Patrick Henry head track and field coach Scott Brown knew the road to a top finish for his girls team at the Group AAA State Championships was filled with heavyweight contenders. Still, his sights were set high.
“Overall, we were aiming for a top-three finish on the girls side. The coaching staff knew this would be a challenge for us, but we’re extremely proud of our efforts as a whole,” Brown said.
They should be. The Patriot girls finished with 27 points in fifth place overall, just one point shy of a tie for third with Osbourn Park and Great Bridge, at the two-day competition at Todd Stadium in Newport News.
Leading the way was junior shot put and discus star Shania Williams, who captured the state shot put crown on her final throw, reaching 42 feet, 6 1/4 inches. While very happy to win, Williams knew it wasn’t her best showing of the season.
“I did enough to claim the title,” Williams noted. “I’m capable of [throwing] 45 feet and hopefully my return at indoor season of my senior year will reflect that.”
Williams placed eighth overall in the discus, her secondary event, for crucial team points, throwing 114 feet, 9 inches. She’s already back in the weight room, focused on diet, technique and looking to become an All-American next season.
Seniors also played a role in the Patriots’ performance. Jessica Shelton grabbed third in the girls 100-meter hurdles in 14.52, while Lynnell Fisher and Logan Harrington joined freshmen Tiffany Harris and Kanani Collins to run fourth in the girls 4 X 400 relay in 3:54.75.
Harris concluded her eye-opening first varsity season with a fourth place finish in the girls 400, running a 54.85, just .19 of a second out of second place.
“We try not to put pressure on the freshmen to score points, but Tiffany never backed down from a challenge throughout the year,” Brown noted. “She is a big part of a strong freshman class who have some big shoes to fill for us.”
Losing the likes of Shelton, Fisher and Harrington will be cushioned by future leaders such as Harris and Collins.
On the boys’ side, Patriot hurdler extraordinaire Travis Phillips concluded his high school career in both high and
low fashion. Qualifying first in the 300-meter hurdles, he came in a disappointing fourth in the finals in 38.88 (his heat time was 37.90). But Phillips shined in the 110-meter hurdles, breaking 14 seconds in the final to win in 13.99.
“Getting below a 38 in the 300 hurdles was a huge accomplishment; I kind of shocked myself,” Phillips told the Herald-Progress. “I ran a smooth and steady race in the 110; that is what got me the state title.”
Phillips will graduate June 15, and just four days later, report to East Carolina University to begin preparing for his freshman season of football.
Atlee, normally a force in track, had a 10th place finish in boys team competition with 17 points, two ahead of Patrick Henry who was 12th place with 15 tied with Varina and two other schools. The girls team only managed eight points, but they were via the legs of sophomore India Lowe, another rising county track star. Lowe qualified fourth in the girls 300-meter hurdles in 44.46, then blazed in the final to a time of 42.84, losing the state crown by just .05 of a second to senior Heather Smith of Great Bridge of Chesapeake.
“I know I left all I had on the track,” Lowe said. “When I was finished, I could barely walk. I wasn’t even a hurdler at the beginning of outdoor season. My goals changed drastically when I became a hurdler and found out I was better at hurdling than in the open races.”
The 42.84 was a personal best for Lowe, who, along with Williams, will represent the county at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor Meet June 14-16 at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, N.C.
Other top performances included Shakiya Sheppard of Lee-Davis placing sixth in the girls triple jump (37 feet, 11 1/2 inches), Austin Cannon of Atlee finishing fifth in the boys shot put (53 feet, 7 inches) and sixth in the boys discus (153 feet), and the Atlee boys 4 X 800 relay team of Bizz Alidost, Tre Fields, Nathaniel Hall and Griffin Carmichael taking fourth place in 7:49.43. Carmichael also placed fourth in the boys 800, finishing at 1:53.07.