Riverside's Groom claims state track discus title

May 23—CHARLESTON — The heart and soul of the Riverside High girls track and field team responded in stellar fashion last weekend.

Cianna Groom, a RHS sophomore, cemented herself as the Warriors' newest state track and field champion on Friday, May 17.

Groom emerged triumphant in the Class AAA girls discus throw with a best throw of 120 feet, 8 inches, which she logged on her third attempt in the first round.

She fouled on all three of her final throws, which she admitted was "a little rough," but she held on to defeat runner-up Cameron Clary (118-9), of Cabell Midland, and the rest of the field.

On her winning toss, Groom said, "I felt like I could have threw it a little bit further, but ..."

The championship "means a lot," Groom said Friday. "I always wanted to be a champion, and just to do it is crazy."

Asked if she thought ahead of the event if she could rise to the top, she said simply, "Always."

Hard work "every day" helped get her to the top of the championship podium, she said. "I'm just so happy."

She said she always thought she could have success, "God willing."

Groom didn't advance to the state meet her freshman season, placing sixth in region competition in 92-11.

Forrest Boggess, who coaches the Warriors alongside Michael Terrell, said Groom's win was important for the school.

"This is the first state champion that we've had since Darius Booker (Class AAA 200 champion in 2015)," Boggess said. "And I think that this is huge for us because, as a program coming back from the pandemic, it's hard to pinpoint success. There's a broken chain there.

"It's nice to have the success and have (the hard work) pay off. Cianna didn't make states from regionals last year, and to come back and win it ...

"She told me last year, she told me point blank, 'Coach, I'm going to come down and win it next year.'"

He admitted to a little skepticism, because "kids say those things."

"But you could see it in practice all the time, a little better all the time," Boggess said. "In regionals, I don't know what it was, but it clicked." Groom had a 129-8 heave in Region 3 qualifying.

"To be honest, I couldn't be more proud of somebody who is young and composed at the same time. She always has a big smile, she is always hard working. ... She is a leader through her actions, not just what she says. I don't know, she's kind of the spirit animal of our team."

Terrell, a former East Bank and Riverside high athlete, took over as girls head coach this year and brought a lot of positivity in impacting the overall program, Boggess said.

Freshman Ava Ward provided the remaining three points for the Riverside girls. Ward was sixth in the long jump with a best of 17-0 1/4.

The Warrior boys scored eight points over the course of the weekend. Skylar Hudnall placed in both the 800- and 1600-meter runs. Hudnall, a senior, was sixth in the 1600 with a clocking of 4:20.4, and he placed eighth in the 800 in 1:59.6. Teammate Sam Peters was fifth in the shot put with a heave of 48-0 1/2.

----Conlan Brooks gave it his all but came up just a little short.

Not that he was complaining. In the least.

The Oak Hill High School junior remained upbeat this past weekend as the championships drew to a close.

The highlight of Brooks' competitive weekend occurred in the Class AAA 400-meter dash Saturday morning. He pushed favorite Keyshawn Robinson, of Jefferson, to the finish line, with Robinson clocking 49.23 and Brooks 49.91. Brooks' brother, Nolan, was fifth in 50.47.

The two Brooks brothers later teamed up with James Green and Carson Treadway to place third for the Red Devils in 3:27.6 in the meet-concluding 4x400 relay.

Conlan Brooks also placed sixth in the 200 (22.62) and seventh in the 100 (11.31).

"I've been working really hard," Conlan Brooks said after competing in the 100 final Saturday afternoon. "This year (with) my coach, we switched more to mid-distance for the 4, and it's shown. I started the season around 53 seconds, and every meet was just a little PR, nothing too crazy.

"I came out here today looking forward to running against Keyshawn. The dude's made of pure speed, absolutely amazing athlete. I looked at him before the race started and said, 'I'm going to use you to get 49 today.' And I did, I ran 49.

"I felt amazing after."

Dipping under 50 seconds gave Brooks a personal best time for the one-lapper, and his coach, George Smith, says he is nearly certain that the 49.91 is a school record.

Smith's research revealed Jovare Brown's 50.03 clocking in the 2013 state meet as the fastest FAT (fully automatic timing) clocking by a Red Devil boy in the 400 of which he is aware.

"Conlan has been that guy," Smith said. "We've kind of gotten closer and he trusts the training.

"He doesn't shy away from the hard work. It was good to see the return for his work."

"He is a good soccer player, as well, but he is a runner," Smith added. "That's what he is designed for.

"I've never coached a kid to go under 50."

"I'm more of a 2-4 guy, the 1 is really not my thing," Brooks said following the 100 race. "But, good enough to make it here, so that's good enough for me."

"Making it here in general is the best thing," he added. "Whether I get eighth or first, I'm going to be be happy no matter what. Like I said, it's a blessing, period. I couldn't ask for more."

Besides track and field, Conlan and Nolan, a freshman, also play soccer together, he noted. And they support each other while pushing each other competitively. The two are "friendly opponents, not rivals," Conlan said.

"I couldn't do this without my mom (Kristen Brooks)," the elder Brooks said. "Neither would it be without my coaches. My coaches have been with me since middle school. Without them, I wouldn't be here."

"This sport is an awesome sport," he concluded. "I'd say it's arguably the best sport as in partnership and in friendship. You can always come out here and have a couple of laughs, joke around with each other and still compete like you've never known the other.

"It's an amazing sport. I love it."

"They're both special boys, very talented, good kids," Smith said of the Brooks brothers.

Smith said the Red Devils looked at the 4x400 relay as a centerpiece of their weekend effort. "That was our showpiece that we had worked on," he said. "I felt we could go 3:26 with the group we had, and we went out there and ran 3:27, almost an eight-second PR."

"With Conlan, we knew he was good," Smith said. "We tried to develop Nolan a little more this year (even running him in the 300 hurdles at a few meets).

"It made Conlan better because he knew his brother was right on his heels," said Smith. "It made James better, and Carson and James improved, too. It was kind of a group effort."

He said the improvement of the younger Brooks and Treadway was visible as they matured during the season. "Carson and Nolan are both freshmen, so they got a little taste of that competition. They absolutely performed well."

Senior Holden Hayes, a member of the 4x400 team a year ago who teamed up with fellow senior Je'zer Battle, Nolan Brooks and Isaiah Conley to form this year's 4x200 unit at the state meet, provided a big assist in region qualifying for the 4x400 quartet, Smith explained. "Holden ran 4x4 regionals because James was sick. If it weren't for Holden, that 4x4 team wouldn't have even qualified."

"We have a lot of good there (in returning runners) to build from," said Smith. "Hopefully all those guys will all come back."

Overall, the Red Devil boys scored 23 points to finish in a tie for 12th with Buckhannon-Upshur. Cabell Midland accumulated 108 points to grab the boys team title.

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