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Congratulations to state qualifiers

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By Matt Birkholtz

It is amazing the amount of athleticism high school students can obtain in a short amount of time.

Three of the five student-athletes that went to Louisville last week, had only done their qualifying event(s) just this season and were already one of the top 24 in the state in their respective classes.

On May 17, Williamstown competed in the Class A State Meet at the University of Louisville.

I have gone the past two years, because of what it takes for these individuals to succeed at their level of competition, especially Williamstown High School, which doesn’t even have a home track to practice on. Just recently, did Blake Edmondson and Alex Prokopchak have a pit to practice their jumping technique.

Yet, here I was making the two-hour drive down to Louisville to see not one, but four Williamstown track and field athletes’ performing with the best the state has to offer.

As I approached the parking garage across from the stadium, I realized I had left my hat at home, which meant I was going to get pretty burnt, looking as red as the cardinals around campus.

After I signed in at the media tent, I put my bags down and started my walk to where the shot put and discus events are held. They are actually not located with the track stadium, but are two blocks down towards the football stadium.

While I am walking and am stopped at a crosswalk, I get asked a question by a woman in a car. I was not expecting the woman to be Williamstown track coach Michelle Whaley, asking where the team checkpoint was.

I continued my walk to the event and waited for Quade Simpson, Whaley and Simpson’s parents to come to where he would be throwing the shot put.

Simpson was able to practice with his flight, which is the 12 athletes he would be throwing with in the first round.
Simpson was just two spots from being with the top 12 throwers.

Simpson after three throws, threw a distance of 40 feet, 1 ¼ inches. The final qualifying distance was 40 feet, 2 ½ inches, missing the finals by just 1 ¼ inches. An amazing feat for someone who just began throwing this year with the help of his father, Jim Simpson, who was a state qualifier in the shot put during his high school days.

With Simpson’s day over, him and I walked over to get ready to watch the next event, which was the girl’s long jump, which Prokopchak just began doing this season as well and was ranked eighth in the state going into the event.

State can bring the nerves out in athletes in new events and that proved to happen with Prokopchak, who had both her parents, Len and Kimberly Prokopchak there in support.

Prokopchak scratched two of her three jumps and didn’t qualify for finals. Her disappointment showed on her face with frustration after each jump. Her father, Len, said, “That shows how much they care.”

Prokopchak later did the triple jump and the nerves weren’t there this time as she jumped close to her personal record, 32 feet, 6 ¼ inches and finished 13th overall in the event.

The biggest part of the day was the 100-meter dash, which included two Williamstown athletes, Blake Edmondson and Sean Moreland. Both ran their best times of the season, with Edmondson running an 11.46 seconds, which landed him in eighth place, medaling in the event. Moreland ran a time of 11.7 seconds, which placed him in 21st place.

Edmondson also competed in two other events, the 200-meter dash and the long jump. He ran the 200-meter dash in a time 23.22 seconds, a personal record for him and finished in ninth place overall. In the long jump, he was disappointed with his final distance, 18 feet, 9 inches, and a 15th place finish.

The day was long and the heat had gotten to me, but to see them perform this well, I was anticipating my trip back to Louisville to watch Grant County’s lone qualifier, Taylor Cummins, compete in the discus throw.

On Saturday, I drove back down to Louisville to watch Cummins. After signing back in with the media tent, I walked again over to the throwing stage to get photos of her performing.

It’s amazing how quick the throwing events can be. Within 15 minutes, Cummins had already thrown three times, with her longest distance being 75 feet even.

Again, she was disappointed with her throws, but if you look at it, she was a state qualifier in an event that she just began competing in four weeks ago. I can’t imagine if I was still in high school and tried an event for the first time, that I would be able to compete, yet alone be a state qualifier.

All five of these student-athletes’ should be proud for the accomplishments they achieved this season. As one of the final sports coverage events I will cover here for the Grant County News, it was an honor to be able to cover them, watching them compete with the best of the best. Good luck next season and for Edmondson and Moreland, good luck with college and your future endeavors.

(Matt Birkholtz is the sports writer for the Grant County News. He can be reached at 859-824-3343 or by e-mail at mbirkholtz@grantky.com.)