Day 1 of the Virginia Class 5 and 6 track meet could be considered a day of streaks, at least for two schools.
Exhibit #1 - West Springfield. The Spartans entered Todd Stadium in Newport News on Friday morning with high expectations for both their boys' and girls' teams in the 3200-meter relay.
The boys had posted a state-leading time of 7:42.37 at the Occoquan Region championships, while the girls' foursome also led all state schools with a time of 9:12.05 at the same meet.
The Spartan boys easily won, with Kyle LaJoye, Nasir Banks, Sean Cochran, and John O'Donnell clocking a state meet record time of 7:44.42, over seven seconds ahead of runner-up South Lakes. O'Donnell's final split of 1:55.2 added six seconds to the margin of victory.
Friday's performance marked the boys' sixth consecutive win in the relay, counting indoor seasons.
Even though the time was not a season best for West Springfield, coach Chris Pellegrini noted most teams' times were slower on Friday.
"My count said that 19 of the top 20 teams in Class 6, the 10 boys and 10 girls, didn't run a season best. We probably were closer to expectation. I'm not sure what happened. It might have been the heat, or the wind, or graduation parties - I don't know."
Yet, it was the West Springfield girls' squad that felt a collective tinge of anxiety as they headed to the starting line on the red oval of Todd. Only 14 weeks ago, at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex, the relay team from Langley rudely interrupted the Spartans coronation with a three-second win at the Class 6 state indoor championships. Surely, a dose of revenge needed to be dispensed.
It took all of nine minutes and 16.16 seconds for West Springfield to reign victorious as Lexi Stein, Kenza Elakari, Chloe Miller, and Aidan MacGrath finished just ahead of Yorktown's 9:18.75.
Miller had stretched the lead from three seconds to six, but Yorktown's Anna Macon Corcoran made things interesting, as the 2:10 half-miler closed the deficit on MacGrath and threatened to take the lead in the final 200 meters, that is, until the Spartan anchor realized that Corcoran was nipping at her heels.
"I felt like I was going slow," said MacGrath. "With about 150 (meters) to go, I saw a bunch of Yorktown runners cheering for Anna, heard her, and realized that she was right there." With a final surge, MacGrath ended the comeback and delivered the win for the Spartans.
Exhibit #2 - Deep Run. The Wildcats also swept the 3200-meter relay, but unlike the Class 6 teams, both the boys' and girls' quartets recorded season bests.
It may have been required. Said coach Drew Spicer, "we may have been seeded first in both races, but we didn't feel like we were first. Just that we had a shot."
The boys' team of Carson Koch, Grayson Barber, Joshua Bendura, and Michael Tull pulled away from a stubborn Glen Allen squad for a repeat victory, clocking the distance in 7:55.23. And while Spicer commented on the "importance of each leg and putting everything together ", it was Tull's final split of 1:54.32 that sealed the win for Deep Run.
The girls race also featured Deep Run and Glen Allen in the top two spots, with Sidney Walters, Julia Fabiato, Bri Howard, and Kenzie Dillman. Dillman's anchor split of 2:15.45 helped the Wildcats overcome a three second deficit, as she brought Deep Run home from third place to the win. It was the girls' first championship ever for the 4x800.
Friday's events focused mostly on preliminaries and field events, and there were some exciting finishes from the field.
In the boys' high jump, a group of nine jumpers whittled down to three at the 6-foot-4 mark, leaving Terric Jones of Oscar Smith, Stephon Hicks of Thomas Dale, and top-seeded Xavier Carmichael from Hayfield to duke it out.
All three cleared the next height, 6-5, on the first attempt, and Hicks took an advantage also clearing 6-6 without a miss, while the other two jumpers needed a second attempt. Yet, both Hicks and Carmichael would falter at 6-7, leaving Jones with a personal-best effort and the triumph.
He credited his jump coach Stan Holloway for having him make an adjustment after the first miss at 6-6. "Coach Stan told me to watch my mark and come in (toward the bar) wide." Jones may try one more competition at the Adidas Nationals but has not cemented his plans yet.
At the end of Day 1, the Deep Run girls (20) and Hermitage boys (17) held the team leads, while in Class 6, Western Branch's girls (18) and boys (20) topped the team leaderboard.
Other Friday winners
Class 5 Boys Shotput - David Anderson (Kecoughtan) 57-0 - won by five feet
Class 6 Boys Shotput - Jahzari Priester (Western Branch) 56-0
Class 5 Girls Discus - Anaya Harris (Deep Run) 126-3
Class 6 Girls Discus - Morgan Graham (Grassfield) 143-2
Class 5 Girls Triple Jump - Emmani Shaw (Norview) 39-2
Class 6 Girls Triple Jump - Madison McConico (Thomas Dale) 40-3
Class 6 Boys Triple Jump - Tyler Morris (Western Branch) 48-2.75
Class 6 Girls Pole Vault - Brooke Gunter (Ocean Lakes) 10-9