Feature stories by MileStat.com freelance writer Cory Mull from the Virginia Tech High School Invitational on some of the top performing athletes including the Blacksburg boys US #1 4x800 meter relay, Battlefield thower Galissia Cause, Jefferson Forest middle distance runner Alyssa Shupe, and Glen Allen middle distance runner Stanley Davis as the first four of 10 featured stories to come out of the meet this past weekend in Virginia. More stories to come later on Sunday!
Blacksburg boys 4x800 meter relay
Photo by Jon Fleming
James DeMarco considering switching his lineup, but then thought big picture: Who’s going to be running at the big meets down the road, he thought?
When he contemplated his best team on the track, he knew what he had to do. Put the veteran racer first, place the quick turnover guys second and third and culminate with the closer.
It had worked most of the season so far, so there wasn’t any reason why it wouldn’t work here. Inevitably, the lineup proved DeMarco right at the Virginia Tech High School Invitational as the Blacksburg boys’ 3,200-meter relay team of Michael Carter, Jacob McCoy, Flip Bishop and Kenneth Hagen secured a US#1 time of 7:51.58.
And it wasn’t even what they were shooting for. They wanted the meet record of 7:49.50. Still, it was satisfying enough for a team that’s headed to the New Balance Collegiate Games next week.
“The nice thing about that team is that I think we can take two or three seconds off every kid on that lineup,” DeMarco said.
Carter led off with a solid 1:59, McCoy turned a 1:56, Bishop secured a 2:01 and Hagan came home with the leading 1:53.
However, by that point, nobody was with Haean. So the idea of getting to 7:49 was a little hard to capture, considering the open field.
“He went out and did everything correct,” DeMarco said. “But you know how that last 200 is in any race: If you have someone next to you, it helps a lot. “
Carter began the record race with a solid plan: get out quick and don’t give up position. But it’s the latter theory that Carter really was keen to achieving. If the Blacksburg boys’ would be successful in the relay moving forward, the team would have to understand how to race in tight quarters.
Carter and Co. made sure the turns were tight without giving up position or overworking on the outside. That’s why DeMarco says he went with the group in the first place: because they knew how to race in key moment.
“At the Penn Relays,” DeMarco said, “if you don’t get out well, no matter what you do, you won’t do well. They’ll put 20 teams out there and if you’re buried if you get behind early.”
McCoy spoke for the rest of the team when he admitted that Virginia Tech had a different feel to it. With the elevated track, it gave an impression of velocity at all corners.
“I think we’ve been looking forward to this meet for awhile,” McCoy said. “This is kind of the meet where we can get after it and try to run fast. This is where we started to get our turnover down. Just the feeling of running at Tech, it’s different than Liberty. You just feel faster.”
Girls Shot Put Winner - Galissia Cause (Battlefield)
She knew it would happen sometime. Because her confidence was high, and her technique was strong, Battlefield’s Galissia Cause was sure she would posit a benchmark throw soon enough.
Fortunately, it came early at the Virginia Tech High School Invitational. It happened on Cause’s third throw of the preliminaries in the shot put on Friday when the senior uncorked a career best 44-9 that gave her the meet win, not to mention a better understanding of her potential.
So far this indoor season, the Battlefield thrower has kept her head up and remained upbeat. That mentality has served her well.
“If it’s a bad throw, you have to let it go and go to the next one knowing you can do the same thing, but better,” she said. “Really, it’s that positivity that I figured out this season. It just keeps me going.”
Cause certainly understood her position Friday. She knew Clarksburg’s Claudia Ababio, who had “beaten her everything we competed,” was aiming for the same result. Ababio finished third with a throw of 40-11.50.
But Cause never trailed. She chucked an opening throw of 43-8, and then claimed her personal record heave just two tosses later.
“I was ecstatic,” Cause said. “Competing against [Ababio], I knew she had the same goals as me, to get over 44. So just knowing what everyone wanted to get and trying to get there myself, the energy kept me pumped at all times.”
