Burke track and field standout Raven Saunders will attempt to reach for the stars over the next two years.
She’s already won two state titles in the shot put and another in the discus as she reaches the halfway point of her junior season. Her goals for the next two years are quite ambitious.
“I want to finish with four state championships in the shot and three in the discus,” she said. “I want to break the (state) record in both events this year and do it again next year. I want to be the best thrower to ever come out of South Carolina.”
Burke coach Herbert Johnson appreciates Saunders’ ambition, but he’s a bit more cautious with his expectations for her.
“I started working with Raven when she was in the ninth grade,” Johnson said.
“I was her throws coach at the time. Back then, she didn’t know anything about the discipline of the throws. She’s come a long way, but I keep her thinking rationally. I think setting state records next year is more realistic.”
Saunders is one of only five members of the Burke girls track and field team. She is clearly the best. Last year, she competed at the Class A level, but was best in the state at any classification in the discus with a heave of 131-4. She had the second best distance in shot put last spring with an effort of 42-1.
Xylina McDaniel of Spring Valley set the state record in the shot with a put of 44-8 in 2011. Brittney Waller of J.L. Mann owns the state record in the discus. She recorded a throw of 161-4 in ’09.
Johnson said Saunders could set the state record in the shot this year.
“But I think 140-145 feet in the discus is more realistic,” he said. “But you never know. If she has a series of good throws rather than just one outstanding distance, she will be in the groove.”
Saunders has become a leader on the track and in the classroom.
“If she does the work, they know they have to work,” Johnson said of Saunders’ teammates. “They look up to her, and she feeds off that. She wants to succeed and wants others around her to do well.”
Saunders also takes AP classes and spent this week attending classes at Trident Tech. She is getting letters from more than 30 colleges, including Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee. She is also getting interest from Ivy League schools.
“Cornell, Harvard, Yale,” Saunders said. “It’s too early to count out schools like that.”
She’s a prohibitive favorite to win gold medals in the throws at the May 11 state meet.
Her dream is to compete in the 2013 World Youth Track & Field Trials, which will be held in late June in Edwardsville, Ill.
“My distances should be good enough,” Saunders said. “The hard part will be getting there. That’s going to be kind of hard. It’s going to cost $1,800 to $2,500. They take the top two to the world meet in the Ukraine. I want to be there.”