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On track for another big year

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If Buckhannon-Upshur's Emily Godwin is going to make this season's encore even better than last year's performance, she's going to need some help from her friends.

The Bucs girls track team had its two-year streak of state meet championships snapped unexpectedly by Morgantown last season, although it would be impossible for Godwin to contribute anything more.

Godwin rang up four individual state titles, claiming first in the 100-meter hurdles and 300 hurdles, the long jump and the high jump en route to winning high-point honors at the meet and earning the Gatorade West Virginia girls track and field athlete of the year honor for the second time in June.

 She committed on Feb. 12 to run at North Carolina next year, and on Thursday she made her first appearance of the season in the Kanawha Valley as B-U competed in the Sam LeRose/Stan Smith/Walt Dryden Memorial meet at Laidley Field. Godwin won all four of her events - the 100 hurdles, 400, 200 and long jump - and was the high-point award winner in leading Buckhannon-Upshur to the team title.

"It was a little bit overwhelming during the end of the summer and the fall figuring out where I wanted to go," Godwin said. "I took a couple of official visits and unofficial visits but when I went to Chapel Hill I just knew that's where I was supposed to go. It was a relief to finally know where I was going to go to college. I'm really excited, a little nervous, but excited to start that chapter of my life."

Before that chapter begins, quite a few people hope she can help close her final prep season with a third team championship in four years. Put longtime Bucs coach Jackie Zuliani solidly in that group.

"It slipped away from us," Zuliani said of last spring's missed opportunity. "It was ours to win and we didn't get a few things done, which happens, but it hurts worse when you know it was yours to lose. We're going to do what we can. Morgantown has a lot of people, huge team this year, so they have more to mess around with. We'll take it one meet at a time, one day at a time."

No matter how many people Morgantown or any other team has, there is only one of Godwin, and her presence should be enough to make B-U a contender all year long.

"She's an extremely special young lady," Zuliani said. "Not only as a track athlete but she's a great kid. She's a great student, just an overall role model to young people and a great member of our community. It's really special for me because I've known her since she was little, and then being able to coach and to see her go on to Division I."

Other than Godwin, the Bucs also returned a few others that scored points at the state meet last season.

That list includes senior Lauren Cvechko (fifth place in high jump and 100 hurdles) and a pair of field athletes in junior Mackenzie Leigh and senior Mercedes Dowell. Leigh finished second at the state meet in shot put and fourth in discus while Dowell finished second in the discus and sixth in the shot.

Buckhannon-Upshur also won the shuttle-hurdles relay with Cvechko anchoring.

Godwin said the team's goal of a state championship at the end of the season is attainable but, like her coach, wants to take everything one meet at a time.

"I really want to beat all of my personal records and to help out the team," Godwin said. "I think it will be close this year and it will be whoever has a good day [will win the state meet]. I think we [have a shot], we've been working really hard. The weather has been different this year but I think we have a shot and we'll just have to see."

"[Today] I'm just trying to have a good second meet and do better than the first meet."

Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, ryan.pritt@wvgazette.com.


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