From the start, he knew he had something pretty special in the works. Robert C. Byrd junior Tony Shade entered Saturday's Robert C. Byrd Invitational as the top seed in the 110 high hurdles. He left even better.
Shade's previous personal best was 14.7 seconds, which he set at the Parkersburg Invitational earlier in the season. Saturday's time was 14.6, nearly a second and a half faster than the second place finisher.
"It really felt good out of the blocks," Shade said. "I had a good start, hit the first hurdle good and by that time, I was ahead of everyone else."
That's the way it's been for Shade this season. Last year, Shade finished fourth in the Class AAA state meet behind four seniors. This year, he's been perfect in the 110.
However, commitments to football and basketball keep him from dedicating his entire effort into the sport he says is clearly his best. The only time Shade gets to is the few weeks or so before each meet.
"I don't really think Tony knows how good he could become," Robert C. Byrd track coach Bob Steele said. "His potential is unlimited. If he could totally dedicate himself to track, there's no telling how good he could become.
"He's definitely got the tools to make it. It's just a matter of how hard he wants to continue to work."
In the back of his mind lingers the time of 14.5 seconds, the state record. That's not what's important, though. At least not now. Shade is also a member of the shuttle hurdle relay and the competes in the 300 intermediate hurdles -- an event he also won Saturday.
"Each race, I've improved my times, but I've never really given (the state record) a whole lot of thought," Shade said. "First, I just want to get to the states. Once I'm there, I'm just going to concentrate on trying to win. And if it feels good, then why not go for the record?"
Shade, however, is also focusing on getting to the states with at least three more of his teammates.
Along with senior Robert Nelson, junior Mark Ross and sophomore Marshall Zinn, the Eagles have a team Shade believes has the ability to make an impact in late May at the state meet.
Just a junior, Shade has already caught the interest of many colleges. Robert Morris stays in contact, while Penn State recently has shown interest.
Leaving the other two sports behind is something Shade said he has considered, but his competitive drive won't allow him.
"I've given it a lot of thought," he said. "There have been times when I thought about not playing (basketball) in the winter and running indoor. Track is definitely my best sport, and the only time I get to run is in the spring, but I enjoy the other sports too much."
And as for his chances on sitting atop the stand when the final results are called for the state championship, Shade answers with the same calmness he displays during his events.
"I guess I'd like to win it this year," he said. "I'd like to do it so I don't have to worry about it. Graduation has always been the same day as the state finals and I really don't want to miss graduation when I'm a senior."
Sports writer Mike Nutter can be reached at 626-1444.