Williams upsets CAK's Giles in mile run

By Matt Hill

   KINGSPORT--After three years of falling short, Katie Williams finally conquered her nemesis on Thursday.
   The Happy Valley standout ended several years of frustration by upsetting CAK's Anna Giles in the girls 1,600 meter run during a rain-soaked Region I-A/AA Track and Field Championships at Sullivan North High School.
   Both Williams and Giles will move on to next Thursday's state meet in Memphis, as will everybody who finished in the top two in each event at yesterday's meet.
   Rain delayed the meet three times, but none of that seemed to get in the way of Williams finally defeating last year's state champ in the two mile.
   But this was the one mile, and after losing to Giles earlier in the day in the two mile, Williams ran the race of her life to end up victorious.
   Giles came in with a time of 5:19.28, while Williams ran an impressive 5:16.91.
   The time seemed to surprise Williams.
   "I had no idea," Williams said. "I had to take off a week a couple of weeks ago, because I hurt my knee. But I've been nursing it and it feels a whole lot better."
   Williams definitely had to battle the change in the weather throughout the day and the delays. But her biggest obstacle was trying to convince herself that she could beat Giles.
   Williams kept putting herself in a position to win, then made her pass toward the end of the race.
   For Williams, this looked to be the day where she was no longer intimidated by a state champion.
   "It gets to a point where you are intimidated by people, but it also comes to another point where you have to go ahead and push yourself when no one else can," she said. "I just told myself to go."
   Williams' strategy was to push herself at the end, and she stuck to the game plan.
   "(Happy Valley girls track coach Scotty Verran said) my time was close to hers, so I could get her if I just stayed behind her the whole race, and just let her set the pace. She does an awesome job. She's a great athlete."
   Another performance like this one by Williams next week could make her a state champion. Williams expects Giles to come ready for her.
   "We're both great athletes, and I say it will be a toss-up at state," Williams said. "It just depends on the weather, and how we both feel. We've just got to be focused. She's my competition, so I can't say I'm going to beat her or she's going to beat me. It just depends on the day."
   It was a day to remember for Williams. The same can be said for Warrior teammate David Hughes.
   Hughes took victories in the 3,200 and 1,600 meter runs, and also qualified for the state in the 800.
   His 3,200 time of 9:44.14 broke a school record set a few years back by Andy Curde. The 4:32.27 clip Hughes ran in the 1,600 was just shy of a meet record.
   As for breaking the school record, it's the one accomplishment Hughes thought he might not get despite all his success in track.
   "I'm happy I got it," Hughes said. "It's one of those records I didn't know I could break."
   This was a good tune-up for Hughes going into the Spring Fling. Hughes feels good about the 3,200, but hopes to surprise in the one mile as well.
   "Coach and I will come up with a strategy," Hughes said. "I haven't seen many people from other regions and I know some guys from Memphis, in particular the guy from Martin Luther King that finished runner-up in cross country, can run a good mile. We'll sit down and we'll talk about what we need to do, and pretty much dissect the race into splits. If I've got somebody there, maybe I'll sprint 200 meters on the third lap. But the mile is going to be tough for me to win."
   The Elizabethton Cyclones also had a good afternoon on Thursday, and that includes Vince Redd. Redd won both the boys shot put and discus.
   That puts Redd as one of the favorites to win the state in those events, but the state boys meet is on Friday in Memphis, just one day before graduation ceremonies at EHS.
   Redd feels like he is stuck between a rock and a hard place.
   "There's a chance I might not go," Redd said. "We'll see what happens."
   If the Virginia football and basketball signee does go to Memphis, he hopes to finish off a stellar athletic career with a bang.
   "Hopefully, I can get down there and try as hard as I can," Redd said.
   Other strong performances from EHS on Thursday included wins by Valnessha Redd in the girls long jump and triple jump, a victory by Tara Benfield in the girls shot put, and a triumph by Lester Bailey in the boys 100 meter dash.
   But the Cyclones' brightest stars on the day might have been some unsung heroes.
   Matt Young, Caleb McDaniel, Josh Jaynes and David McDaniel teamed up for a victory in the 4X800 relay with a time of 8:44.64, almost ten seconds quicker than their nearest competitor.
   "I'm just happy to be there," Young said about going to Memphis. "I think we're just money. We're good. I don't care how we do down there. It will be a good time.
   Caleb McDaniel, who ran the first leg for EHS, wanted to give this team a chance to win early.
   "I just rode one of the guys around the track," he said. "I had a little burst at the end and try to get my team together to win the race."
   For Jaynes, this is a dream come true for the freshman.
   "I'm just so psyched," Jaynes said. "I ran my best race of the season. Our team did great. It was a great day outside. I'm looking forward to going."
   For David McDaniel, Caleb's twin brother, it's a special moment for them to share together.
   "It's very special for us to be able to go down to the state," he said. "It's just a privilege to run down there. It doesn't matter if we go down there and get last place, it's just great to go down there."