One of the more pleasant surprises from the Virginia 5A/6A state track meet was the 6A runner-up status achieved by the Annandale boys' team. While there was little question that Western Branch would win in coach Claude Toukene's farewell meet, up to 12 other teams were in the running for the next several spots, and Annandale could have fallen all the way down below tenth place with just eight fewer points if not for the peak performances of several athletes.
One of them was senior Mathew McKiver, an athlete that coach Phil Harris calls "perhaps the greatest I have ever coached," no small compliment considering that Harris' coaching career spans more than 15 years, dating back to J.E.B. Stuart at the turn of the millennium.
McKiver entered Friday's high jump with a best of 6-10; however, under hot and muggy conditions, especially in the middle of Todd Stadium, it was going to be hard for jumpers to stay cool and hydrated. Still, McKiver took Colgan's Joshua Prince Gilliard, another 6-10 leaper, all the way up to the 6-8 standard before bowing out for a second-place 6-6 finish. In Saturday activity, McKiver returned to the long jump pit where he leapt 21-10, good enough to tie with Tarell Branch of James River for seventh.
McKiver's nine-and-a-half points provided a good boost for the Atoms. Annandale was buoyed further in the middle of Saturday afternoon when sophomore Jay Pendarvis, Jr. won the 400 with a time of 48.08, again, remarkable under muggy conditions. Pendarvis returned for a fourth-place spot in the 200 (22.12).
Senior Joseph McCoy completed the Atom trifecta with a pair of fourth-place finishes in both the 110- and 300-meter hurdles. McCoy powered through the 110 highs in 14.73 seconds on Saturday morning, and then sailed over the ten intermediate obstacles of the 300-meters in 39.15 during the afternoon session.
With Pendarvis returning for a couple more years, expect to see more of Annandale's name near the top of the team marquee for the short-term future.