Looking forward, the Battlefield senior hopes to continue growing in the event. The throw on Friday broke a nearly five-month drought of meeting the same expectation.
She last threw over 44 feet in July at the USATF National JO Outdoor Championships. The result over the weekend, however, told Cause that she had more to look forward to as she continues to get better.
Is 45 in her future?
“I sure hope so.”
Girls 1000 Winner - Alyssa Shupe (Jefferson Forest)
The 1,000-meter girls’ race was a deep field. Check that, a very deep field.
So to say Jefferson Forest’s Alyssa Shupe was a little nervous on Saturday at the Virginia Tech High School Invitational would be an understatement. She was petrified.
With Battlefield’s Ellison Grove in the field and the presumed favorite, Shupe just hoped to hold on long enough to show Grove her kick and maybe make it a race.
But the thing was, it never came to that. Shupe led the 1,000 for almost the entire way as she outkicked Grove in the final 200 and won in 2:58.31.
It marked the first time Shupe had finished under the 3-minute window for her career, so she was understandably thrilled with the outcome.
“I was actually really nervous coming into it because I haven’t had a good race in awhile,” Shupe said. “But I don’t know. I didn’t think much about it.”
Meanwhile, Grove didn’t help her case when she failed to get out into a good position early on. Her body, she said, just didn’t want to cooperate.
“I thought I went out faster than it turned out to be,” said Grove, who finished second in 2:58.52. “When you look at the time, you have that ‘Oh crap moment.’”
So as Grove was playing catch up, Shupe bunkered into the lead and drove the pack. It wasn’t a totally unfamiliar position, but then again, she wasn’t expecting it.
“I was scared the whole race,” she said. “I was like, ‘Someone is going to pass me any second now.’”
However, Shupe had experience in the 1,000. It was her best race, after all. And she had split less than 3 minutes, unofficially she said, in a DMR race previously. She had also run 3:02.41 at Liberty University in January of last year.
So everything pointed to a good outcome here. With a speedy field and some good competition, Shupe was ready for a breakout.
When the final 200 came into focus, Shupe shifted gears and didn’t look back – well, figuratively, at least.
“I saw a shadow,” she said. “So I said ‘I have to kick it in.’”
Boys 1000 Winner - Stanley Davis (Glen Allen)
When Glen Allen standout Stanley Davis stepped on to the track for the 1,000-meter run on Saturday at the Virginia Tech High School Invitational, he said he thought he’d be surrounded by faster athletes.
That summation turned out to be false.
He was the fastest, albeit slightly.
Davis captured the race in 2:30.04, beating Blacksburg’s Jacob McCoy by eight tenths of a second.
“I was trying to break 2:30, but it’s a personal record for the season, so I’m satisfied,” Davis said.
An 800-meter guy over the outdoor season, Davis sort of moonlights as an 1,000-meter harrier in the winter. He’s got the aerobic capacity for it, plus he likes to use races as “speed workouts” as he says.
It’s a win-win all around.
“I like to do the 1,000 to get ready for my 800 in outdoors,” Davis said. “I use it for endurance, but I like to also think of it as a speed workout. I try to take my first and last laps as a sprint. So I try to make it a sprint workout. “
On Saturday, Davis’s goal was to dictate the race early, then control the pace and the outcome of the finale. He didn’t have many problems achieving those goals.
“I was hoping to go out super hard,” said Davis, who added that he came around the first 200 in 27 seconds. “I wanted to go out super hard and establish a lead. Then I tried to settle with the pack and kick with the last 400 meters.”
While the 400-hurdles are a stronger race for the athlete, Davis is determined to claim a 4A state championship in the 1,000-meter run by the end of the season.
“I want to win 4A states, then hopefully meet of champions,” he said.
Girls Pole Vault Winner - Jackie McNulty (Oakdale)
Something seemed a little off at the Virginia Tech High School Invitational on Friday for Oakdale’s Jackie Mcnulty. The pole vault bar she was set to attempt said 11 feet, 6 inches, but it just seemed … different.
