Athlete of Week: Watkins seeks happy landing at CF

Carolina Forest senior Kayla Watkins has spent her entire track and field career racing the clock. Now in the homestretch of her illustrious high school campaign, Watkins has displayed poor timing.

Watkins, who was voted the Mammy’s Kitchen Athlete of the Week for her strong showing at the Beach Run Invitational, suffered a sprained left ankle on a landing and has been trying to rehab the injury in time for the Class 5A State Championships on May 11-12. She has been focused on improving her top-5 showings in the long jump and high jump last season, but now her gold-medal quest is in jeopardy.

“I injured it here at the Beach Run. I think I did it on my last jump,” recalled Watkins, who managed to win the long jump and tie for first place in the high jump at Thursday’s Region 6-5A meet at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium to lead the Lady Panthers to the team title. “I’ve been trying to stay off it and let it heal. I tried to go today, but it’s just not ready yet. Hopefully before states.”

The Lady Panthers scored 127 points to edge West Florence (118). If Watkins had withdrawn from either jumping event Thursday, her team would have lost the region title. Instead she dug deep and made a leap of faith for her team at the place where her track and field career began nearly a decade ago. She entered the “Fasted Kid Race” and won, prompting her to reverse courses on her sport of choice.

In the years since, Watkins has won Junior Olympics events as well as high school meets, and she will again in the future as a member of the Coastal Carolina University squad.

“That was a long time ago. I was 9 when I ran in the ‘Fastest Kid Race’ and I said, ‘Maybe this is my sport.’ I had been in gymnastics and got hurt, so I decided to do track and field,” said Watkins, acknowledging the irony of the injury. “I want to finish up strong (on my high school career), but I’m really looking forward to going to Coastal. It’s close to home and I love the coaching staff.”

But first Watkins hopes to get off (and land) on the right foot to cap her stellar prep career. As a master olf many events, Watkins has an impressive list of personal-best times to her credit – the 100 meters (12.51) the 200 meters (25.57), the high jump (5-2) and the long jump (18-1). With a little luck, time and healing, Watkins hopes to come in for a successful landing to her high school career.

Photo by Prep Stars Media

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