For county athletes competing at the 5A State Track and Field Championships in Newport News and the 4A Championships in Harrisonburg, it was a weekend of highs and lows.
Three teams entered the 5A competition as region champions: the Lee-Davis boys, and Atlee and Patrick Henry girls, Lee-Davis and Atlee having won in 5A South, Patrick Henry in 5A North.
With the boys came accomplishment, as Lee-Davis worked the track, especially with speed, to garner points needed to outlast season-long rival Highland Springs to win the 5A State title. For the girls came disappointing finishes, and, for the Raiders, a key injury, that meant state title dreams slipping away.
Lee-Davis finished with 60.5 points, besting Highland Springs by eight. The Atlee boys were third overall at 48 points.
Haiden Lamb, who qualified third in the boys 100-meter dash, flew down the track, clocking another school record at 10.71, nipping Marcus Taylor of Highland Springs (10.76) to earn the individual State 5A Championship, and 10 important points.
Lamb had nothing but praise for Taylor as their showdowns, both indoor and outdoor, ended at Todd Stadium in Newport News, each pushing the other to their limits.
“I have so much respect for him,” Lamb noted after the meet. “He whipped my tail all indoor year. It just happened I had longer strides so I gained a little room on him. It came down to the last 20 meters in every race we ran this year.”
Lamb returned with teammates Blake Stattelman, Lee Warren, and J.J. Jordan to anchor the 4 X 100 relay team to victory, again nipping Highland Springs, 42.48 to 42.79. Getting 10 points for first versus eight for second place in both races over the Springers gave the Confederates almost half of their margin of victory in the team title race.
Warren shined as well, getting eight points placing second overall in the boys 110-meter hurdles in 14.26, and six points by taking third in the 300 hurdles, finishing in 39.08. Teammate Korey Tyler made the finals in the 110, and though he placed eighth, it secured a vital extra point for the team.
It wasn’t all speed. Paul Adam was fifth in the 1600 meters (4:26.87), sixth in the 3200 (9:33.08) and anchored the 4 X 800 relay team to a fourth place finish in 7:56.59 with teammates Grayson Morgan, Sheldon Harris and Josh Grant.
“It’s a great feeling, knowing you’ve put several years’ worth of work to get to this point, for many of these guys. For this to happen, it’s kind of unexplainable,” said a satisfied and exuberant Neil Mathews, head coach of Lee-Davis track and field.
Mathews also paid tribute to the county standard-bearers in the sport: Atlee and their remarkable head coach, Jim Triemplar.
“We’ve said all year, we’ve had the best team we think we’ve ever had at Lee-Davis, and we’re not the best team within four miles of our school in either direction,” Mathews noted, tipping his cap to the Highland Springs program, too.
“Atlee has, in my mind, one of the best strategists and most competitive people in Jim, then one of his former runners and assistant coaches are both coaching at Highland Springs. They bring the winning attitude of Atlee over there, and it makes it tough,” Mathews added.
The Atlee boys won three individual state titles as Austin Cannon captured the discus with a toss of 161 feet, 2 inches, winning 13 feet. Cannon was second in the shot put at 53 feet, 5 1/2 inches despite fouling on four of six attempts. Bryce Simpson outlasted Babadamilo Alao of Kempsville to win the state crown in the pole vault, clearing 13 feet, 6 inches, and Richard Anderson was the surprise winner in the high jump, clearing 6 feet, 4 inches.
For the Atlee girls, it was an uphill climb, knowing they’d have to fight without India Lowe. Lowe, winner of the 100-meter and 300-meter hurdles at the 5A South Regionals, and a threat to win in the 200 meters and triple jump, injured her leg at the regional meet. She did not heal in time for the state meet. A gifted athlete with the ability to score up to 40 team points on her own was gone, and, while the rest of the team fought with all their might, in the end, they missed their top weapon.
Hampton won the 5A title with 51 points, with Atlee in third place with 41. Patrick Henry finished sixth with 31 points.
Top individual performances for the Raiders included Carly Feyerabend’s second place in the 100-meter hurdles (14.81), Zaliah Carey taking third overall in the 300 hurdles (46.37), Chloe Bavin finishing fourth in the 1600 (5:10.89), and the team of Bavin, her sister Scarlett, Katie Gardner and Katt Grasberger taking third in the 4 X 800 relay in 9:32.78.
George Mason commit Betsy Chilcoat finished fifth overall in the girls shot put, throwing 34 feet, 7 1/2 inches.
For Patrick Henry, the meet was encapsulated in the Saturday afternoon session when two female hurdlers fell in their individual heats during the 300 hurdles, ending their chances at scoring needed team points.
Tiffany Harris, 5A North Region champion in both the 200 and 400 meters, fell short in each race, taking second in the 400 (56.55) and third in the 200 (25.00).
But for shot put extraordinaire Shania Williams, though, the storybook ending came true, as she won her second straight state championship. Williams’ biggest challenge was staying focused in a new competitive field due to the Virginia High School League reclassification.
“It was completely different. I wasn’t expecting there to be not as much competition as there was last year,” Williams explained. “I seriously miss the competition. It pushes me. I went back and forth with competitors last year. I didn’t like it.”
Williams found the discipline within herself to strive to do her best, not thinking of being a prohibitive favorite. The introspection paid off with a title-winning throw of 40 feet, 10 1/4 inches. Williams will next throw collegiately at Radford University.
The Hanover girls team placed fourth overall with 37.5 points at the 4A State Championships. The Hawks went 1-2 in the triple jump, with senior Taylor McCormick winning at 37 feet, 8 inches, and Leila Haynesworth in second just 3 1/2 inches behind. McCormick also tied for fourth in the high jump at 5 feet even.
Fellow seniors Samantha Seymour and Annie Sadler finished their Hanover careers on high notes, Seymour placing second in the pole vault, clearing 10 feet, while Sadler was third in the 800 meters in 2:19.35.