A little higher, that is.
Confident at the height, Mcnulty sped down the runaway and took off, planting her pole and twisting into the air.
It couldn’t be. She could hit this height in her sleep.
So on her second attempt, she concentrated a little more, focusing on the bar just a bit more intently. As she sped down the runway again, she thought positive.
Success. Just like it was drawn up.
Minutes later, officials raised their own eyebrows. How high was this bar, anyway?
Turns out, very high. The entire field, some of which had experience at the height, had been attempting at 12-5, with only Mcnulty being successful – the height turned into her new personal record
So the officials scratched everyone’s attempt, aside from the Oakdale junior, and started from 11-6 again.
And while the length of time it took Mcnulty to get back on the bar was a little lengthy, it did not prevent her from hitting higher marks. The Oakdale junior eventually won the event, scoring a personal record height of 12-8.
“I honestly didn’t believe it. I still don’t believe it,” she said. “But when I think about it, it did seem really high even though I dropped my first attempt. Usually 11-6 is a good height for me. It didn’t make sense. “
But the previous jump, which turned out to be a mental breakthrough, and a mysterious one at that,, allowed the junior to keep going. She switched to a bigger pole – 13 feet, 6 inches – and saw more success.
“That was crazy,” she said of hitting 12-8. “I had been wanting to PR for a long time. Everything came together then. It was awesome.”
“She was pretty siked,” Oakdale head coach Chris Lewis said. “That was her PR. So she was pumped up.”
While the new height was a little scary at first, the junior knew it was only a matter of time before she saw her breakthrough.
“It’s pretty challenging,” she said. “If you’ve never been on something, it can be intimidating.”
Girls Long Jump & Triple Jump Winner - Javonne Antoine (Elizabeth Seton)
The more than five hour drive was important. The competition Javonne Antoine would see at the Virginia Tech High School Invitational could potentially drive her to greater results.
So the Elizabeth Seton High Md. senior walked into the indoor track facility in Blacksburg with a positive outlook.
By the end of two day’s work, Antoine took home two more wins, the first of which in the triple jump on Friday netted her a US#5 mark of 39-10.25 – though she already currently owes the US#4 score of 40-0.75. She secured the jump on her second attempt of the preliminaries.
She won the long jump with a mark of 17-10.75 on Saturday, scoring that mark on the third attempt of the prelims.
Consistency was key, said Rafio Bakare, Antoine’s head coach.
“When she’s on the board, we want to be consistent from the first to second phase and let the last phase do what it’s supposed to do, which is usually long,” he said.
A foul on a pervious attempt at the triple jump could have yielded her a potential mark in the 40 range, he said.
“We could have done better,” Bakare said. “The one jump we fouled was probably longer than that. That was a 40 something. Other than that, she was consistent. She’s still getting her speed to the board.”
Having had successful stints at the Penn State Invitational, the Boo Williams Invitational and the Hispanic Games, Antoine has shown an ability to improve over the indoor season.
“It’s always important to be consistent so you can get the marks you think you can have,” she said.
Looking forward to March, her eyes are on a state championship, and then potentially a good performance at nationals. That’s the event, Bakare said, where he feels his jumper can really exceed expectations.
“I think most competition she’ll have is when she gets to nationals,” he said. “And then we’ll have a real jump off.”
Girls 55 & 300 Winner - Shania Collins (Huntington)
At the end of the spring track season last year, Huntington High’s Shania Collins was told to forget everything she knew about sprinting. The Maryland-based runner was about to get a lesson.
“We had to strip everything down and it was a good six month process,” Collins’ coach, Joe Lee, said. “The day after states, I said to her, ‘Are you ready to be good?’
The former George Mason athlete, a former All-American under John Cook, knew that for Collins to get better, she had to understand what it took.
“Since we’ve been working together, we cover everything,” he said. “We do wicket drills. We go in the weight room. Everything is mechanics and execution and understanding how to race and executing.”
The time with Lee, who coaches for the Glen Arden Track Club in Prince George County, has paid off, with Collins finding success all over the track.
