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Woodrow girls have momentum heading to regionals

May 3—Momentum being the big thing that it is in sports, the Woodrow Wilson girls track team must like where it stands at the moment.

The Flying Eagles put together an impressive performance at last week's Tudor's Biscuit World Charleston Relays and won the event by one point. It was indeed a team effort, with 23 girls setting personal records in contributing to the win.

"Definitely, competing against a lot of the bigger teams really helped us, to give us that extra drive," senior Ama Ackon-Annan said during the Beckley Last Chance Invitational Friday evening. "It kind of let us know what we're going to be up against for regionals and states."

"I think we definitely have been doing pretty good as a team recently," agreed Somalia Nelson, "and as we go into states I think we're just getting better and better. I think we're just doing pretty good."

Friday's results bear that out. The Flying Eagles ran away with their home meet, the final tuneup before next week's Class AAA Region 3 Championships, set for May 10 at UC Stadium at Laidley Field.

"Throughout the week these kids are really working hard," head coach George Barbera said. "We had a great workout last Tuesday. The sprint runners were doing their 300 and 200 reps and they just looked really strong. And they've been progressing throughout the season and earning personal bests. And this Saturday they just let it out, and a lot of them jumped up rankings in the top 10 in the state, not just in the region, so we were real proud of them. It's the hard work they put in Monday through Thursday."

The significance of last weekend's performance — one which vaulted the Flying Eagles to No. 5 in the Class AAA power rankings — was not lost on anyone, including senior Kyndall Ince, from both a results perspective and in regard to history.

"Actually, that was the first time in history that Woodrow Wilson girls have ever won — it used to be called the Gazettes (Relays)," Ince said. "So that sparked us all again and it made us all super excited. Now we have the confidence to beat anybody. We were there with the best of the best, and who we will be up against at regionals and states. It gave us a lot of confidence and I'm excited."

Winners in Charleston were Ackon-Annan (100, 200) and Nelson in the high jump with a PR of 5 feet, 3 inches. The team of Ince, junior Salia Harris, Ackon-Annan and senior Vai Simmons won the 4x200.

Cadence Reid and Phoenix Gauldin were second, fourth and sixth in the shot put. Senior Leiloni Manns was second in the discus, Reid fourth and Gauldin eighth.

Simmons was second in the long jump.

Experience is on their side. Their only senior lost from last season was Bella Staples, the Class AAA state discus champion.

"We have eight seniors on the varsity team right now, and they have been with me two or three years, so it's going to be an emotional ending to this season," Barbera said. "They've turned the program around on the sprint side. We've got a couple of distance runners, but the rest of them are sprinters, throwers or hurdlers. They've just really raised the bar for the younger kids, and the area."

Next stop is regionals, and they feel they are ready.

"I feel like we haven't had any super competitive meets, and it was good to go (to Charleston) and really see how we pair up," Simmons said. "I think we're getting better every week. Come states we're going to be ready to take on anybody. Last week we won by one point and it just showed we want it. We're going to want it more than anybody else on the track."

Performing well at the site where the regional and state meets will be held was big, Harris said.

"Going down to Laidley was really good for us, because like everyone says, the air at Laidley is different," she said. "It's ten times more competitive than any other meet. It's really good for us to go there because that's where our regionals are and the state meet will be. It's good for us to compete against the better teams like Huntington and Capital and South Charleston.

"Like Vai said, us winning by one point shows that we do truly want it and we will fight for it."

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