4.14.2018

Hylton QB K. Copeland Ready to Take Next Step

After a 2017 season that saw the emergence of Hylton’s tall, lanky quarterback, Keyshawn Copeland is ready to step his game up for the Bulldogs, with his arm, and mindset.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QiTiOlAf5pU (Monet Anderson of TimeOut Sports interviews Keyshawn)

“Our biggest challenge is that Ricky’s leaving,” says Copeland, referring to All-American running back Ricky Slade, who will transcend his game with Penn State starting this fall. “People think we’re going to be a mess, but I want to step it up with the leadership, and show that we are all straight business.”

At Sunday’s “Clash of the Titans,” it was Copeland’s toughness that was on display, and his performance was good enough to earn the Bulldog quarterback MVP honors for the camp.

“I felt like I did pretty good,” said the 6-3 junior, “with the food poisoning and all.” Although the malady was a self-diagnosis, it was the flu like symptoms that had Copeland weak and in need of constant hydration on Sunday. In spite of his altered state, Copeland was mentally alert and knew of one adjustment that he needed to make during a passing drill.

“My release is fast, but I need to keep my elbow up,” said Copeland, who started a quarterback/receiver drill with a few bullets which were closer to the target’s shoelaces than bread basket. After making the adjustment, his first pass darted toward his intended reciever and popped the target square in the chest, making a sound that impressed his QB coach for the day – none other than Phillip Sims, current John Marshall High coach and former USA Today high school All-American and University of Alabama and Virginia quarterback.

“You need to throw EVERY pass like that from now on,” yelled Sims, clearly impressed with the speed and accuracy of Copeland’s bullet. Having the encouragement of the former all-time Virginia touchdown and yardage leader made an impression on Copeland.

“It made me think I was doing something right. He was paying attention, and that makes me want to work harder. You realize that someone is always watching you.”

Colleges have already taken notice. Minutes before Tuesday’s phone call, the University of Buffalo texted Copeland with an invitation to their Spring game. He can’t attend, but has been in contact with their QB coach. He has visited Towson State and Richmond (twice) as the Spider quarterback mentor, Coach Aaron Corp, worked with Copeland’s brother, who will be a graduate redshirt senior in 2018.

“I am busy every weekend,” admits Copeland, who has also drawn interest from Temple and the University of Virginia.

Copeland has plenty to look forward to in 2018, but knows that his current squad is a young one. “We lost a lot of seniors, but we have people coming up. These guys aren’t big, but they’re quick. If we can get the time in the weight room, we’ll be alright.”

As a junior, Copeland threw for just over 1600 yards with 23 touchdowns – not bad for the leader of an offense known mostly for its 2,000 yard rusher (Slade). He mentioned Taevon Johnson and Joshua Hunt as two outside receivers who should become his main passing targets in 2018. As far as replacing Slade goes, several backs will surely be in contention. But Juanya Braxton, who won the region running back MVP at the Clash, looks to be a frontrunner.


Perhaps speaking to his health recovery from Sunday, or looking ahead to 2018, Copeland summed up his situation on Tuesday evening. “I’m good now.”

3.29.2018

All-State Kicker Jadon Redding to Take Year Off Before Playing in College (As seen on Ultimaterecruit.com)

Jadon Redding (photo by InsideNoVA.com)
Jadon Redding’s kicking career is going to be on temporary hold, but the delay should hold a greater benefit for his football future.

The Colonial Forge kicker and punter, who was named to the RecruitNoVA.com’s 1st team after booting 15 field goals last season for the state semifinalist Eagles, announced on his Twitter account that he will be enrolling in junior college this fall and taking six credits while continuing to work out with the objective of kicking for a Division I school in 2019.

“It gives me a chance to solidify my grades,” said Redding, who had an offer with the University of Maryland, and has been classified as a top-25 high school kicker nationwide by two scouting services. He was noted by Kohl’s Professional Camps for his “great power in kickoffs and next level refinement in his field goal ability.”

