There were several nasty red marks on Mills Godwin's Britton Wilson as she sat down at a picnic table on the far end of the track after watching her Eagles compete in the 4x400.
The first was three by two inches, somewhat peanut-shaped and painful looking as the sun gave it focus on the top of her shoulder. There were others. Wilson's right knee looked like it had collaborated with a cheese grater, and the scrapes on her right wrist and temple were smaller, but noticeable.
As the sun prepared to set over Todd Stadium, it was obvious that these were battle scars that would probably be worn with enviable pride.
The Eagle may have endured one of the more painful paths toward an individual state title, which she earned with a victory in the 200, just hours after a nasty spill curtailed her 400 effort.
In the field, she had to deal with a 17th place finish in the long jump, with a best leap of 16-10, almost ten inches off her best of 17-8.5 from the Conference 11 championship.
Perhaps there would be a chance for redemption in the 400. With Grassfield's Lauryn Ghee sitting out the meet, one main competitor would be out. Granted, Nansemond River's star Syaira Richardson was also in the fast heat, but Wilson could be confident with her best time of 53.6, and knew she had a chance.
Her plan held to form. The sophomore battled with Richardson tooth and nail through two turns and a straightaway. Heading into the stretch, she was one step off Richardson's pace and refusing to give up any ground. The crowd at Todd hushed, waiting to see if Wilson could pull off one last burst in the final twenty meters.
What happened next was painful to watch. Four steps from the line, Wilson's balance started to get away from her, causing the youngster to lean too far forward, and on the next to last step, land head first on top of the finish line.
With a great presence of mind, Wilson picked herself up and crossed the finish line in second at 54.60, still 1.85 seconds ahead of third. But the sheer force with which she hit the track, and her inability to get hands in front of her to break the fall sent the spectators into a collective gasp, wondering if she would even be ready to compete again. There were also questions about a possible concussion.
"I felt like I was getting closer," said Wilson hours later, expressing a thought that was shared by many viewers. I just leaned and kind of fell forward. But Syaira deserved to win. She gave her all, and so did I."
Richardson's winning effort of 53.36 was just faster than Wilson's best time, but on Saturday, it was good enough to beat her existing state meet record of 54.27 from last year's win.
However, Wilson was still slotted to run the 200 finals, which she had qualified for on Friday. Her body hurt, but her mind and spirit needed to be worked on first.
"It hurt. In fact, it still stings," said Wilson, as if anyone who witnessed the fall would think otherwise. "But I had to get my head back in the game first. I knew that I was going to run the 200, even if I didn't fall."
The pain in her body didn't subside, but adrenalin took over. Still, there was an edge to Wilson as the calls for the 200 finals started coming over the P.A. system. "I always get a little nervous before a race. But this time, I knew that I was going to have to push through, and I told myself that I gotta do it!"
It didn't take long for the Eagle to know that a title was in her sights. "I felt really confident. Also, I got a good start from the blocks. Since I have been working on running the curves, that went well, and I made up the stagger."
Overcoming excruciating pain, Wilson left little doubt of the outcome as her personal-best time of 24.28 was .54 seconds ahead of Nansemond River's Anaya Monroe, who ran 24.82. She couldn't quite eclipse the state meet record of another WAR runner Brandee' Johnson (23.94), but hopes to get it next year.
Wilson will be competing in two events at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in mid-June - the open 400 and a 4x200 Emerging Elite race with her teammates.
It's too bad that points can't be awarded for guts before the race. Wilson might create a lead that's too wide to catch up with.