VHSL Group AAA State Meet Girls Preview by Pearl Watts

    Bethel is the defending state indoor champion and continued on their winning ways with a victory last week at the Eastern Region championships.

  This year's meet features Bethel as one of the favorites again, but there are a host of other schools with a shot at the team title; including Western Branch, Osbourn Park, Midlothian, Centreville, and possibly Deep Run, Landstown and Deep Creek.

  A look at some of the top competitors at this year's championship meet.


  Field Events:  

    The long jump and triple jump are extremely strong this year. Junior Shakia Forbes of Bethel comes in as the top seed in the long jump with a best this season of 19 feet, 6 inches and won the Eastern Region title last week at 19-4.5.

    Deep Run junior Ashely Orr is the number two seed and claimed the Central Region crown at 18-4.5 while T.C. Williams sophomore Tynita Butts set a personal best by one foot in winning the Northern Region title at 19-0.75. Also not to be counted out are defending champion and meet record holder (19-10.25) Brittni Finch of Centreville, who had a seasonal best last week of 19-0.25 and Brooke Point senior April Sinkler, the Northwest Region winner.

  Sinkler is the top seed in the triple jump after her victory last week at regionals with a big mark of 39-8.25, closely followed by Central winner Rachel Butler of Lee-Davis, the defending outdoor champ with a best this season of 39-7.

  Deep Run junior Ashley Orr and J.R. Tucker sophomore Jasia Richardson have exceeded 38 feet this season and Finch of Centreville along with Atlee senior Mansfield Murph were all state in the event last indoor season.

  Even though there are seven girls within two inches of each other, Ashley Gatling of Deep Creek is at the head of the class in the high jump. Gatling is the defending champion in the high jump both outdoors and also indoors, where she holds the meet record of 5-9 and won the Eastern Region high jump last week at 5-8.

  Brooke Point's April Sinkler was second to Gatling at the state indoor meet last year and also went 5-8 to win her region last week. Others to watch include Matoaca senior Mia Aghaji and Tynita Butts of T.C.Williams.

  The shot put could be a very close competition as it features among its top five seeds, seasonal leader Samella Koroma of T.C.Williams and the four regional champions in Allison Jones of Lake Braddock;  K'Lynne Robinson from J.R. Tucker; Porter Watkins of Fauquier and Bethel sophomore Kayla Campbell.

  The pole vault will see the meet record in jeopardy as it features five girls who have gone at least 11 feet this season. Mills Godwin senior Anne Marie Gordon was third at states both indoors and outdoors last year, comes into the meet as the top seed at 12-1 and won the Central title at 11-6.

  Anne Powell of Patrick Henry (Ashland) also went 11-6 in finishing second to Gordon at the Central meet; Westfield senior Betsey Alter set a meet record of 11-1 in winning the Northern Region vault; Franklin County senior Erin Patterson cleared 11-0 to win the Northwest and Atlee sophomore Emma Dejarnette has also made 11-0 this season.


Individual Running Events:

  The 55 meter hurdles looks like it will be a great battle once again between Menchville senior Kali Watkins and Hampton senior Tierra Brown. Watkins and Brown hooked up at the Eastern Region meet with Watkins prevailing in a very swift 7.95 with Brown very close in second place at 7.99.

  Both have state hurdling titles on their resume with Watkins the defending indoor champ and Brown the defending 100 meter hurdle outdoor champ.

   Green Run junior Charisse Bryant comes in as the number three seed and was sixth last year while Central champ Wanetta Kirby of Huguenot was third in the hurdle race last year.

  The top four seeds in the 55 dash are separated by less than a tenth of a second. Matoaca senior Shanneka Claiborne finished third last year and is the defending champ outdoors in the 100 meter dash. Claiborne's fastest time this season is 7.09 and she won the Central Region last week in 7.14.

  Battlefield junior Kim Blaylock also rang up a time of 7.14 to win in the Northwest Region and Bethel is looking for important points in this event from Eastern Region winner Crystal Carrington and her regional runnerup teammate Shakia Forbes.

  The girls 1,600 run has Kristine Tobin of Great Bridge as one of the top seeds and Tobin always comes up big at state meet time, as evidenced by her being the defending state champion both indoors and outdoors.

  Tobin's main competition could be from a trio of Central Region runners in Deep Run senior Courtlin LaReau along with senior M.C. Miller and freshman Kathleen Lautzenheiser from Midlothian.

  Top seeded Dominique Jordan of Woodside popped a 1:15.45 to win the Easter Region 500 dash title in leading both Cierra McGee of Landstown and Deep Creek's Keshia Rudolph under 1:17.

  Osbourn Park has key points in the event with junior Bethany Hyter, the Northwest champ, and her sophomore teammate Cristin Gonzales and Cate Tisinger of Centreville was the Northern Region 500 dash winner last week and the state runnerup last year.

  The girls 1,000 run could certainly turn out to be one of the more exciting races of the meet with eight competitors coming in with seed times separated by less than four seconds.

  Opening speed, closing speed and mid-race strategy should all come into play in this race. Yorktown sophomore Andrea Oaxaca pulled out a huge upset victory last year with early front running tactics and did much the same last week at the Northern Region meet in winning that race with the best time in the state this season of 2:57.35.

  Also expected to be in the mix are regional champs Samantha Dow of Midlothian and Kathleen Wade of Colonial Forge along with Westfield's Kerry Hartman, Kristine Tobin of Great Bridge, Albemarle's Elizabeth Barclay, Heather Lambert of Mountain View and Midlothian's Paige Johnston.

  In the 300 dash, Fauquier's Dania Sanford comes in with the top seed time of 39.52 and was  the Northwest winner last week in 40.35. Woodside junior Dominique Jordan had an excellent sprint double last week in winning the Eastern title in 40.01 after earlier winning the 500 dash in the state leading time of 1:15.45.

  Others to watch include Rachel Butler of Lee-Davis, Landstown sophomore Marlene Wesh, last year's runnerup Nicole Saunders of Menchville, Shae Wilbon from Colonia Heights and Matoaca's Shanneka Claiborne.

  Deep Run's Courtlin LaReau and Lia DiValentin of Chantilly come in with the two fastest times in the 3,200 run posted earlier in the season and although both have to be considered among the favorites, neither one ran that distance last week.

  They will certainly have to contend with defending champion Sarrah Haddiji of W.T. Woodson, who also did not compete in the 3,200 run last week; along with Maggie Walker freshman Clarissa Schick and Midlothian freshman Leia Lautzenheiser.



  Westfield has the top entry time in the 4x800 by almost fifteen seconds and looks to be capable of going under 9:20 once again, but Midlothian always seems to be ready for the 4x8 at the state meet, with Lake Braddock and Colonia Forge also capable of producing good efforts.

  Bethel comes in with the top time and they were also the Eastern Region winners. It could be close if Peninsula District rival Menchville goes all out for this race and not to be counted out are the other three region winners, Centreville, Osbourn Park and Armstrong, all who won by fairly comfortable margins.

  In the 4x400 relay, Osbourn Park comes in with the top time, has a very experienced team used to the fast section and won the event at the Northwest Region last week.

  If Menchville opts to stack their 4x4 instead of their 4x2, they will be very dangerous. Landstown easily got under the four minute barrier in winning the Eastern Region and Bethel along with Deep Creek are usually ready for this race as well.