at the same time.
The belle of the ball was Rock Hill's Erika Owens, The Herald's Girls Track Athlete of the Year, who said afterward she was sticking to her word "for now'' that it was the last meet of her career.
If it was, she left with a world of memories and three gold medals draped around her neck. Owens won the 100 and the 200 and ran a leg on the Lady Bearcats' winning 4x100 relay team.
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Chester's Devin Jackson won two gold medals, but he covered 100 meters like a NASCAR driver speeding down the backstretch in winning the event. After Rock Hill's relay gold, Jackson led the Cyclones to first place in his next event.
Jackson will be back next year and has run a 10.62 handheld 100. Who knows. Maybe he'll go lower next year when it counts and the electronic timer is on.
Chester coach Victor Floyd won't be back after leading his boys team to two straight second-place finishes. He's moved to Georgia, where he'll coach the football team at Brunswick High School.
Floyd took Chester's football and track teams to new heights in his four seasons. Like the track team, his football team was state runner-up in the fall.
Owens said this was the season she's been waiting for. After striking gold twice as a sophomore, she was shut out at last year's state meet. You could tell by the intensity in her eyes, she wasn't going to let it happen again.
The first mission was to help her three teammates -- Gabrielle Lee, Tierra Williams, Maya Stewart -- on the relay team win. After all, Owens said, she had her gold medals and wanted to get one for them being it was her last meet.
The relay team went in with the fastest time in the state at :47.54. Nothing changed as the Lady Bearcats took first place with a time of :47.86.
"Winning the relay meant more to me than the two individual medals,'' Owens said. "I wasn't running for somebody to look at me. I wasn't running for individual titles. I was running for the relay and my coach. Winning the 100 and 200 was icing on cake.
Owens spoke with several schools at the beginning of the school year and was seriously considering running in college. She said she went back and forth in her mind thinking about pressure and time management once she gets to school.
She could certainly have accepted a scholarship to run but decided to give up track.
"I work fine under pressure but want to get acclimated to college and have only one thing on my mind,'' she said. "Everybody thought that after the state meet I'd change my mind. But I haven't changed it.
"I'm going to school early because I'm majoring in biology and have to take a few classes. Because I've put school first, the state meet was my last.''
Owens wants to be a podiatrist and is headed to South Carolina State in Orangeburg because of its biology program. She visited in November regarding track.
Instead she'll be a full-time student but did leave a small crack in the door.
"I thought I wanted to run but ended up changing my mind,'' Owens said. "They still might try to talk me into it. Who knows what might happen?''
Jackson's two gold medals came with mixed emotions. Sure, he wanted to win as may state titles as possible. But he and his teammates were running for another reason. They wanted to win the state championship for Floyd.
"Coach Floyd has meant a lot to all of us,'' Jackson said. "He proved to us we could make it to the state meet and win. I just hate that we came up short.''
Jackson won the 100 at 10.99 and ran on the state champion 4x100 relay team that blazed to a 42.65. He was fourth in the 200.
Jackson, a junior, was in the eighth grade when Floyd spotted him. He was on the court with a step team during a home basketball game, cutting flips and doing all kinds of moves. Floyd saw his athletic ability and invited him out for football and track.
"We only took 12 boys and still finished second in the state,'' said Jackson, a wide receiver in football. "We were trying to get focused and get our minds ready on the bus ride down there. We wanted to win and thanks to coach Floyd, we feel we have the foundation to keep it going in track.
"I like going to meets to compete against other runners. The 100 is my favorite race because it doesn't take that long. You know in 11 seconds or less what's going on.''
Floyd said he's proud of the guys for their work ethic and knows they will continue to excel with him gone.
He took over the track team because he felt it would help Chester's athletic program. And by coaching track, it was easier to keep a finger on his athletes to make sure their grades were in order and they that were doing the right things.
"I looked for numbers, the guys who didn't play baseball or other spring sports,'' Floyd said. "I told them we needed them to come out and help us. Track is the best sport that complements other sports as far as athletic development.
"It's tough to leave, but the guys are in good hands. The team has enough leadership in the rising senior class to help whoever comes in to coach be successful. They will do well and with Blythewood going to Class AAAA next year, they might have a better chance to win the state.''