Washington High School junior, Rayana Burns, overcame an injury she sustained in the Lady Lions’ District championship basketball victory over Vinton County on Feb. 27 to make it back for the last few meets of the 2019 track season.
Burns is now an eight-time State qualifier in track as she will compete in the 400-meter dash at the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium at The Ohio State University Friday at 3 p.m.
As a freshman, Burns qualified to State in the high jump, the 100, 200 and 400-meter dashes.
Last year, she went to State in the 400-meter dash and high jump, placing third in both events and the 200-meter dash.
“She has overcome a lot of adversity,” Washington head girls track coach Louis Reid said. “She’s basically come back six weeks later from the injury she suffered. She’s only been working out and running for six weeks. (The State meet) will be her sixth meet of the season.
“The fact that she is almost at the level she was last year is very impressive,” Reid said. “For a lot of athletes, it would be difficult to get back to that high level. She was second at the Regional last week.”
At the McClain Invitational, her season debut on April 26, Burns was second in the 400-meter dash in a time of 1:04.91. Last week, she was second at the Regional meet in 58.77. Burns ran a 57.08 (the current school record) in the State finals last year, placing third.
“It’s really impressive,” Reid said. “She has a really good shot to make the finals, I think, if she continues to progress like she has. She’s been really focused. She told me that her main thing was that she really wanted to run. She really wanted to get back out there. That’s all on her and the hard work she’s put in. She’s listened to the trainers and doctors along the way and done what she’s needed to do.
“This year, the State champion (Ke’Aijhan Strong, a senior from Massillon Tuslaw) is back and she’s gone 56 seconds,” Reid said. Strong has the fastest time coming into State at 56.43. Senior Anna Podojil of Cincinnati Indian Hill ran a 56.44 at her Regional meet. All 18 of the State-qualifiers are running under one minute.
“Last year, it took 57 seconds to make the finals,” Reid said. “Ray broke her own school record twice last year at State. If she runs a 58.77 or better, I feel like she can make the finals. I feel she’s capable of running in the 57’s. She’s peaking right now and that’s what you want at the State track meet.”
“I went up for a block and I came down on my ankle wrong and I dislocated it,” Burns said about her injury.
“It’s been hard,” Burns said. “I had to work really hard just to get back, since I was out for so long. It was really just my wind; just getting my breath back and everything.
“It was just getting back to running and getting back the motion,” Burns said. “At the beginning, it was hard to move my ankle. I didn’t have to go through any rehabilitation or anything.”
Last year, Burns qualified to State with teammate Maddy Garrison.
This year, she is the lone representative of the Washington track program at State.
“It’s different,” Burns said. “Every year I’ve been (to State) I’ve been with Maddy. This year it is kind of hard and it’s weird, being by myself.
“I want to make it to the finals in the 400,” Burns said. “I’m going to try my best and just do what I can. It’s really just great to be going to the State meet again after the adversity that I’ve faced. Just being able to go back is fun for me, because I didn’t think I was going to make it.”
“Obviously, always God first,” Burns said. “I don’t think anyone facing an injury like that would have been able to come back this season. It was just amazing to me and for me. And then, my parents (Richard Sr. and Shawna Burns) and coach Reid.”
“I thought Trent Langley, who made it to the finals of the 110-meter hurdles, had a tremendous season,” Washington head boys track coach Corey Dye said. “Unfortunately, he didn’t make it out (to State). He won quite a few invitationals for us.
“He was our high-point guy in track,” Dye said. “He scored more points than anybody. Not only was he a successful hurdler, he was really good on the 4 x 1 (relay). He also anchored our 4 x 4 (relay). He did a great job and had a great career. He’s probably going to go down as one of the better hurdlers we’ve had here in a long time. Probably since Laike Wallace.
“Trent’s goal was to make it to Regionals,” Dye said. “Unfortunately, last year, he fell at Districts. He was able to achieve a lot of goals this year. He is definitely going to be missed.”
Langley placed seventh in the 110-meter hurdle finals at the Regional meet in a time of 15.71.
“Sterling Smith, he’s only a sophomore,” Dye said. “He made the podium at Regionals, placing sixth (in the shot put with a throw of 48’ 5”).
“He had another great year,” Dye said. “He was able to reach his goal this year of 50 feet. He was able to exceed that goal by throwing 51 (feet, 9 inches). Mark (Bihl, two-time State shot put champion and now athletic director at Washington High School) made a comment that, when he was a sophomore, he threw 52 or 53 feet. If Sterling keeps working and keeps getting stronger, I think we’re going to see a guy make it to State and do well.
“For Sterling to be able to throw 51 feet as a sophomore, that’s impressive,” Dye said. “I think the future is definitely bright for him.”