Signs of rust from two weeks of missed practice because of snow and ice, coupled with the New Balance Indoor National Championships in New York City looming four days away, led to several unlikely field heroes on the opening day of the Virginia 5A/6A indoor track championships at the Boo Williams Sportsplex in Hampton.
Photo by: Mary Ann Magnant
In the girls' pole vault, both Leclaire Beres and Jessica Keys of Herndon cleared 9-9. But it was Keys who won the tiebreaker on fewer misses, and the championship. The combined effort was worth 18 points for the Hornets, who are currently second in the team standings. However, Western Branch remains the heavy favorite to defend their title.
Crystal Jones of Colonial Forge broke her own meet record, nailing a 5-8 clearance to equal her indoor best and win the girls high jump. Jones had the bar raised to a facility record 5-10.25, but failed to clear on her three attempts.
T.C. Williams jumped out to an early team lead with 29 points, followed by Herndon, Robinson (15) and Grassfield (13.5). But the Bruins of Western Branch, fueled by the 3200-meter relay triumph of Jewel Smith, Ceshay Joyner, Faith Ross, and Amanda Thomas are now on the board with 11 points, after a 9:16.03 winning time, and enter Tuesday with a full lineup in place.
The upsets started early with Grassfield sophomore Seth Harrell. Harrell started the morning as the 14th and last seed in the shot put, almost nine feet behind the favorite, teammate Owen Chappell.
"All I wanted to do was get in the top eight and score, said the sophomore, whose 2013 knee surgery to correct a misplaced kneecap made his accomplishment all the more unlikely. "But once I got off a 48 (foot throw), I started feeling confident."
With Chappell fouling twice, Harrell found himself in the thick of the competition. He was surprised to make the finals, but astounded everyone in the field with his last throw, a toss of 51-2, which propelled him into the lead, and his first state title.
And while the Grizzlies also scored well in the boys' high jump, there was a mild upset for the top spot as Oscar Smith's Bradley Jones nudged out Grassfield standout Grant Holloway.
Holloway entered as the top seed at seven feet. But Jones showed off his outstanding form in the early rounds as both jumpers, along with Noah Lyles of T.C. Williams, cleared 6'4", then 6'6".
The competition got interesting at 6'8". Jones cleared the height first, while Holloway appeared to have trouble planting his left foot to jump after the approach. The resulting minor slips caused him to miss his first two attempts. In the meantime, Lyles missed three attempts and bowed out. But down to his last jump, Holloway dramatically cleared with a couple of inches to spare, setting up a two-man showdown at 6'10".
Jones wasted little time, clearing the bar on his first attempt. As the lone jumper left to qualify at 6'10", Holloway was forced to either make the height or lose. After missing the first two attempts, he was again down to a final jump. And for the second time, facing elimination, Holloway managed to plant his last step and soar four inches over the bar, setting up another duel at seven feet.
However, both jumpers missed all three attempts at the seven-foot height, leaving Jones with his first-ever state title, winning on the basis of fewer misses.
For Jones, like many athletes, the weather had affected his training. He noted only having one opportunity to practice jumping, that being yesterday. Looking for an edge, he went back to the basics.
"I wanted to really get it (state title)," said the senior, who is not participating in any other events. "My thought was to run fast and jump high."
Quincy Watts of Landstown pulled off yet another improbable upset. Watts, whose previous best triple jump was 44-4, pulled a veritable rabbit out of his hat, jumping an unforeseen distance of 48-10.25 to capture the crown.
While the two weeks of snow had a negative impact on other athletes, Watts feels that he benefitted from the break.
"It actually helped me. The time off gave me a chance to heal," said Watts, who will also be competing in the 55 high hurdles, long jump, 4x200, and 4x400 relays.
The Chantilly quartet of Evan Compton, Daniel Mitchell, Ryan McGorty and Brandon McGorty held up to their expectations, and kept their team title hopes alive with a well-needed 7:56.02 win in the 3200-meter relay.
Grassfield holds the lead after Day 1 with 23 points, with Western Branch in second (14), but poised to strike on Day 2. T.C. Williams and Lake Braddock are currently tied for ninth with six points, but look forward to strong performances tomorrow -- the Bruins with their stable of distance runners (Corbett, Schafer, Monogue, Fogg), and the Titans with the double trouble combination of Noah and Josephus Lyles in the sprints and relays.
In the girls pole vault, Deep Run's Adeline Scelzi added a couple of inches to her personal best, to win the event with an 11-3 clearance.
The Thomas Jefferson S&T foursome of Katrina Junta, Mary Pollin, Emily Moschella and Haley Stumvoll outpaced Great Bridge and Potomac to win the 3200-meter relay in a season-best 10:07.23.
After three events, Atlee and Deep Run are knotted at 18 points to lead the team standings. Henrico (15) and Mills Godwin (12) are tenuously holding the third and fourth spots, while Maury and Princess Anne (10) are tied for fifth.
Matoaca's Anthony Warner benefitted from the absence of top seed Devontay Doyle of Kempsville to leap from the seventh seed to the state crown with a hop, skip and jump of 43-5. Doyle, who is entered in this weekend's Nationals, has topped 48 feet this year. But Warner, a junior, was able to add over seven inches to his previous best, allowing him to defeat the field of ten.
Atlee shot-putter Austin Cannon was one of the few favorites to win as expected on Monday. Cannon, who sported a seed of 54-7, launched a 53-7.25 to win the event and help the Raiders in their quest for the team championship.
Manchester's Zack Marshall got past a quartet of evenly matched high jumpers to win with a leap of 6-4. Marshall credited his win to knowing his competition.
"I have jumped with a couple of the guys before, so I wasn't surprised," said the junior. I tried to stay focused and not worry."
After the five events on Monday, Kempsville (23) is holding a three-point lead over Highland Springs and Manchester (20). Lee-Davis (15.5) and Hickory (15) round out the top five.