Redding will enroll at Erie Community College in New York this fall, a move that will not interfere with his four years of NCAA eligibility.

“I want to work on my GPA (grade point average), and hopefully catch the eye of another Division I school,” said Redding, who at six feet and 185 pounds has a solid build for a collegiate bound kicker.

This spring, Redding is continuing to work out, but is also playing striker (forward) for the Eagles soccer team. “It’s keeping my legs conditioned, and I also get out and kick (footballs) every week,” he added, noting that his kicking schedule is determined by the number of practices and games the Colonial Forge soccer team has during a given week.

Redding was the premier kicker and punter in the state last year, earning first-team All-State honors. His signature skill is his ability to send kickoffs into the end zone and former Eagle coach Bill Brown told a reporter last November that he believed 95 percent of Redding’s kickoffs resulted in touchback’s. In 2016, he converted 12 field goals, three from over 40 yards, and he booted a 52-yarder against Mountain View last fall. At the 2017 National Scholarship camp, Redding averaged 67.5 yards per kickoff. 



3.22.2018

W-L's Bennett Uncorks 64-Foot Shotput Throw to Win At 6A Track (As Seen on Milestat.com)

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Washington-Lee's Jabari Bennett (Photo by Mary Ann Magnant)





In the day’s first event, the 6A boys shot put, Washington-Lee once again was the first team to put its stamp on the victors’ podium, as Jabari Bennett duplicated former General Benedict Draghi’s winning effort of 2017, breaking Draghi’s state meet record in the process with a toss of 64 feet, and 6.5 inches.

Bennett, who transferred from Maryland’s James Hubert Blake High after his junior year, has blossomed under the tutelage of W-L throwing coach Josh Patulski, who also trained Draghi. The senior has added almost seven feet to his shot PR, and there is a curiosity as to how much his discus best of 126 feet will improve come spring time.

There was no curiosity about who would win his event as Bennett held over a 12-foot advantage over the second-seeded thrower.

But there were other motivating factors. Draghi’s state meet record of 61-7 was toward the top of the list, and Bennett topped that with a 62-4 effort on his third throw.

On Throw 4, Bennett added a shade over seven inches to his record mark, nudging him closer to the 64-foot PR that he set last week at the 6A North Region meet.

He almost decimated the mark on his next throw. Urging the support of the crowd with a request for rhythmic clapping, Bennett spun out and uncorked a throw which landed two feet short of the padded barrier, and then bounced over.

As the marker found its place, the rumblings among the crowd started, with 65, 66 feet being the most common guesses. But the throw was never measured as Bennett slipped out of the left side of the throwing circle, drawing a foul and negating the effort.

It wouldn’t be a wasted effort.

“That pumped me up,” said Bennett, who quickly refocused. “I told myself that it was my last indoor season and I wanted to go out with a bang.”

On his final throw, Bennett let loose with another bomb, this toss not quite as far as the previous, but still enough to send the 12-pound ball over the divider on a one-hop.

The 66-foot throw will have to wait, but Bennett did launch the ball 64 feet and 6.5 inches for a PR and a 13-foot win.

A lot of options have opened for Bennett, and he is quick to praise his new coach.

“He (Patulski) is an incredible coach,” said Bennett. “He is able to find small details in my technique, and he shows me how to fix them.”

Bennett has also found unorthodox methods to help his progress. Exercises to enhance his flexibility are helping as is a regular dose of yoga. “It helps me loosen up parts that I don’t work as much. It’s good mentally, kind of a mind, body and soul (workout).”

Colleges are lining up for his services, with Auburn, Maryland, Purdue and Tiffin (OH) showing the most interest right now. Bennett is not close to making a final decision, but he plans to do so in early April.

A school with a communications major will certainly find its way toward the top of Bennett’s list. “I love films and I would like to be a film producer,” adding that his admiration of the cinema started with a film class in middle school. However, at this time, he has no favorite genre.

