Heritage's 4x4 Comeback Propels Squad To First State Title

In a meet-wide comeback which will be remembered for decades, the Newport News Heritage High School (VA) girls won the final event of the VHSL Class 4 State Indoor Championship track meet, the 4x400, to catapult over three teams and win the state title outright.

It was the first state title won by a Newport News school in any sport since the Menchville baseball team captured the AAA crown in 2009.

And the ending was nearly miraculous.

Heading into the 4x400, Atlee and Jefferson Forest were knotted at 58 points, while Western Albemarle was in third with 50.5, followed by the Hurricanes with 49.

Since Atlee did not field a 4x400 team, the poignant question among the more involved spectators was whether Jefferson Forest could place in the top-eight, earn a single point and win.

They would have to do it out of the slow heat, which they won. Now guaranteed at least an 11th-place finish, the team anxiously awaited the next heat, and their time was better than two of the finishers.

The only question now was whether the Jefferson Forest time of 4:17.63 would be good enough to knock out one of the final heat relays. Heritage, needing a win to harbor any chance at the team title, came out loaded with Sabria Wooden and Sanaa Wooden, Kara Ashley on the No. 2 leg and All-American Madison Whyte at the anchor.

There was little question on the outcome, as Heritage broke four minutes to top a stubborn Deep Creek foursome of Tyara Alexander-Colon, Alijah Prosper, Chanera Brown, and Dasya Tolbert by seven seconds. The Hornets' eight points lobbed them into fifth-place for the meet.

Realizing that Heritage was at 59, collective eyes turned to the board to see if any relay had failed to break Forest's time. As it turned out, they all did, leaving them scoreless and stuck on 58. The Western Albemarle girls placed third and their six points bounced them up to 56.5, just behind Atlee and Forest.

But it soon came to realization that 59 would be the winning score, and Heritage had it.

The top-five

1) Heritage (Newport News) 59

2) Atlee 58

2) Jefferson Forest 58

4) Western Albemarle 56.50

5) Deep Creek 37:

For Hurricane coaches Jacqueline Bateman and Ray Pollard, the title is a testament to the work they have performed at 5800 Marshall Ave. (#5800Family) for decades.

The 'Canes have been known for developing college-ready athletes, especially in the sprints and hurdles, but this is the first time they have tied it into a state championship for Heritage as both have been with the team for all of its 22 years.

Looking ahead, Milestat is aiming to feature the following athletes as we wait for the two weeks until Nationals.

  • Madison McConico and Deyvn Parham - Double Trouble from Thomas Dale, girls Class 6 champs
  • Distance charge - Nathan Atcheu of Franklin County knocked eight seconds off his best mile to win the Class 6 boys 1600 in 4:11. On the girls' side, what a season it has been for some amazing young female runners - three from the Liberty District, and one from Williamsburg. Oddly enough, they all seem to know each other - well.
  • Walker - Texas Ranger: He sports a cowboy hat which elevates his already 6-4 frame. But Walker Van Kirk is no caricature, as evidenced by his 15-7 vault to win the Class 4 boys pole vault.
  • Chasing State Titles - few are as prolific as Jada Foreman of Atlee and Alaysia Oakes from Class 3 girls winning Heritage-Lynchburg's Alaysia Oakes. Oakes won FIVE at the Class 3 meet, giving her a total of 18, which may be a state record for championships, although old-timer Doug Dickinson from the 1960's era Newport News HS team might have one or two more. Both are unselfish and a true credit to their programs.