The first Central Region Indoor Track and Field Tournament took place in the winter of 1972 at the old Richmond Arena. Just yards from that site, now home to Richmond Sportsbackers Stadium, the 42nd and final tournament was held at the Arthur Ashe Center.
All weekend long, the Patrick Henry girls team held on to the team lead, deep into the second day. But strong performances by the Cosby Titans, placing multiple runners in the 500-, 1000-, and 300-meter races to accumulate critical points, allowed them to overcome Patrick Henry’s lead to win the 2013 girls team title, 89.2 to 84.7. The Lee-Davis girls team finished third with 57 points.
“Overall, I think we put it all together. The girls came out, gave it everything they had,” Patrick Henry head coach Scott Brown said just after the meet ended. “We scored in a lot of different areas. I was hoping we’d be able to hold Cosby off, but I thought we ran out of gas a little bit there in the middle, but we recuperated, won the 4 X 400, so I’m really excited.”
The traditional final race of the meet, the 4 X 400 relay produced drama and big moments for two county schools. The Patrick Henry girls tandem of freshmen Tiffany Harris, Ashli Cole and Kanani Collins, joined by senior Logan Harrington, won their race in 4:12.63, more than four seconds ahead of runner-up Douglas Freeman.
Then, in the boys race, Atlee found themselves in fifth going into the anchor leg of decorated runner Griffin Carmichael. It was precisely what he wanted.
“As soon as I got the baton, I got a smile on my face,” Carmichael opined. “I love chasing someone and I had a feeling I was going to get up to them. I got up to them on the turn, and I didn’t want to lose momentum, so as soon as I saw an opportunity, I saw a little wiggle room and moved right in.”
That wiggle room was a literal crevice on the very inside, the move vaulting Carmichael into third place in his heat, helping Atlee finish fifth overall in the race at 3:43.15.
The Raider boys, region champions in 2011 and runners-up last year, ended 2013 tied for sixth with Cosby with 34 points. Though disappointed, Carmichael expressed the pride of the Raiders for what they accomplished.
“Nathaniel Hall, one of our distance runners, had a stress fracture, so he was unable to race here or at states. Everyone knew they had to step up and I’m proud of everyone and how they performed,” Carmichael said.
The Raiders were the top county finisher in the boys team race, with Lee-Davis next in ninth place with 24 points. Individual boys accolades go to Atlee sophomore Austin Cannon, who advanced to states with a second place finish in the boys shot put (50 feet, 7 1/2 inches), the Atlee 4 X 800 team finishing second at 8:29.44, Lee-Davis’ Wesley Jones, who finished second in the boys 55-meter dash at 6.73, and Carmichael’s fourth place finish in the 1000 meters, just half a second behind the winner Ben Taminger of Manchester,
Patrick Henry senior Travis Phillips cruised to the regional title in the boys 55-meter hurdles. The future East Carolina Pirate will move to state competition with a winning time of 7.63.
The Patriot girls found points in many competitions. Lynnell Fisher placed seventh in the girls long jump, eighth in the triple jump. Teammate Crishna Hooker was seventh in the triple jump, then turned around and qualified for states with a third place showing in the high jump at 5 feet, 2 inches. Shania Williams captured her first region crown in the girls shot put with a throw of 38 feet, 8.75 inches. No other opponent threw over 37 feet. Teammate Chiquitta Harris provided the Patriots points by finishing fifth.
On the track, Patrick Henry senior Jessica Shelton, a Radford University commit, improved her 8.77 qualifying time with a championship performance of 8.61 to win the 55-meter hurdles. Sheppard of Lee-Davis finished fourth, Fisher of Patrick Henry placed fifth. The Patriots won the 4 X 200 relay in 1:51.85. The team of Harris, Shelton, Fisher, and Kiana Minor nipped Armstrong by .18 of a second. Amy Dunham and Malina Richardson finished fourth and seventh, respectively, in the 1600 meters, while Harris fell .02 short of winning the 300 meters, losing to Cosby’s Alexandria Moseley, 42.40 to 42.42. Dunham returned for more points, placing sixth in the 3200 meters, then the 4 X 400 team made their magic in the final girls race in Central Region history.
“A touch here, a touch there, a few more points here or there, and it could have been us,” Brown said, still satisfied when Fisher was chosen to accept the second place girls team trophy following the meet from longtime Maggie Walker track coach Jim Holdren.
Other individual girls highlights include Lee-Davis’ Sheppard placing fourth, and teammate Dallas Tennessee fifth, in the long jump, and Sheppard’s third place tally in the triple jump. Sheppard will compete at state competition this weekend in both categories. Atlee sophomore India Lowe placed sixth.
Madison Angus of Lee-Davis finished second in the girls pole vault at 9 feet, 3 inches, while Atlee freshman Sasha Osipenko had a good debut, clearing 8 feet, 9 inches for third. The Lee-Davis 4 X 400 relay team of Bonny Turnage, Hailey Warren, Haley Uliasz and Lauren Lewis ran their way to a fourth place finish at 10:04.32, seven seconds better than fifth-place Patrick Henry and 11 seconds ahead of sixth-place Atlee. Tennessee went to the track and captured sixth for Lee-Davis in the 55-meter dash at 7.58, just .15 behind the winner.
Turnage, going solo, placed second in the 1600 meters at 5:20.12, besting Atlee’s Chloe Bavin by .87. Hanover junior Annie Sadler had a strong showing for the Hawks in the 1000 meters, placing fourth at 3:09.49. In that final girls race, the 4 X 400, the Lee-Davis team placed fifth to help clinch the third place overall team finish, while Atlee settled for 11th.
All four schools will be represented by many student-athletes on Friday and Saturday at the Boo Williams Sportsplex in Hampton for the State Group AAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. Then, as soon as the meet ends, most of them will turn their attention to the great outdoors, with outdoor track season on the horizon.