The 200 meter dash was the third to last event at Saturday’s VHSL Class 2 outdoor track state championship meet. The race was slated to begin about five hours after the day started, in the hottest part of the day.
Martinsville’s De’Niya Gravely debated not even competing in the 200. The Bulldogs senior came into the day battling a quad injury, something that grew progressively worse as the meet went on. She had already won two state championships earlier in the day in the 100 meter dash and the triple jump, so it would have been understandable if she accepted that and called it a day.
Good thing she didn’t.
Gravely came around the curve at the end of the first 100 meters neck-and-neck with her competitors, and pulled away in the final stretch to win the 200 with a time of 22.58, nearly half a second faster than second place.
“I was debating not even doing it,” Gravely said of the 200, her fifth and final event of the day. “And Coach (Kelvin) Jackson was like, ‘If you feel like you can’t do it, just false start.’ I was like ‘I think I can do it. So I just did it.’
“I just felt like I didn’t have a choice. I made it this far, there wasn’t any point in quitting now.”
Unless her competitors would have been able to build a sizable lead on Gravely in the early part of the 200, there was likely no way they could have caught her down the final stretch. In her first running event of the day Saturday, she ran 12.10 seconds in the 100 meter dash to not only take home her first state title, but also break the VHSL Class 2 state record, previously set at 12.22.
Gravely’s win in the 100 helped her stay unbeaten in the event this season.
And it wasn’t just on the track where Gravely shined. She also took home a state title in the triple jump, with a final jump of 37-feet, 16 inches further than second place.
Gravely said, despite this weekend being her first time at a state event, she never let the spotlight or the size of the stage get in her head.
“I have to keep talking to myself throughout the meet, like, ‘Relax, do what you’ve got to do, what you’ve been doing all season.’ It’s just nerve wracking I guess.
“Just telling myself, ‘It’s your last meet. You’ve got to finish. You might as well finish, you’re here now.’ ... I try not to overdo it.”
The quad injury had hampered Gravely throughout the week, and Bulldogs Coach Kelvin Jackson said she practiced on it all week, even on days when she really shouldn’t have.
Saturday’s three titles, he said, is a testament to her work ethic.
“She is the hardest working girl in the state,” Jackson said. “And it showed today. She didn’t want to do some of the things she did today, but we weren’t about the let her get out of having the opportunity to win like she did. She deserved that. She worked that hard. And she talked about her leg and how much her leg bothered her, it’s been bothering her since the beginning of the week. She came in, she worked on it, she iced in, she practiced... So she deserves everything she got today.”
In addition to the three state titles, Gravely also finished third in the high jump with a final jump of 4-feet, 10-inches. She was also the anchor leg of the girls 4x100 meter relay team that finished fourth with a time of 51.26 seconds.
“I’m excited because I know if keep working I’m going to keep progressing,” Gravely said.