It was a very different feeling Saturday at the Arthur Ashe Center in Richmond. Missing was the aura of a championship struggle for supremacy across Central Virginia.
It was replaced by 14 schools fighting for titles in two separate conferences, as both the Conference 11 and Conference 12 tournaments took place. For the two county schools involved, Atlee and Lee-Davis, the new postseason era got off to a strong start.
The Atlee girls won the Conference 11 team championship, besting Mills Godwin 120-115, while the Lee-Davis boys gave favorite Highland Springs all they could handle before finishing in second overall 137.5 to 124.
Lee-Davis’ grit was perhaps characterized best by their 4 X 400 relay team. Knowing the team title was out of reach when taking to the track for the evening’s final event, the Confederates nevertheless found a way to stay close, giving anchorman Paul Adam all he needed to take over in the final moments.
“My teammates did a great job, got me in position to finish the race,” Adam said, insisting his interview following the win included all four relay members.
As a senior, his outlook on the team’s overall performance was just as team-oriented.
“The sprinters, distance runners, pole vaulters, everyone, we all had a common goal this year,” Adam said, explaining the fulcrum of the Confederates’ 2014 improvement.
Adam’s teammate, Grayson Morgan, ran stride for stride with Atlee veteran distance runner Nathaniel Hall in the 3200, but came up just short, Hall victorious by a quarter of a second in 9:54.63. For Hall, the win was sweet and bittersweet.
“Being injured all of last season, it seems like everything has been on fast forward. It’s surreal that this is my last race here at the Ashe Center,” Hall opined.
The veteran has dealt with nagging physical issues this season, but is getting back into prime race shape at just the right time.
The Atlee boys placed third behind Lee-Davis with 98.5 points. Raider winners included Evan Griffey in the shot put, Bryce Simpson in the pole vault, clearing 14 feet, and the 4 X 800 relay team. For Lee-Davis, Lee Warren grabbed a Conference title in the 55-meter hurdles, winning in 7.52.
For the champion Lady Raiders, Betsy Chilcoat won the shot put title, while India Lowe won the 55-meter hurdles in 8.82, and anchored the 4 X 200 relay team with Zaliah Carey, Sarah Spinner and Syanni Harris, who was victorious in 1:52.79.
Raiders and Confederates advancing to the 5A South Region are scheduled to compete this weekend at Boo Williams Sportsplex in Hampton.
Tuesday afternoon, the Hanover girls team captured the first-ever Conference 20 team championship in a tournament moved up a day to beat this week’s snowstorm. Head Coach Jenn Ennis was named Conference 20 Coach of the Year.
Winners for Hanover included Annie Sadler, victorious in the 1000 meters in 3:16.33 (Sadler was also runner-up in the 1600 meters), Samantha Seymour, clearing 10 feet in the pole vault, Leila Haynesworth in the long jump (17 feet, 2 1/4 inches) Taylor McCormick in the high jump (4 feet, 10 inches), and the 4 X 400 relay team, beating Glen Allen by nearly 11 seconds in 4:31.96. Haynesworth, a sophomore, literally lost a chance at double victory, finishing second in the triple jump, three-quarters of an inch behind champion Alice Babashak of Midlothian.
The Hawks boys had two individual champions crowned, as the 4 X 800 relay team cruised to a 16-second victory over Caroline, just short of breaking the nine-minute barrier at 9:02.29, and Casey Cook, who captured the 500 meters in 1:11.51.
Hanover’s next stop is also Hampton at the Boo Williams Sportsplex, when the 4A South Regional Championships take place next Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 19 and 20.
For Patrick Henry, the road to the postseason began at Fork Union Military Academy, southeast of Charlottesville, in the Conference 16 Tournament. In boys competition, Owen Shelton won the 55-meter hurdles in 7.94, Daquan Morris jumped 5 feet, 6 inches for a win in the high jump, while Damon Oxendine captured the long jump with a leap of 19 feet, 11 inches.
On the girls side, Amy Dunham was a double winner, taking the 1600 meters in 5:41.24, 23 seconds ahead of the closest competitor, and the 3200 meters in 12:35.14 with a 17-second advantage. Tiffany Harris and Kiana Minor were one-two in the 300 meters, Harris winning in 41.34.
Doing them one better were Kanani Collins, Blakemore Winston and Courtney Smithers, who finished one-two-three in the 500 meters, Collins’ winning time being 1:25.14. Both the 4 X 200 and 4 X 800 relay teams claimed Conference titles.
In the speed races, Crishna Hooker won the 55-meter hurdles in 9.34 while Jasmine Ford won the 55-meter dash in 7.44. Hooker had already won two field events: the high jump (4 feet, 10 inches) and the long jump (16 feet, 3 1/4 inches).
Defending state outdoor shot put champion Shania Williams, who committed to Radford University earlier in the day, won with a throw of 42 feet, 10 inches. And taking a break from her run through the Conference 11 Gymnastics rankings, Keion Greenhow grabbed victory in the triple jump, leaping 30 feet, 10 inches.
The Patriots now move on to 5A North Region Tournament action this weekend at George Mason University.