For Grafton senior Sloane Youtsey, her introduction to the 4-by-8 was the equivalent of being tossed into a fire, but escaping successfully.
In the 3200-meter relay, which was run on Friday, the Clipper quartet of Youtsey, Maya Caden, Alexa Daley and Allison Kenney bolted to a 19-second victory to conclude the evening's events at the 9th Annual Real Deal High School Classic, held at the Boo Williams Sportsplex in Hampton.
Despite running as a group for the first time, the Grafton team took over the lead in the middle stages of the race and never looked back.
"I felt a little pressure going out on the first leg," said Youtsey, who had never been assigned leadoff duties and was the lone newcomer to the relay, which is comprised of all seniors. "It was my first time starting," she added. Youtsey put her team in good position, while Caden pushed the baton close to the front. After receiving the baton, Daley took a commanding lead that would not be relinquished, leaving Kenney, the Region 4A girls' cross-country champion, to finish the job, as Grafton crossed the line first in 10:01.28. Highland Springs was second in 10:20.12.
There's more work to do. "Our best time is 9:29," said Kenney, noting that the fulfillment of their season goals will start with surpassing that mark.
In other Friday events, Western Branch's super sophomore Na'Taja Ballard nipped Nansemond River's Lauryn Freeman in the 55-meter hurdles, with Ballard's time of 8.18 just .02 ahead of Freeman.
Archbishop Carroll's (DC) Tiffani Pittman won the 55 in 7.12, and in the field, Lee-Davis' Megan Mann won the shot put with a toss of 38-8, while Jamie Macecevic of North Stafford propelled herself 11-0 to capture the pole vault. Nansemond River's Tre'Breh Scott-McKoy won the high jump with a 5-2 effort, and Maury's Mekhia McCounts won the triple jump in 36-6.75.
Maury won the girls title with 64 points, just ahead of Carroll, which hails from the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference. Along with McCounts, Maury's Maeve Stiles won the 1000 in 3:07.72, and placed second behind Deep Run's Lily Snow in the 1600. Snow paced the field in 5:16.04, while Stiles posted a runner-up time of 5:18.65.
In Saturday's most exciting race, Highland Springs junior Alicia Thorpe nipped Nansemond River's Kori Carter at the tape in the girls' 500 meters. Thorpe was timed in 1:18.12, just .05 seconds ahead of Carter.
Top Ten Girls Teams
1) Maury High School 64, 2) Archbishop Carroll High S 59
3) Colonial Forge 42.50, 4) Nansemond River 41
5) Western Branch High School 34, 5) Grafton High School 34
7) Highland Springs 30, 7) Massaponax 30
9) Riverdale Baptist School 29.50, 10) Tallwood 28