But there is still a Nationals meet and outdoor season to finish before his prep career comes to an end. Bennett, who joined his first track team at the age of eight, and started throwing soon after, would like to get another PR next week, and then push his shot toward the 70-foot barrier outside.





3.15.2018

South Lakes' Hannah Waller Looks Back On Record Indoor Track Season (as seen on Milestat.com)

Hannah Waller broke the 757 girls strangehold on the
short sprints at the most recent 6A state meet in Hampton
Hannah Waller is fairly new to track, but it hasn't taken her long to make waves on the national level. With her wins in the 55 (6.87) and 300 (38.50) last weekend at the 6A girls state championships at the Boo Williams Sportsplex in Hampton, the South Lakes sophomore broke the 757's stranglehold on the girls' sprint titles from this decade, and she is primed to stencil her name all over the Virginia state record books. Still, she came to running from another discipline.

"I used to be a swimmer," said the Seahawk, who specialized in the freestyle and breaststroke as a member of her local YMCA swim team. "But my mother always thought I was fast."

It turned out that Mother knew best. "As a sixth grader, she took me to an all-comers meet in Centreville, and I made it to the finals (in my event). She thought I should continue, so I joined the Ashburn Elite track team," added Waller.

To the surprise of her track friends, Waller didn't immediately sign up for indoor track during her freshman year at the Reston school. "At one of the meets, I ran across a coach named Lee Watts who had run for Georgetown (University). He wanted to coach me, so I trained with him in Bethesda (MD), and work on my technical form."

The specialized work must have helped. After one invitational in outdoor season, Waller was chosen as one of seven South Lakes runners to travel across the country to compete at the prestigious Arcadia Invitational in California.

"Our coach (Scott Raczko) takes us there for the competition," said Waller, who ran region qualifying marks of 12.41 in the 100 and 25.53 in the 200 at Arcadia, while running a 200 leg on South Lakes' school-record sprint medley (4:06.84).

The progress continued and the then-freshman won the 6A North region meet with an 11.99 in the 100, tying the mark of Hayfield's Murielle Ahoure. She also captured the 200 in 24.74.

After placing third in the 100 and fourth in the 200 at 6A outdoor states, Waller started to get an idea about her ability. But it was only in the following week, after racing at Nationals, that the possibility of her potential began to sink in.

Coach sat me down and we went over our whole season," said Waller. "We went over every race, and it motivated me and gave me inspiration. After talking with (Raczko), I knew that I could get to new heights."

Now in her first indoor season, Waller has yet to taste defeat in her primary events, as she is undefeated in both the 55 and 300. However, she did hit a wall toward the end of January.

Jokingly, she recalls, "I knew that I could consistently run 6.99 (in the 55)," an opinion supported by the fact that she hit the mark three times over a two-week period, along with a single 6.98. Thinking ahead to the state meet, she also noticed that "Shadajah (Ballard of Western Branch) was just under 7."

After region wins (6.99 in the 55, 39.43 in the 300), Waller realized that she would need a new wrinkle in her training to achieve the final boost to winning two state championships. Coach Raczko set a plan into motion.

"We drilled on starts, and coming out of the blocks," said Waller, who also spent extra sessions working on her "drive phase". "I worked on the movement of my arms and my frequency (of landing)." For the 300, we talked about going after the last 50 (meters) off the turn. Coach likes to call it "blazing." My goal was to make sure that I wasn't losing form, to keep my arms going."

The extra work paid off as Waller stunned her competition with a marginal win in the 55, a race that had not seen a non-757 (area code) athlete win the event since the state meet moved to the Booplex in 2009. Asked if breaking the streak motivated her, Waller admitted, "I didn't know about it until he (Nolan Jez of Milestat) mentioned it in the (video) interview." Her time of 6.87 kept Waller ranked at #3 in the U.S., and beat Ballard, her fiercest competitor, by a whole tenth of a second.

