While I firmly believe the West Virginia State Track and Field Championships have avenues in which to improve to make a better meet, the athletes who congregate each year at the University of Charleston's Laidley Field are a joy and a privilege to watch.
More than two dozen state meet records were set Friday and Saturday in the three classes.
I saw athletes who couldn't walk after their races and some who looked like they didn't care.
I saw athletes walk off the track glad, mad or sad.
I saw batons dropped, hurdles smacked, false starts called, people no-height, foul too often and have step problems.
Why kids have step problems in field events at this time of year is far beyond me.
And, just for the record, I will never understand why long jumpers still run the wrong way up the runway to get their step. You run one way into the wind and the other way with the wind at your back.
It's called a tape measurer. Use it.
I saw athletes run down or get run down.
I didn't see anybody lose their lunch on the infield after their race (and if they did, there would have probably been 199 announcements stating that was no longer permissible), but I did see kids not able to walk after they crossed the finish line.
That's the way you run track - wobbly legs and all.
The really, really good
Heard at the state meet.
Q: "How you doin'?"
A: "Great. Still preaching and praying. Trying to keep them out of jail and hell."
The really good
All the athletes who make it down there and spill their guts emotionally and physically. It is a pleasure to watch you all compete.
Leading the way were two stud distance runners - St. Marys Maggie Drazba and Cabell Midland's Jacob Burcham.
Both are juniors.
Drazba won three more titles and all in state-meet record fashion.
Friday night she blitzed the field in the 3200. Her 10:59.09 was eight seconds faster than what she ran the year before and beat the next competitor by 75 seconds.
She backed that up Saturday with a blazing 4:56.23 in the 1600, eclipsing the record she set last year by almost 15 seconds and was 32 seconds in front of the second-place finisher.
Drazba capped her meet with a 2:20.35 in the 800, beating the mark she set a year ago by four seconds.
The 5-foot-1 standout has a 4.05 GPA and owns eight individual state track championships.
Unfortunately, her biggest rival, Charleston Catholic's Sami Harris, was out this track season with an ailment.
Here's two seeing this pair at full strength next May in Charleston.
Burcham, like Drazba, is a freak of nature - in the most positive way.
They both sprint from gun to finish.
Burcham clocked an 8:57.73 Friday night in the 3200, winning the event by almost 23 seconds and breaking his mark from a year ago by some 14 seconds.
He won the 1600 in 4:08.91, missing his state record set last year by .11 and tied his mark in the 800 in 1:54.01.
Watching underclassmen fully "get" the state meet experience and commenting on how they will work even harder to make another trip next year.
Watching seniors giving it everything they have in their last meet at that venue.
State championships in the discus by Oak Glen senior Ethan Delekta and Madonna junior Taylor Pavan.
Both realized dreams.
Delekta gets to continue his craft in college and Pavan looks to defend her title in 12 months.
Ali Crawford did not win a state title, but was most humble when talking about her experiences in Charleston as Brooke Bruins and how she really appreciates the sport and her teammates.
She is headed to West Virginia Wesleyan to continue her track career. Pretty good for an athlete who, as a freshman and sophomore, really understood that running in college was ever an option.
Again, it shows what hard work and love for a sport will do for your future.
The performance by Oak Glen senior Paige Smearman. Coach Diane Wells sent five hurdlers to the track Friday for the shuttle hurdle relay because Smearman was suffering from turf toe.
But, she was a go and gutted out a great performance.
In the process, she demonstrated a lot to her coaches and teammates - and herself.
Also an outstanding runner is Oak Glen junior Alexis Burch. She finished second in the 400 and third in the 100 and 200 and wasn't near 100 percent healthy.
I like her chances next year after a year of practicing in an on-campus facility and not at Tomlinson Run State Park.
Add to that list of outstanding distance runners Frankfort sophomore Katie Jan, who won the 800 (2:16.24), 1600 (5:14.43) and 3200 (11:42.08).
Frankfort sophomore sprinter Bria Welker is also good. She won state championships in the long jump (17-8), 100 (12.33), 200 (25.15) and 400 (57.13).
She set state records in the 200 and 400, the 400 breaking the 2006 mark of 57.48 by former Oak Glen standout Jordann Mitchell.
Dante Price, a junior at Jefferson High School, is so much fun to watch sprint. It appears effortless to him as he won the 100 (10.66), 200 (21.67) and anchored the winning 4x100 (42.20) and 4x200 (1:30.24) relay teams.
Good luck to Wheeling Park's Errin Baynes as he heads to the University of Southern California to continue his track and field career.
I really like his chances of greatly improving in the long jump and high jump after getting year-around coaching.
Liberty-Harrison senior Brandon Franklin also won four state titles in the long jump (21-9), 100 (10.81), 200 (21.86) and 400 (48.35).
If I missed anybody, and I am sure I did, I humbly apologize.
The track meet needs to start Friday about noon, not Friday at 2 p.m. This will allow Saturday not to be such a drag on athletes.
The 4x100 and 4x200 relays need to be run as preliminary events on Friday to allow one final in each race on Saturday. That eliminates 12 races on Saturday.
You can start Friday with one of the relays and end Friday with the other relay, after the 3200 runs.
The double heat thing in those races is, to me, not right.
The way I figure it, teams win those relays by running two good races - one in the regionals and one at the state meet.
The best relay teams should have to pass the baton well two days in a row in order to be state champs.
If you are going to keep double heats, do so in the 300 hurdles, the 400 and 4x400 relays.
And, please, administration, stop using the West Virginia WesTest as the reason for not running earlier on Friday.
That is a copout.
The time schedule is a mess.
If you are going to stop a state track meet for an hour, please use the last 10 minutes of that hour to hand out your special awards instead of stopping the meet 90 minutes later to do so.
Also, please quit expecting the shuttle hurdle relay to be done in 60 minutes.
It is NEVER done in 60 minutes. Please give it at least 75 minutes on the time schedule if you are going to honor that time schedule.
And, please, do not hold a race up early in the day when you are a few minutes ahead of schedule if you will run about 15 minutes late later in the day.
Please go to a rolling schedule.
And, finally, please, please, please, stop with all the announcements of umbrellas and tents in the stands.
You see something, have an official walk into the stands and talk to people face to face.
At least, this year, most of the football field was roped off so we didn't have to hear announcements ad nauseum about how spikes are not allowed on the football field.
Fine job by the Associated Press covering the state track meet.
So many story lines to choose from.
(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)