* Na'Taja Ballard's facility record and VA #3 all-time 300 from this month at Boo Williams
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The 2020 VHSL Class 5 & Class 6 Indoor Track & Field State Championships are going to be one for the record books. Over 1,300 athletes from 102 teams will square off at Boo Williams Sportsplex this weekend all with the hopes of winning that state title. In this final installment, for now, of state championships at Boo we look back at the history of this facility & meet and forward to the records that could be broken this weekend.
Simply put, these past 12 years have seen some of the greatest races, athletes, and state championship battles in our state's history and arguably around the country. All at Boo Williams. The list of athletes who have competed here is long and illustrious.You have gold medalists Francena McCorory, Noah Lyles, Grant Holloway, Michael Cherry, and David Verburg to name a few. You have historic records like Cherry's 33.06 national record in the 300 or epic races like EJ Richardson coming from 6th to first in the final lap of the 4x4.
Every single AAA, Class 5, or Class 6 state title has been won or lost in this building since the day it opened. This weekend may be the end of an era but it is also another chance for history to happen and for great stories to be written.
The biggest of these stories that will dominate the weekend is the team title battle between Western Branch and South Lakes. This battle has been raging for a few years now and after last year's outdoor championships that came down to just 1.5 points has been raised to another level.
On one side of the competition you have South Lakes who is looking for their first indoor team title since 1988. They have also been the runners-up at states three consecutive times now and are led by seniors Hannah Waller and Mary Gregory. Both of these ladies are competitors who lay it all on the line for their team and bring home the points.
Waller, entered in five events, will be most critical to their success. She is entered in both the long and triple jumps as well as the 55m dash and 300m dash. She has won a state title individually in three of those four events and could make it a clean sweep with a big long jump this weekend, she enters as the favorite in two of these events. She will also be running on their 4x400m relay to close out the meet.
The other side of the competition has the Bruins of Western Branch looking for their seventh consecutive and ninth team title overall indoors. If they were to win they would then stand alone as the winningest team both by total titles and consecutive titles in state history. They have also won all eight of their team titles in the 12 years this meet moved to Boo in 2009. They finished second in two of those years as well. This is their home track for all intensive purposes.
For years it looked like no one could touch them, let alone beat them. They began their streak in 2014 by winning by one hundred points over second place and have continued to dominate but these past few years the gap has been thinning. Not because they aren't as strong but because the rest of the state has caught up and is no longer afraid.
One of the biggest athletes and races in that streak was Hannah Waller in her sophomore year,2018, when she broke the barrier and became the first non-757 athlete to take home a sprint title in either the 55 or 300 meter dash since 2007. She did so in record fashion as well with a 6.87 clocking in the 55m dash and a 38.50 in the 300m dash.
Records will be a thing to watch as her main competition and the athlete looking to continue Branch's winning ways is Na'Taja Ballard. Ballard has yet to win a state title indoors but enters the weekend with high hopes as the top seed in the 55m Hurdles and 300m dash. Both events she not only leads but ranks third all-time in the state's history, her 300 being also a facility record set this month. Ballard will also be toeing the line in the 55m dash where she will get to square off with top seeded Hannah Waller in a race that could decide the team title in just 6.9 seconds.
The battle between these two great teams will be exciting but that is only one of the big headlines of the weekend. Another big headline of the weekend will be some individual stars chasing glory on their own.
One athlete that comes to mind is Jayson Ward of L.C. Bird. He is entered in the Class 5 300m, 500m, and 4x4 and will look to continue the streak of four years in a row where one guy wins all three in epic fashion.
Another athlete is Bethany Graham chasing more state titles after her team, John Champe, just began competing indoors a year ago. So far she is a perfect seven for seven in state meet races since then.
Lastly you will also have schools chasing history like the Maury girls looking for their first team title in state meet history after five runner-up finishes or teams like Freedom (Woodbridge) who are looking for their school's first state title in a relay event and enter the weekend favored in both the 4x2 and 4x4 with all underclassmen running.
States is about the battles and races. It is about throwing just an inch further than the girl before you or jumping a new PR on that third and final attempt or most importantly about edging someone at the line and running that perfect race to win the state title.
Here you will find a quick synopsis of all of this weekend's action.
Team Titles Battles Based on Virtual Meets:
- Class 6 Girls: Western Branch (7 year streak), South Lakes, South County
- Class 6 Boys: Western Branch (4 year streak), Battlefield, West Springfield
- Class 5 Girls: Maury (runners-up 2 yrs in a row), Bethel, Midlothian
- Class 5 Boys: L.C. Bird (2 year streak), Highland Springs, Salem
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