The 300 also went according to plan, as Waller drove off the last turn to win the race and finish in a new PR of 38.50, a quarter-second improvement.

Next up - New Balance Nationals, where Waller ran the 60 and 200 at the Armory complex in New York City. Waller placed fifth in the 200 (24.41), and ninth in the 60.

"I like it," said Waller talking of the track. I ran there at a youth meet, and then again last year. It's really bouncy, plus it's a banked track. We ran a 1:43 in the 4x200 and my split was 23.8, so I'm hoping to be somewhere around there (at Nationals).

She hasn't had much time to think about outdoor season, or even a potential college at this point of her career. Yet, surprisingly, for a 10th grader, Waller has a laser-like focus on her career venture.

"I want to get into marketing," said Waller, again sighting her mother's wisdom as a guiding factor. "She's an entrepreneur, a promoter, and she has motivated and guided me in that way."

Perhaps she will gain a few lessons from those who aim to move her running career to greater levels. Ha

3.07.2018

Potomac Boys Sprinters Prep For NB Nationals (As seen on Milestat.com)

Lost in the shuffle of some magnificent performances among the young men and women within the 5A and 6A classifications was a solid group effort by the boys’ sprinters from Potomac High in Dumfries. Six Panthers combined among six events to score 53.5 of Potomac’s 58.5 points, which was enough to put them in solid contention for the state title right up until the last event when L.C. Bird nailed down the decisive eight points to win with 66.

Donovan Louis is one of five Potomac HS sprinters
hoping to find the medal stand at this weekend's
New Balance Nationals in NYC.
Under the tutelage of sprint coach Kenny Harrison and head coach Jeffrey Foy, five of the six runners will attempt to make noise on the national scene this weekend as the Panthers compete in two events, with aspirations of scoring in each one.

Last year, most of the fireworks coming from Dumfries came from Donovan Louis, a former 1,000-yard rusher on the Panther football team who made bigger waves with indoor and outdoor track and decided to forego his senior year on the gridiron and concentrate on his sprinting and jumping. The decision paid off as Louis earned a track scholarship to Virginia Tech, where he will contend on the track and in the field.

At the 5A state meet, Louis won the 55 in 6.43, ran a leg of the Panthers winning 4x200 (1:30.03) and placed second in the long jump with a 23-5.5. He will be concentrating on the long jump this weekend at the Armory in NYC, and hopes to get past his best jump of 24-3. How much farther remains anyone’s guess, and Louis isn’t quick to tell.

“Looking to win,” said Louis on Monday evening when asked about his goal. “And to put up a jump that’ll shock everyone.” However, the specifics were left out. “I wouldn’t say the distance I’m aiming for.”

Rawle Brebnor Jr. improved exponentially last year to move into the upper echelon of 5A sprinters. Brebnor, who recently committed to run for Indiana Institute of Technology, placed sixth in the 55 at States, and ran the 300 and Potomac’s fourth-place 4x400, but the senior has specific goals for his weekend, in which he will run on the 4x200 and open 200.

“My goal is to just run fast try to make the finals in the 200. (In the) 4x200, we are trying to win the whole thing,” said Brebnor, with no pretense of modesty intended.

Bryan Ahouman, third in the 55 (6.47) is the up and comer of the Panther contingent. Ahouman has emerged as a sophomore and also ran a leg on the 4x200, a task he will duplicate in New York.

Matthew Mitchell placed second in the 55 hurdles at the 5A meet, and he will join Ahouman, Brebnor and Anthony Cole (4x200 champion, sixth – HJ) as the Panther’s fearsome foursome. Mitchell also eked out a point as the eighth-place finisher in the long jump (21-8.25).

Dashon Reeves was also on the winning 4x200 squad, as well as the 4x400, but will be unable to make the trip to New York. But the five Panthers making the trip will hope to bring back a reminder of their journey, preferably in gold, silver or bronze form.

