Track & Field: Watkins lifts Panthers to region crown

The Carolina Forest girls track and field team captured the Region 6-5A championship on Thursday, thanks in part to a heroic effort by senior standout Kayla Watkins.

Despite nursing a sprained left ankle, Watkins captured first place in the long jump with a leap of 16 feet, 6.5 inches, and tied for first in the high jump (4-8) to earn 19 pivotal points for her team. The Lady Panthers tallied 127 points to edge West Florence (118) and Conway (116) for the region title, but perhaps at the expense at a state title run for the all-state track and field star.

“I injured it here at the Beach Run (earlier this month). I think I did it on my last jump,” recalled Watkins, who pulled out of the 200 meters because of the injury. “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.”

If Watkins had withdrawn from either jumping event Thursday, her team would have lost the region title. She earned 10 points in the long jump, when she tweaked the ankle injury, and managed to earn a tie in the high jump with Savannah Jordan of West Florence. Both were awarded nine points, but had Watkins not jumped the Lady Knight would have picked up 10 points and the team victory.

Watkins had lots of help as Ashtyn Poirier won the 100 hurdles (16.64), Olivia Growe won the 400 meter hurdles (1:11.94) and was second in the 800 meters (2:39.73), Hailey Carpenter finished second in the pole vault (7-6), Dejah Knox took second in the shot put (29-9.5), and Keyana Finkley placed third in the 400 meters.

The Carolina Forest boys took second in the team standings with 130.33 points, just shy of winner Sumter (149.66) and ahead of third-place Conway (74). The Panthers were led by winners Bryce Crawford in the discus (130-8) and shot put (48-3), Dylan Martinez in the 800 meters (2:04.57). Shawn Mallo placed second in 110 meter hurdle and third in high jump and triple jump. The Panthers also won the 4×800 relay.

Conway’s Jalen Moody second in the shot put (47-10), Malik Morant was second in the discus (119-1), Shawn Cox was second in the high jump (5-8)and Rakim Bellamy was second in the 200 meters (22.81). In girls action, LaPashu Whittingon (12.39) and Keniah Wallace (12.42) finished 1-2 the 100 meters (12.39), then reversed spots in the 200 meters (26.07 to 26.13). Lenaejha Evans second in the triple jump (32-0.25) and third in the long jump (15-3.5), Antija Whitehead placed second in the 100 meters (17.56) and the 400 meters (1:02.79), and the Lady Tigers took the 4×100 relay.

The Socastee boys and girls finished fifth and sixth, respectively, but had some strong individual performances. Brianna Young won the girls discus by more than 50 meters with a toss of 136-4 and the shot put (29-10) by a half-inch. Kenney Solomon won the long jump (21-6) and 100 meters (11.01), and Bricen Nguyen won the 110 hurdles (15.76) and the 400 hurdles (59.67).

The top four teams and qualifiers advance to the Lower State on May 5 and the SCHSL State Championships on May 11-12.

Photo by Prep Stars Media

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