Deep Creek, Creek Rising

While there were no double team winners at the recent VHSL state track and field meets, seven schools scored both teams in the top-three - a show of co-ed stability that could boost their programs through the remainder of this decade.

Milestat congratulates the teams from Auburn (Class 1 boys champs, 3rd place girls), Glenvar (Class 2 girls titlists, boys 3rd), Heritage-Lynchburg (Class 3 girls champs, boys 2nd), Maggie Walker, finishing second in girls and third for boys Class 3 in Coach Jim Holdren's 60th year of coaching, Glen Allen (runner-up in Class 5 boys and girls), and Nansemond River (Class 5 girls champions, boys 3rd). One focus goes to a team - a traditional powerhouse - which has rediscovered its mojo after losing some of the student base, due to the addition of a new school, followed by a bump up and down the classifications.

Deep Creek has been a powerhouse of the past with roughly a dozen state track banners and pictures adorning the hallways within the athletic hallway within the building on Margaret Booker Road. Yet, the Hornets have been silent atop the state team leaderboard since the Class 4 indoor girls' championship in 2018. The boy's wait has been even longer, to 2007 when Chris Brumm was the coach.

Part of the reason was the opening of Grassfield High, which siphoned of the students who would have attended Deep Creek, whose enrollment dipped under 1500 after the splinter.

At the end of the 2018 outdoor season, Brumm and the entire Creek coaching staff retired, and Andre Twine, also the school's football coach, took over as the director of track and field. Eventually, former boys' coach Randy Luedeke came out of retirement to work with the hurdlers, with Winfield Edwards moving from Indian River to direct the throwers.

While the Creek's rise has been slow, it was almost definitive in the postseason, with the boys' and girls' teams sweeping the Region 4A meet, before placing second (boys) and third (girls) at the recent Class 4 state meet at Liberty University in Lynchburg.

The boys were closest, making a late charge to pull within three points of victorious Pulaski County. Down by almost 30 points, the run started as Amarion Harrell (48.93) placed second in the 400. Jaelyn Green followed with the Hornets' first of two individual wins, capturing the 300 hurdles (38.51). Antoine Fair then delivered a win in the 200 (21.76), while the 4x400 relay also won (3:21.37). All four performances were season bests and delivered 38 points toward the Creek's total of 60.

On Friday, thrower Ryan Nolan placed second in the shotput in 53-6.5 to put the Hornets on the scoreboard.

For the girls, the story of the weekend came from Dasya Tolbert. Tolbert, who ran for Landstown as a freshman, had made slow, but methodical progress as a Hornet athlete before her senior year. Her interest in post-high school study and athletics waned to the point where she turned down an appointment to the Naval Academy - unsure of her future.

But in 2022, Tolbert has flourished. During indoor, she placed second to teammate Jazmyn Richardson in the 55 hurdles, third in the 500 (1:17.44), fourth in the long jump and ran for the runner-up 4x400 relay, helping the Chesapeake team to a top-five team finish.

At Liberty, Tolbert upped the ante, winning both the 100 (14.64) and 300 (43.42) hurdles. She also took second to Madyson White of Heritage in the 200 (24.99) and scored in the long jump.

Richardson was third in the 100 hurdles and sixth in the 300 hurdles, as the Hornets briefly held a two-point lead going into the 200. However, the 16 points scored by the Hurricanes, followed by a decisive win in the 4x400 relay gave the Canes the state championship, while Creek took third, just one point away from Jefferson Forest and a team trophy.

Deep Creek was in position for the lead after senior Tyara Alexander-Colon placed third in the 400, with a season-best time of 59.32.

However, the team's tour de grace occurred on Sunday at the New Balance Nationals in Philadelphia, where Tolbert competed in the 400-meter hurdles, and then joined Richardson, Alexander-Colon, and sophomore Syn-Nirah Young to win the rising stars 4x100-meter relay in 48.46.

And while Twine's team should find new talent quickly (they are in Chesapeake), two and perhaps three of the Creek's recent female graduates will remain teammates, this time at VMI, coached by former Bethel High legend Eddie Williams, who competed with the Keydets as a hurdler. Tolbert and Richardson have committed to hurdle, while Justice Arnold, a five-foot high jumper will be attending the military academy, and possibly running and/or jumping.