2.28.2018

T.C.'s Nyla Ward Wins Virginia 6A Long Jump with 19-2 Leap. She's Now Aiming For 20.

It would be hard to find fault with T.C. Williams junior Nyla Ward for scratching on all three of her attempts in the 6A long jump. After all, there haven't been many opportunities this indoor season to jump in a real pit.
 
"This was the best practice we have had all season," exclaimed jumping coach James Garner, minutes after Ward had wrapped up the state title with her leap of 19 feet and 2.75 inches. There was no disrespect intended in the comment, especially after Garner elaborated on the reason for stating it.
"It's been a tough winter for us. Our pits are frozen, and last Tuesday and Wednesday were the first days we have been able to practice outside in four, five weeks."
Ward, with remarkable modesty, explained some of the faults she need to tweak after Saturday's jumps.
"I need to work on keeping my head and my eyes up," adding that failing to do so forces her to reach for the board with her final approach step.
If Ward succeeds, a great plateau should be reached. Her best jump indoors has been 19-5, but last spring, as a sophomore, she just missed breaking the 20-foot barrier by the smallest possible margin, leaping 19-11.75 while placing second in the 6A State meet. She admitted that taking a quick peek at the takeoff board during her finals may have caused her to overstep and step over the board on all three attempts.
There was no reason for concern. With a 13-inch lead (Jazmine Tilmon of Western Branch was second in 18-1.75), Ward was allowed the chance to take three worry-free jumps at a big competition, while aiming for the elusive 20.
Of course, getting past 20 feet is her goal, right?
"Actually, I'm trying to get the school record," said Ward, referring to the 20-1.25 mark set by Tynita Butts at the National Scholastic Indoor Championships in 2009. Butts had tacked on three more inches during the previous outdoor season, meaning that eventually 20-4.5 will be the mark that Ward aims for.
The comparisons between Butts and Ward are beginning to take shape, especially after Ward broke her elder's 55-meter school record earlier this season. Garner, who has coached jumpers at the Alexandria school for 17 years is the common link. 
"Am I not the luckiest coach in the world," questions Garner. "I just called my wife and told her, two state long jump champs. Incredible."
Butts moved on to East Carolina, where he developed into a 6-4 high jumper. With one more year of high school, her coaches wonder how high to set the bar with their latest prodigy. But both Garner, and head coach Mike Hughes admit, Ward is ready for the challenge.
"There is no finer athlete to work with," said Hughes, now in his 25th year at T.C. "She works hard and takes care of her life outside of track and field. She is very even keeled and down to earth."
Ward, who started in track as a nine-year old with the revered Cavalier/Cavalette youth track team in Prince George's County (MD), had ample opportunities to test her threshold of patience this winter, as snow and cold weather forced the Titans indoors on most days. Garner described what he called a "three-ring circus."
"Basically, we share a pit with the pole vaulters. So, we will have a pole vaulter jump, and then a jumper will come in from the side."
There are other training methods. "We have devised ways of working indoors. We're working on explosion with boxes. Sometimes, I'll stand in the pit with a stick in my hand and tell Nyla that I want her to jump and knock the stick out of my hand. She has to get to a certain height on her jump to do that."
There will be one more shot at 20 feet for this season, when Ward jumps at the New Balance Nationals. She will also run the 60 meters and take a final attempt at Butts' other short sprint record. Later on Saturday, she placed sixth in the 55 with a time of 7.11, just off her best of 7.07.
But there's always next year, and Ward's cool demeanor should help when the college coaches start calling en masse. To date, LSU, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech and South Carolina have reached out, and the first two schools have drawn the most attention from Ward. "Georgia has the best jumpers, and LSU is just ..." Ward's voice trails off, but she nods when the word "good" is interjected to fill in the blank about the perennially top-five nationally ranked Tiger team.
But for now, Nyla Ward will just work on keeping her eyes up.