As the announcer, Coach Ryan Webb said - " there are many state championships but only one RVA Relays title". That was clear with the electric atmosphere from all the athletes as they attempted to PR and chase down teams under the lights Saturday.
The first races up for the day were the B/C relays which featured teams' #6-15 runners. The boys relays were both won by Deep Run with Grafton and Maggie Walker taking the girls' races respectively.
Following them were the extra's races which are open 2500m runs. Up first was the Extras' Boys 1 race featuring teams A-N. Randall Armbruster of Jamestown took home that win with his 8:15 finish. He was followed just minutes later by Mathew Hemmings of Parry McCluer in 8:19 who took Extras' Boys 2. That race was won in a photo finish over Stefan Hans Vanderzon of Riverside.
Up next was the girls' Extras race which featured Class 1 star Kensey May of Parry McCluer who won in 8:39. That finish and record time was a good indication of what was to come!
Following the completion of those open races it was time for the lights to come on and the "A" relay races to begin.
The first varsity relay race on the evening was the boys race featuring the largest race yet with 43 teams. Also featured in this race were the first out of state teams to come down and compete in the RVA Relays. These teams were Robbinsville (NJ), Georgetown Prep (MD), Salesianum (DE), and Cherokee (NJ).
The race went out fast with Parry McCluer and Fauquier handing off first at 7:22 and 7:23. From that handoff on though the race began to separate in a big way. By the second exchange at 15:00 it was Cherokee leading with Deep Run and Grafton right behind.
Though we expected some teams to be running that fast, it quite frankly caught us off guard seeing them and Lee-Davis running that fast early on knowing that their fastest runners were running last.
The race continued to follow that trend and by the final exchange it was a two team race between Deep Run and Cherokee who both received the baton at 29:59. It was now Ethan Wechsler and Colby Burcham's job to take to the course to bring home the win for those backpacks.
Of course the best and worst part of the RVA Relays is that the runners are off in the dark for most of the race so by the time you see them again a lot could have changed. That wasn't the case this time though with both runners running stride for stride as the passed the crowd at the halfway point.
Then came the wait as the thousand plus people had to sit and wait until the athletes had rounded the turn and began their sprint to the finish. We all were literally left in the dark to what was going on. Then the crowd erupted and rising up the final turn side by side were Deep Run and Cherokee with two state champions anchoring them.
As the crowd cheered and announcer tried to get words out the sprint was on. Cherokee had a slight edge but Burcham seemed to calculate his kick perfectly as both runners sprinted close to the finish line. Ultimately both crossed the line in 36:59 to both break the previous course/meet record and be the first teams under 37 minutes.
Burcham and Wechsler also both split 7:00 which equaled Brent Bailey's 2017 record as the fastest split.
That wasn't the end though with the girls' race up next. This one we knew would be just as exciting but with more lead changes.
At the first exchange it was Hanover leading Forest Park both under 8:35 for the opening split. By the second exchange it was now Patriot leading the way with Forest Park and Colonial Forge all under 18 minutes as well. Patriot handed off in 17:31.
Onto the third exchange and fourth runners it was yet another lead change with Forest Park now leading in 27:03 this time followed by Western Albemarle at 27:05. Western would take over the lead on 4th leg and finally handoff to their anchor runner as the clock his 36:23. Following behind them in second was Ocean Lakes who were 12 seconds back. An additional 45 seconds back was Maggie Walker who received the baton in 6th place but had MC Heinen anchoring.
We finally had a race on our hands with Ocean Lakes' Aniya Mosley chasing Western Albemarle and MC Heinen attempting the impossible.
By the halfway point in the anchor leg though the race seemed to be decided aside from knowing if the records were safe. It was Ocean Lakes now leading by a lot with Western in second and now Maggie Walker in third.
Ultimately that would be the finish order with Mosely splitting 8:20 to bring her Dolphin team to the 44:55 victory. Western finished 2nd in 45:28 and Maggie Walker thanks to MC Heinen's fastest split of the night (8:18) took home the bronze in 45:37.
Deep Run boys won the overall team title and Maggie Walker took home the girls overall team title. The fastest coach of the night was Kevin Shirk of Millbrook who won the open race in 7:26 over fellow coach Trey Gibson in 7:31.