Saturday's Class 6 girls state track meet saw the end of several storied careers, while shedding a light on some new talents who should provide highlights for the next two years.
In the end, some aspects of the results remained unchanged. Even after missing the indoor state meet because Chesapeake Schools halted all athletic competition, the Western Branch girls stormed to yet another victory. The boys placed second to upstart Battlefield.
West Springfield won yet another 4x800 relay, with the boys breaking the tape first in 8:01.79. The Spartans have now won ten gold medals in the event since 2010. The girls' finished second to W. T. Woodson (9:33.80).
But for the Bruins of Branch, Saturday provided the opportunity to witness the end of Na'Taja Ballard's high school career. Ballard has dominated the short sprints since emerging from the shadow of older sister Shadajah, and on this day, would claim her fifth and sixth state crowns, winning the 100 hurdles (14.10) and 100 (11.96).
Landstown's Mia O'Neil also finished her high school career in style, winning both the 200 (24.15) and 400 (55.26).
Another fixture in the 100 was senior Emma Seetoo of Westfield. Although Seetoo, a former state triple jump champion, did not win gold on Saturday, she was second in the triple and long jumps, as well as second in the 100, garnering 24 points for the Bulldogs and the Texas Christian University signee.
In the longer hurdle race, the 300 lows, Washington-Liberty's Yasmeen Tinsley capped a remarkable prep career with a best ever time of 42.94 to win the event by over a second.
"I have been aiming to break 43 all season," said Tinsley, seated in the shade under the concrete stands at Todd Stadium. My 300 time qualifies me to run the 400 hurdles at Nike Nationals on July 2, so I'd like to break - oh.. 62?"
Yet the young upstarts were in full force. Lena Gooden of Osbourn Park, just a sophomore, won the long jump (20-3.75), and scored well in the 400 (second - 57.78), and 100 (fourth - 12.24) to earn 23 points for the Yellow Jackets.
Gooden's jump was a personal best, and with one more meet left this season, the Nike Nationals in Eugene, Oregon, there may be one more shining outcome for Gooden, who aspires to excel at more events as she progresses.
"I'd like to get into the weight room some more," said Gooden, "and get into training for the 400-meter hurdles," and event she will also try for the first time at Hayward Field.
The boys results also saw a veteran cap his career in dramatic fashion, with Colgan's Bryce Lentz nipping Oakton's Garrett Woodhouse at the tape to win by .15 seconds in 9:11.12.
The first half of the race was dominated by Woodhouse's teammate Arnav Tikhe, who cruised through 67-second laps to land at Mile 1 in 4:29. Tikhe, who clocked 9:05 earlier in the season, was clearly aiming to break nine minutes.
"Yeah, he said something about it before the race," said Lentz, who had to overcome a 50-meter deficit. One of my coaches told me he was slowing down, and I went with Garrett. But I was genuinely surprised that we passed him."
South County's Sean Jackson won the 200 in 21.77, but one should take notice that the runner-up, Khari Barnes of Tallwood (21.79) is a sophomore. So is Yorktown's champion girls high jumper Viktorie Klepetkova, who cleared 5-4 on Saturday.
Klepetkova's district, the Liberty, may be the epicenter of the youth distance movement. The boys' 1600 (4:17.26) and 800 (1:52.97) champion Xavier Jemison of McLean has one more full year of high school. Jemison's teammate, Thais Rolly, won the Class 6 state cross-country championship as a sophomore. In many of her district and region meets, Gillian Bushee', another sophomore, has been right in her shadow, leading the pair to sub five-minute miles and 10:37 in the 3200, creating the best 10th grade tandem since Rachel McArthur of Patriot and Kate Murphy of Lake Braddock duked it out to a couple of photo finishes just over half a decade ago. On Saturday, Bushee' got the better of the rivalry, winning the 3200, while another Yorktown runner, Anna Macon Corcoran, a junior, won the 1600.
Toss in Battlefield freshman Sailor Eastman (fourth in 1600, third in 800 and 3200), and the next year should be explosive for the distance women of Virginia.
Also from the girls division. T.C. Williams' remarkable thrower Wisdom Williams, who won the shot (47-0.5) and discus (137-7) on Saturday, is just a junior and in position to pursue region and state records next year. The Titans collected two other state championships in the field, winning the boys long (Joshua Peterson - 24-10) and triple (David Coles (48-2.5) jumps. Both are seniors.
And it all starts up again in just two months!