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Tilghman's Watson in class of her own

By Mike Stunson mstunson@paducahsun.com

When Valesha Watson created a Twitter account in the spring of 2016, the first account she followed was the official page of the Olympics. Consider that her motivation.

Because with the way she has dominated track and field meets in Kentucky, Olympic aspirations are quite justified for the decorated Paducah Tilghman sprinter.

Just a sophomore, Watson is already one of the best track and field athletes in the state -- regardless of age and school size. At last year's KHSAA Class 2A State Championships, Watson won the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes.

Winning all three of those races is referred to as the Triple Crown, and Watson has every intention of winning four Triple Crowns at the state level.

"When it's all said and done, she'll be the best female sprinter to ever walk through here," said her head coach, Randy Wyatt. "There's not one female that could win the Triple Crown four years in a row like she can."

And if there's one person in the area who knows a thing or two about sprinting it's Wyatt, who won 15 state championships of his own while at Tilghman -- including the Triple Crown as a freshman just like Watson.

Watson only began running as a seventh-grader, but she quickly showed her promise. By her second year, she was running with the high school team and succeeding.

"My coaches really helped me on my form and my form started off real bad, but it got a lot better the more I ran," she said.

At most meets nowadays, Watson is her own competition. While she has teammate Tanaisha Jordan to push her in the 100 and 200, the biggest competition Watson often has is the clock.

Her personal record for the 100 is 12.41 seconds, but Watson thinks she can get it down under 12 seconds if she has a little help.

"I feel like I can get it this year as long as I have more competition that's up there with me that'll push me to go faster," she said. "Usually (Jordan) is right there with me, so I see her coming. The thing with me, I don't like losing so I have to go."

At her meets during the season, it's more than about winning. Watson isn't fully satisfied unless she hits her PR.

She's already improved upon her 2016 state-championship times in the 100 and 200 this year, with her 400 not far behind.

All that while being diagnosed with asthma last year. She said it hasn't affected how she runs. If anything, it helps it.

"At the end of my races, it's like my chest starts to close up, so it gets really hard to breathe," she said. "So I just think, the quicker I get done with my races the quicker I can get to my inhaler."

Wyatt said there has been a target on Watson's back ever since she won the Triple Crown last year. While that may be the case, that target is what every racer Watson has competed against this year has seen when she crosses the finish line first.

"The thing about her, she is self-motivated and that's tough to get out of young kids," Wyatt said. "If she can continue that and to continue working hard, she'll be fine. And the thing is, track is hard. That's why a lot of people don't do it. But she loves it. She embraces the hard work and embraces the pressure."

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