Motivation can make the difference in a race's outcome, especially when the season is on the line.
At Thursday's boys Region 3-AAAA track and field championships in Aiken, it was the only factor for both the 100- and 200-meter sprint finals. South Aiken's TJ Simpkins and North Augusta's Reggie Merriweather have had their share of run-ins all season long.
The two squared off again with much more on the line this time -- a trip to the Upper State track meet next week at Spring Valley.
Simpkins had beaten Merriweather at the Taco Bell Invitational earlier this year, finishing the 100 meters in 10.90 seconds to Merriweather's 10.96.
"That's been his motivation coming in," North Augusta coach Richard Bonneville said. "He wants to beat Simpkins. And he's capable of doing it. He's either going to be first or push for it, and place second. He's definitely peaking at the right time."
Vengeance would belong to the sophomore. Merriweather jumped out to a quick start and never looked back, taking the title in a blazing 10.66 seconds. Orangeburg-Wilkinson's Ryan Hemby took second, while Simpkins stumbled to a fourth-place time of 10.98.
Simpkins immediately turned his focus to the 200-meter run where he would next see Merriweather, whose elation was capped by a loud roar at the conclusion of the 100.
"He's hungry for that 200 now," said Simpkins' father and coach Bill Griswold. "He already wanted it, and now he'll die for it."
The junior streaked to victory in 22.15 seconds with Merriweather taking second in 22.29. The two grimaced closely at one another after the race before briefly shaking hands.
"That's just competitiveness," Simpkins said. "It's fun racing him because I've got respect for him. But I knew was going to get that 200. I slipped in the 100, and it was tough to make up. I knew I wasn't going to give away that 200 either."
Simpkins had little trouble taking the long jump as his leap of 22 feet,seven inches on his first jump proved enough for the win. North Augusta's Anthony Young placed third with a jumped of 21 feet, one inch. The Yellow Jackets' Mike Wheeler also tallied a nice afternoon, earning two first place finishes. The junior captured the 400 dash in 51.45, and took the 110 hurdles in 15.06.
Top four finishers qualify for upper state
200-meter run:1. TJ Simpkins, South Aiken 22.15, 2. Reggie Merriweather, North Augusta 22.29.Long jump:1. TJ Simpkins, South Aiken 22'07, 3. Anthony Young, North Augusta 21'01.800 meter run:1. Scott Wietecha, Irmo 2:02, 2. Brantlee Milner, Aiken 2:03.Shot put:1. Marcus McGee, Airport 49'08, 2. Antwaun Carter, South Aiken 47'03.3200 meter relay:1. Orangeburg-Wilkinson 8:32.400-meter relay:Orangeburg-Wilkinson 42.86.100 meter run:1. Reggie Merriweather, North Augusta 10.66, 4. TJ Simpkins 10.98.1600 meter run:Scott Wietecha, Irmo 4:34, 3. Brantlee Milner, Aiken 4:46.110 hurdles:1. Mike Wheeler, North Augusta 15.06.400-meter run:1. Mike Wheeler, North Augusta 51.45, 3. Al Lee, South Aiken 52.02, 4. Terone Cohen, South Aiken 52.05.400 hurdles:1. Johnny Lee, Orangeburg-Wilkinson 58.99, 2. Terry Perry, Aiken 1:01