On Saturday at the Virginia Tech High School Invitational, she won the 55-meter dash in 6.98, which was just three hundredths of a second off her personal record of 6.95, also currently US#2.
“Form is what I try to focus on the most,” she said.
Since outdoor states, Lee has constantly pushed mechanics with Collins. She had a flaw in her backside mechanics, he said, so he stripped it down and tried to reconnect again. To get there, Collins watched tape and performed countless wicket drills.
“The first thing is to get her to see it,” Lee said. “We watch a lot of film. We had to see what she was doing wrong. I told her, ‘Here’s what Allyson Felix and Carmelita Jeter do and here’s what you do.’ So once she sees it, then I we move forward -- heel up, toe up. And then we run wickets to death.”
Lee is big on instruction, he says. He believes its important for high school athletes to understand their flaws in order to run to their peak.
“It takes time and it takes repetition,” he said. “It’s just like building a house. First you demo the house. I tell them, ‘You don’t know anything about running, so forget it.’
“The second thing we do is I teach them basics. We go through the basic mechanics, and what it means to run effectively to run at the next level.
“And then we put the frame up from that.”
Girls Mile Winner - Caroline Alcorta (West Springfield)
The only person separating West Springfield’s Caroline Alcorta from the nation’s top prep 1,600-meter time is Mary Cain. And technically, Cain is a professional now.
So maybe Alcorta is the best, at least according to statistics.
The West Springfield harrier certainly added to her resume Saturday at the Virginia Tech High School Invitational, scoring a near personal record of 4:49.71 in the event’s invitational mile.
She was 13 seconds faster than the second-place finisher, and was satisfied with the result.
“My coaches say I have a tendency to go out too fast sometimes,” she said. “So I was actually trying to go out a little conservatively and trying to hit pace by pace. And it just worked out.”
That meant hitting through the first couple 200-meter splits at 35 and 36 second splits. From there, she said, it was about seeing how she could finish.
During the race, motivation became difficult. She was on an island, with every second moving farther away from her competition. She maintained it’s difficult to run to your best when that happens, but there’s always a spark inside her that keeps her legs fresh.
“ I think it’s the fear of being caught that allows you to go a little faster,” she said.
Preferring the 3,000-meter distance – she currently also ranks US#3 with a time of 9:49.55 -- the pint-sized Acorda has been pleasantly surprised with how she’s fared in the near-sprint mile. She’s learning that she isn’t as bad at it as she originally thought.
“I feel like my legs aren’t meant for speed work,” she said. “When it comes to endurance stuff, I feel like I trust my lungs more than my legs. But the mile has gone well lately, so I guess I’ll have to change that.”
Boys Mile Winner - Matthew Novak (Deep Run)
Deep Run High’s Matt Novak had watched the tape on Blacksburg’s Kenneth Hagen.
Conserve early, he saw, and attack the race late.
The research proved to be a great resource, as Novak secured a winning time of 4:18.86 on Saturday in the boys’ invitational mile at the Virginia Tech High School Invitational.
Holding into a pack early through the first six laps, Novak began to break through in the final 400. He turned on the jets in the last 200 as Hagen began his kick.
“It turned into a kickers race,” he said. “That’s what I love. That’s my favorite part of the mile. I love the last 200-meter sprint. It’s the best part about it.”
Novak had enough gas in the tank to outlast Hagen, who finished second in 4:19.23.
“I remember watching his Liberty race, where he just picked off everyone,” said Novak, who owns a US#30 time at 4:17.36. “And in the 1600, he came out with a 4:19. I saw that race and it was a tremendous kick and I knew it would be hard to beat him.”
With states and then nationals in his big picture goals, Novak believes Virginia Tech was the first step toward securing a successful postseason haul.
“I was nervous going into this race,” he said. “I wasn’t sure how I would do. I was hoping for a top three spot because I knew if I got top three, that would have been a fast time. I’m really happy.”
More stories to come from Tech!
2014 Virginia Tech Invitational: