VHSL Group AAA State Indoor Championships - Girls Meet Summary

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Photo by Ted Plunkett

The Bethel girls did not need an individual champion or star athlete to carry them to them to their sixth state indoor title. They just needed Maya Moore to get across that finish line. Moore ran anchor leg on Bethel’s top seeded 4x400 meter relay which was firmly in control after their third leg, 500 state runner-up Emmy Fraenk put them well out in the lead.  As Moore approached the finish line to seal the state title for Bethel, her legs gave way and crashed to the track just beyond the finish line.

If she did not get across that finish line in time, Bethel was going to lose the state title in a bizarre fashion to defending champions from Landstown. However, she found the strength to get in at least for second place to give Bethel 8 points from the event. The margin of victory in the final team standings ended up being 6 points for Bethel.  It was a thrilling close to a meet filled with amazing performances.

Girls 55 Meter Dash

Oscar Smith sophomore Keilah Tyson was anyone's pick to win the 55 meter dash with Landstown senior Marlena Wesh expected to defend her state title, but Friday's prelims showed that Tyson and several others would make Saturday's finals interesting with the defending champ.

A total of five girls ran 7.10 or faster in the prelims including two underclassmen in Tyson (7.08) and Great Bridge freshmen Shakeela Saunders (7.10). Nansemond River senior Tanay Chandler started to show her pre-season promise in making a huge drop in her season best time to run a prelim leading performance of 7.01.

Not only was Wesh defeated by Tyson in the finals, but Chandler and Saunders in one of the fastest 55 meter dash finals in state meet history with four girls at 7.10 or faster as Bethel freshmen Olicia Sharp was only one hundredth of a second off Wesh's 2008 winning time of 7.11 in fifth place.

Tyson had an inside lane position to be easily overlooked sprinting towards the finish line, but she was the surprise champion from lane 2 matching Chandler's state best 7.01 clocking from the day before. Chandler in lane three was the state runner-up in 7.03.

Monique Everrett's state meet record of 6.95 from 1987 survived another year, but may not be for long as three of the top five finishers were upperclassmen with Tyson, Saunders, and Sharp.

Girls 300 Meter Dash

In the 300, Marlena Wesh was determined to redeem herself from her rare loss earlier in the 55 meter dash as well as having wasted an event as a leg on a 4x200 which was out of the race from a fall on an earlier leg. Wesh got redemption in a US #2 personal best time of 38.86, which is the fastest time on a flat track in the country this season. The Oklahoma bound Wesh's performance is #6 all-time in state meet history and is the sixth athlete to win two 300 dash titles.

A national class record was set in the race as well with Great Bridge freshmen Shakeela Saunders pressing Wesh all the way to the finish for a runner-up clocking of 39.08. Saunders now has two national freshmen records after leaping to a US frosh record in the triple jump at last week's Eastern Region Meet with a 40 foot mark.

Potomac Senior's Yvonne Amegashie and Menchville's Tania Minkins pushed each other out of section 5 to place third and fourth overall in the event. Northwest Region champ Amegashie ran a season best time of 40.47 to win her section, while Menchville junior Tania Minkins bounced back from a poor showing at the regional meet to run just off her PR from districts in 40.66.

Landstown picked up 10 points with Wesh’s win to gain traction on Bethel, but the Bruins countered with two athletes scoring in junior Emmy Fraenk (5th, 40.75) and freshmen Olicia Sharp (6th, 40.76).

Churchland’s Tiffany Harris earned her third all-state honor of the event by snagging the final spot of 8th place (40.83).

Girls 500 Meter Dash

Shakeela Saunders may have two freshmen national records, but James Robinson freshmen Genamarie McCant has the state title as she claimed her first of likely several future state titles in the 500 meter dash with a 1:15.15 victory. McCant, the current US leader in the event, sat on Bethel junior Emmy Fraenk until less than 200 meters to go when she made a move for the lead when previous US leader Natalie Woodford of Patrick Henry pulled up on her side. McCant then turned on the jets to become only the second 9th grader to win the event to join four-time 500 champion Cathron Birge of Lake Braddock. McCant will be anxious to see if she can follow in Birge’s footsteps and win four consecutive titles.

Fraenk set the hard pace early and was able to hold off a slew of girls challenging her to the line for second. The junior ended up being the top individual finisher of the meet for the state team champions of Bethel.

Two sophomores closed well in the last lap to take third and fourth respectively with Lake Braddock’s Becca Sinichko (3rd, 1:16.14) and Grassfield’s Amanda Smith (4th, 1:16.23). Sinichko and Smith were both All-State performers as freshmen in the event as well.

Girls 1000 Meter Run

Paige Johnston reversed roles from her state meet races last year in which she saw leads and titles in the 1000 meter run indoors and 800 meter run outdoors disappear on the final straightaway with the finish line in site. Doubling back from a victory in the 1600 meter run earlier, the Midlothian senior bided her time running behind the leaders and waited to make her move until the final turn.

Albemarle senior Liz Barclay had a gutsy run to lead out front for most of the race and until the very end when Johnston kicked past her for the win. It was three years ago when both Barclay and Johnston raced the freshmen mile against one another at VMI that anyone present for that race could see the two talented youngsters at the time would eventually be battling for a state title one day.

Despite running a tough positive split race earlier in the 1600, Johnston ran the third fastest 1000 time in meet history with her 2:55.38 victory behind only meet record holder Elizabeth Bayne of Kecoughtan from 2000 at 2:53.90 and Johnston’s first title in 2007 at 2:55.05. The University of Arkansas recruit Johnston also becomes the first two-time champion in the event to win her two titles in non-consecutive years.

Barclay held on for second place and her highest finisher ever in a state meet race with a personal best time of 2:56.69 and one of the deepest 1000 state races trailed her in with six girls total under 2:58.

Lake Braddock junior Liana Epstein will be in good position next year possibly to pull off the same double as Johnston. Epstein finished 3rd in the 1000 (2:57.40) after taking runner-up to Johnston earlier in the 1600 (5:02.66).  Epstein was able to hold off Natalia Kuhn (4th, 2:57.43) for third, who had held Epstein off the night before to anchor Ocean Lakes girls to their first 4x800 state title. Kuhn ran admirably running on an injured ankle and emotional high from the night before.

Girls 1600 Meter Run

Paige Johnston of Midlothian could have made it easier on herself with a more strategic race, especially since would be competing in the 1000 meter run, but opted instead to test herself with a fast early pace including checking in at 800 meters in 2:22.

The hard early pace appeared to catch up to Johnston in the last half of the race as Northern Region champ Liana Epstein started to reel her in as they headed into the final 400 meters, but Johnston was able to find another reserve of energy in the final lap to win by a two second margin in 5:00.50. With her win in the 1600, Johnston became a state champion in three different events to go along with her 1000 indoor and 800 outdoor titles as a sophomore.

Epstein was moving quickly on the final lap to secure second in 5:02.66, while Northwest Region champ Ariel Karabinus ran a personal best time of 5:05.96 for third place.

Two members of Friday night’s victorious 4x800 meter relay of Ocean Lakes came back to earn All-State honors individually in the 1600 meter run with Anne Reiner in fourth place at 5:07.25, while state cross country champ Stacey nobles took eighth in 5:16.73.

Paige Kvartunas of West Springfield led the chase pack for much of the race after Johnston and ended up fifth with her first All-State honor in 5th place (5:08.05), which would not be her last top 8 finish of the meet.

Girls 3200 Meter Run

The pace went out slow for the first 800 meters, but by the 1600 meter mark, it was clear which two runners would be racing for the state title in the 3200 with defending AAA outdoor state 3200 champ Hiruni Wijayaratne of Herndon and Northwest Region 3200 champ Kaitlyn Davis of Mountain View.

The finish was quite surprising with Wijayaratne considered as the one with superior leg speed as a sub 5 miler. Davis was leading the race for the last couple of laps until Wijayaratne made her move with a lap to go. It appeared to be the point when Wijayaratne would show off her speed and gap Davis, but the junior transfer from Jacksonville, North Carolina showed off some new wheels on the backstretch to counter Wijayaratne’s move and bring home her first state title in a personal best time of 11:01.32.

Outside of race champion Davis, the event was dominated by the Central and Northern regions as finishers #2 through #16 were all from those two regions. Wijayaratne held on for second place in 11:05.21, while James Robinson senior Stephanie Bray (5th, 11:11.72), Thomas Jefferson freshmen Sarah Stites (6th, 11:12.41), and West Springfield junior Paige Kvartunas (8th, 11:16.26) also earned All-State honors from the Northern Region. Kvartunas was the only athlete to earn All-State honors in both the 1600 and 3200 meter run in the meet. While McCant, Saunders, and other ninth graders were just as dominant as the upperclassmen in the sprints, Stites was the lone freshmen to finish in the top 8 in any distance race.

Amy Witt was the top finisher among the Central Region girls in third place with a personal best time of 11:07.07. Running a significant personal best of 11:10.05 in fourth was Lee-Davis junior Stephanie Cario, who last year as a sophomore had a personal best of 11:58.

Girls 55 Meter Hurdles

The state champion was certain to come from the Eastern Region with five of the top six qualifiers for the fast section final representing schools from the region. The tougher call was who among that pack would rise to the occasion and become the champion out of the Eastern Region. It ended up being a race between two hurdlers trying to erase the memories of hurdles crashes from past state meets with their first state titles with Landstown senior Taylor Wheaton and Deep Creek senior Chantal Luedeke.

Both ran very clean races and Hampton’s Quaniqua Jones (3rd, 8.17) also challenged for most of the race as well, but Wheaton pulled out the narrow victory in a 8.12 clocking. Wheaton had been out of action recently due to a foot injury, but not only was able to shake out the rust quickly with the fastest time in the prelims, she also made up for just missing a state title in the 300 meter hurdles last spring with her championship on Saturday. The George Mason bound Wheaton is the seventh straight state champion from the Eastern Region in the girls 55 meter hurdles.

Luedeke ran a season best time of 8.14 for a state runner-up showing. George Washington junior Camesha Goods kept it from being a complete domination of the Eastern Region with her fourth place finish (8.48) in the finals.

Western Branch had a pair of girls go 1-2 in the slower section of the two section finals with Keisha Myrick (8.53) and Desmonae Gray (8.53) clocking identical times to earn sixth and seventh place finishes overall to score points for their eventual third place finishing team.

Girls 4x200 Meter Relay

It is hard to imagine it has been since 2005 when the Bethel girls last won the 4x200 state title considering their rich history in the event with a total of nine past state titles in the relay event. They should win a few more in the coming years with the young group of talent that Coach Eddie Williams has to work with.  The 2009 state champion relay from Bethel consisting of two freshmen in Olicia Sharp and Anise Cuffee, one sophomore in Rashaun Combs, and senior anchor leg Rachel Burrell, easily ran away with the event in a time of 1:42.52 to break their own facility record from the regional meet. Burrell is a great talent for Bethel, but they certainly a few more youngsters who could replace her on the relay in future years to extend their 4x200 state titles beyond their current total of 10 and possibly pursue the state record of 1:41.01 set by a relay from Bethel which included assistant coach Ara Towns.

No fast section of the 4x200 can avoid controversy and collisions as both Landstown and Menchville going down in the race on the third legs with Landstown being disqualified and Menchville finishing last overall. The points lost by Landstown in the relay race had a huge outcome in the final team standings with the 2008 state champions and Bethel.

Following Bethel were four Eastern Region teams with Grassfield (2nd, 1:44.30), Booker T. Washington (3rd, 1:44.61),  while Deep Creek (4th, 1:45.45), and Hampton (5th, 1:46.22) came out of slower sections to place higher than seeded.  500 meter state champion Genamarie McCant opened for James Robinson to help them break up the top 6 from being all Eastern Region as the Lady Rams placed sixth in 1:46.73.

Girls 4x400 Meter Relay

A bizarre finish in the fast section of the girls 4x400 with Bethel well out in first place on anchor leg as their freshmen Maya Moore collapsed on the ground just before the finish line and lay their several seconds before able to crawl across the finish. It took her just long enough to regain her strength to get across the line for Booker T. Washington girls to sneak in for the state title in 3:56.61. Genamarie McCant of Robinson ran a great anchor leg to bring her team from behind to move them up to third place and nearly in first with their time of 3:56.77.

Bethel near meet record pace before the fall settled in between for second at 3:56.75. With the team scoring close heading into the final race between them and Landstown, it was a concern that the fall might have cost them the state title as it was too close to call if McCant had crossed the line first before the fallen Moore. It turned out through the FAT timing system that Bethel had at least held on for second and the 8 points from the event was more than enough points to hold off Landstown for the team title.

Girls 4x800 Meter Relay

The Ocean Lakes and Lake Braddock girls were the two teams expected to clash for the state title in the 4x800 with both teams entering with times under 9:30 this season. It was not a race between the two teams until the final exchange when Ocean Lakes third leg Stacey Nobles pulled her team from out of the race to into the lead with a 2:16 split. She handed off to teammate and Eastern Region 1000 meter champ Natalia Kuhn with less than a second advantage over Lake Braddock and their anchor leg Liana Epstein.

With virtually equal personal best times at 800 and 1000 meters, it was expected to be a battle between the two, but Kuhn was aggressive through her first 400 meters to build a gap of a few seconds on Epstein. It appeared though that the fast early pace was catching up to Kuhn though as Epstein begin to reel her in and came up on her shoulder on the backstretch of the bell lap. Kuhn fought her off though and refused to give up the inside and was able to find enough energy to bring home the Eastern Region’s second 4x800 indoor state title in a time of 9:21.00. Lake Braddock finished a close second at 9:21.92 as it would lead to a day two for Epstein of solid individual races in the 1600 and 1000, but just short of first place.

A Deep Run 4x800 with a Dobbs sister running opening leg (Courtney Dobbs) as well as another Dobbs sister running on anchor leg (Erica Dobbs)  stepped for the third spot in a season best and school record time of 9:31.78. Erica Dobbs, the Central Region champ in the 1600, would come back on Saturday to earn All-State honors individually in the 1600 meter run.

Girls High Jump

The list of several state meet record holders in the girls high jump grew to many after this past weekend as T.C. Williams senior Tynita Butts and Potomac senior Pearl Bickersteth joined three others in the record books with their clearances of 5’9”. Butts nearly became the lone record holder after twice clearing over at 5’10” until the bar shook off after remaining on the standards for several seconds. Her near misses at 5’10” as well as several successful attempts at earlier attempts well over the bar indicate that she is capable of 5’10” or higher.

Previous misses gave Butts the state title over Bickersteth, who had to settle for second once again after finishing as runner-up to Booker T. Washington’s Deshana Briggs last spring at the outdoor state meets. It was Bickersteth’s first time clearing 5’9” after clearing 5’8” on three separate occassions before.

The high jump went very well for both Western Branch and Deep Run with two All-State finishers each. Western Branch, battling for a top 3 finish, picked up 10 points in the event from Erika Morgan (3rd, 5’5”) and Keisha Myrick (5th, 5’2”). Deep Run scored 8 points in the high jump with 2007 state champion and co-meet record holder Briana Hudson (4th, 5’4”) and Marlena Daly (6th, 5’2”).

Girls Pole Vault

The girls pole vault competition went to midnight after a late start following the boys and well after the final running event was completed on day one. Emma Dejarnette of Atlee cleared 12 feet in the pole vault to tie the state meet record and then called it a night after feeling under the weather since regional week. For Dejarnette, it was her second indoor title and third overall.

Atlee had two of the top three vaulters with sophomore Cameron Overstreet in third place at a height of 11 feet. Overstreet is vaulting very well as an underclassmen and it might not be a long wait at all for Atlee pole vault coach Kyle Bishop to have another state champion after Dejarnette graduates this spring.

Breaking up the Atlee pair was fellow Central Region vaulted Lizzie Powell of Patrick Henry. Powell matched her season best in the pole vault with a clearance of 11’6”. Teammate Sydney Hobart also earned All-State honors in sixth place at 9’6, which six others cleared as well.

Girls Long Jump

Despite leaping on the above ground runway which most performed well under their season best seed marks, Tynita Butts of T.C. Williams bettered her own meet record from a year ago by a half inch with a US #1 20’0.50” mark on her first attempt. It was her second state title and meet record of the weekend to follow up her 5’9” victory in the high jump the day before.

The defending state champion actually came in as an underdog with the nation’s top two ranked long jumpers in the event with Karimah Shepherd of Grassfield and Tiffany Harris of Churchland.  Both Harris (6th, 18’1.75”) and Shephered (7th, 18’1.50”) struggled on the alternate runway, while Shepherd’s teammate Jazmen Townsend stepped up for a runner-up finish with her mark 18’10.25”.

Saturday was a big day for Champagne Bell as the Booker T. Washington junior was one of the few athletes to post a personal best mark in the long jump with her third place performance of 18’8.25” and later ran on the state champion 4x400 meter relay.

Girls Triple Jump

Despite being the defending indoor state champion and having jumped well at the Central Region Meet in the Ashe Center, J.R. Tucker senior Jasia Richardson was not considered the favorite in the triple jump. After all, Richardson had never leaped over 40 feet before and the event featured two girls who had done so this season in Grassfield's Karimah Shepherd and Great Bridge's Shakeela Saunders. Shepherd had leaped over 40 feet on several occassions this year at the Boo Williams facility and is the US leader with a season best of 41'2.50". Meanwhile, Saunders won the Eastern Region Championships last week with US freshmen national record leap of 40'2.50".

Well Richardson finally joined the 40 foot club on Friday at the state meet and denied both Shepherd and Saunders from joining her club as a state champion once again of 40'2.25".  Richardson is the fifth repeat champion in the event with Thomas Jefferson’s Jennifer Walker (1994-1996) as the only three-time winner in the event. The Radford recruit went over 40 feet twice actually and Shepherd had to settle for state runner-up despite going over 40 feet once again at 40 feet even.

2009 has been a very special year so far for the girls triple jump with three having gone over 40 feet indoors. The only year prior which can boast so many girls jumping this far is in 1998 when three girls from the Northern Region (Yolanda Thompson - West Potomac, Naccole Guinn - Thomas Jefferson, Ayanna Patterson - McLean) and Aprelle Wilson of Salem all went over 40 feet during the course of the indoor season.

Girls Shot Put

Almost none of the top girls in the shot put threw over their season best marks as Latona Jackson of T.C. Willams was the first finisher to exceed her seed mark coming out of the lower flight to place seventh, but the Williams household can boast two All-State throwers with Jaleesa Williams of First Colonial winning her first state title with a mark of 40'6" and sister Jessica Williams of Landstown taking fifth place (37'3").