Apr. 29—Friday marks the start of the most important stretch on the calendar for Aiken High's Antavious Lawton and his fellow track and field athletes.
The Region 5-AAAA championship meet is Friday at Aiken High, with the top finishers advancing to state qualifiers to try to earn their shot at state championships in late May.
But first, Lawton had some even bigger business to get out of the way. Thursday he signed to run track at North Greenville University.
"I can't even put it into words. I'm very grateful and thankful. It's so surreal," he said. "I didn't expect it to come up on me this fast. I thought I had a little bit more time, but it came faster than I expected. But I'm glad."
North Greenville offered Lawton everything he was looking for — a quality program and a commitment to bring his times down even lower to where he can break school records and win national championships. Plus, he's excited about the "beastly" 4x400 relay team the Crusaders are trying to put together.
In addition to the 4x400, Lawton intends to run the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes, and probably also the 800. He plans to study early childhood education and wants to become a third grade teacher.
He'll know soon if his championship aspirations will come true at Aiken, and head coach John Hostetler said Lawton has his eyes set on breaking Kory Wallace's school record in the 400 — and he's gunning for the 200, too.
"I feel like I'm in a good place, but we can only get better," Lawton said. "Tomorrow we're going to come out here and try to get better and win region, of course, as a team. If certain accolades come along with that, then I'll be proud, too."
Lawton credited Wallace, then a senior, for pushing him during his sophomore year. Lawton felt that the 2020 season was going to be a special one for the Hornets, but it was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic. So he kept on working to make sure they'd bounce back in 2021.
"His training has been extensive, and he also participates in indoor track (with coach Corrinthia Garvin)," Hostetler said. "That also pushed him to even attempt (those records). I think running in the offseason has helped him a lot."
The expectations are high for Lawton in the coming weeks. Hostetler knows that top state finishes are well within Lawton's capabilities, and the stretch run starts Friday with the region championship meet.
"It's been a phenomenal experience," Hostetler said. "I've been able to be with him since his sophomore year, and it's been an awesome experience. It's too bad we got cut short last year, because we would've seen even better things. But it's phenomenal."