At first glimpse, it seemed too odd to be true. Not the fact that Chantilly’s Brandon McGorty was leading the 800 with just a straightaway to go. McGorty had already won the 1600 meters in 4:13, and has run 1:48 for the two-lapper twice, including once last year, when he upset now professional distance runner and sub-4 miler Drew Hunter at the Dogwood Track Classic in Charlottesville.
McGorty’s lead made sense. What seemed to defy logic was the 5’11” runner in the royal blue jersey with yellow letters suddenly making a move toward the 6’6” runner’s shoulder. Fans of McGorty figured he could shake off the challenge with one last surge.
But it never happened. And with one Herculean effort, Oscar Smith junior Pete Smith gave McGorty an 800 scare that he probably has not experienced in quite a while.
“I knew he’d be coming,” said McGorty, just a minute after narrowly defeating Smith by .08 seconds (1:55.01-1:55.09) for the 6A 800 title. “I was trying to keep it tactical.” Asked if he expected as much of a surge as Smith provided, McGorty could only answer, “No.”
Adding more surprise to Smith’s effort came from the fact that he had taken the mentally draining SAT’s earlier that morning.
“It was a slower pace out front, and I wanted to save enough for the end,” said Smith, whose time was half a second off his PR, but follows a pattern shared with McGorty of being competent at a variety of racing distances. Smith’s best times include 23.4 for the 200, 50 seconds for the 400, 4:17 in the 1600, 9:42 for the 3200, and 15:15 for the 5K in cross-country. Speaking of McGorty, he added, “He’s a great runner. In general, Virginia has some really great 800 runners.”
Smith will be running at the New Balance Nationals in two weeks and aiming for a 1:52 in the 800.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the 6A meet came from the Chesapeake team, who gave its better known crosstown rival, Western Branch, a vicious run for the 6A boys’ championship.
After Micaiah Harris’ win in the 400, the Bruins had tallied 58 points, ahead of T.C. Williams (40), and Lake Braddock (32), with Oscar Smith (31) in fourth.
However, the Tigers were not ready to roll over. In the next event, the 300-meter hurdles, Alfred Shirley III took the gold in 37.42, with teammates Kurt Powdar (39.38 – 4th) and brother Aaron Shirley (6th – 39.41) giving Smith 18 points to six for the Branch, and closing the margin to 64-49. When Alfred Shirley’s eight points for placing second in the long jump (24-1) were added to the team totals, the lead cut to seven at 64-57.
Pete Smith’s eight points in the 800 pushed Oscar Smith to a tenuous one point lead (65-64) over the defending champions with just the 200 and 4x400 remaining.
Harris won the 200 (21.11), while Jahkwan Blakely picked up a key pair of points for finishing seventh (22.22), stretching the Branch lead to 76-65. However, Smith’s win in the day’s final event, the 4x400 relay, pushed the final margin back to a single point, with Coach Toukene’s team escaping with a 76-75 team championship.
And just as before, it was the quartet of Tigers who made it happen on the 4-by-4, with Powdar leading off, Alfred and Aaron Shirley running the second and third legs, and Smith anchoring Oscar Smith to a winning time of 3:17.04.
Next year looks promising for the Tigers with Smith returning for his senior year, while Powdar and Aaron Shirley will be juniors next year.
As seen on Milestat.com
There were several nasty red marks on Miles Godwin’s Britton Wilson as she sat down at a picnic table on the far end of the track after watching her Eagles compete in the 4x400.
The first was three by two inches, somewhat peanut-shaped and painful looking as the sun gave it focus on the top of her shoulder. There were others. Wilson’s right knee looked like it had collaborated with a cheese grater, and the scrapes on her right wrist and temple were smaller, but noticeable.
As the sun prepared to set over Todd Stadium, it was obvious that these were battle scars that would probably be worn with enviable pride.
The Eagle may have endured one of the more painful paths toward an individual state title, which she earned with a victory in the 200, just hours after a nasty spill curtailed her 400 effort.
In the field, she had to deal with a 17th place finish in the long jump, with a best leap of 16-10, almost ten inches off her best of 17-8.5 from the Conference 11 championship.
Perhaps there would be a chance for redemption in the 400. With Grassfield’s Lauryn Ghee sitting out the meet, one main competitor would be out. Granted, Nansemond River’s star Syaira Richardson was also in the fast heat, but Wilson could be confident with her best time of 53.6, and knew she had a chance.
Her plan held to form. The sophomore battled with Richardson tooth and nail through two turns and a straightaway. Heading into the stretch, she was one step off Richardson’s pace and refusing to give up any ground. The crowd at Todd hushed, waiting to see if Wilson could pull off one last burst in the final twenty meters.
What happened next was painful to watch. Four steps from the line, Wilson’s balance started to get away from her, causing the youngster to lean too far forward, and on the next to last step, land head first on top of the finish line.
With a great presence of mind, Wilson picked herself up and crossed the finish line in second at 54.60, still 1.85 seconds ahead of third. But the sheer force with which she hit the track, and her inability to completely get hands in front of her to break the fall sent the spectators into a collective gasp, wondering if she would even be ready to compete again. There were also questions about a possible concussion.
“I felt like I was getting closer,” said Wilson hours later, expressing a thought that was shared by many viewers. I just leaned and kind of fell forward. But Syaira deserved to win. She gave her all, and so did I.”
Richardson’s winning effort of 53.36 was just faster than Wilson’s best time, but on Saturday, it was good enough to beat her existing state meet record of 54.27 from last year’s win.
However, Wilson was still slotted to run the 200 finals, which she had qualified for on Friday. Her body hurt, but her mind and spirit needed to be worked on first.
“It hurt. In fact, it still stings,” said Wilson, as if anyone who witnessed the fall would think otherwise. “But I had to get my head back in the game first. I knew that I was going to run the 200, even if I didn’t fall.”
The pain in her body didn’t subside, but adrenalin took over. Still, there was an edge to Wilson as the calls for the 200 finals started coming over the P.A. system. “I always get a little nervous before a race. But this time, I knew that I was going to have to push through, and I told myself that I gotta do it!”
It didn’t take long for the Eagle to know that a title was in her sights. “I felt really confident. Also, I got a good start from the blocks. Since I have been working on running the curves, that went well, and I made up the stagger.”
Overcoming excruciating pain, Wilson left little doubt of the outcome as her personal-best time of 24.28 was .54 seconds ahead of Nansemond River’s Anaya Monroe, who ran 24.82. She couldn’t quite eclipse the state meet record of another WAR runner Brandee’ Johnson (23.94), but hopes to get it next year.
Wilson will be competing in two events at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in mid-June – the open 400 and a 4x200 Emerging Elite race with her teammates.
It’s too bad that points can’t be awarded for guts before the race. Wilson might create a lead that’s too wide to catch up with.
|In their first year, Colgan track coaches Dave Davis (L) and|
Bill Stearns (R) are churning out 6A boys state champions.
Charles Colgan High is the newest high school in the Prince William County school system. Now finishing its first year, the school may be best known to many as the Center for the Fine and Performing Arts. Although Colgan has enrolled students from ninth through 12th grade to boost its total to just over 1,600, the athletic department has mostly operated with a jayvee schedule for many sports during its inaugural year, and will begin varsity play in the fall of 2017.
That’s most of the sports. Under longtime coach Dave Davis, the Sharks have flourished in athletics in its first year, in spite of a team roster stacked with freshmen and sophomores.
“I’m lucky,” said Davis, who left Mountain View after 12 years to take on the expansion squad with his longtime friend and colleague Bill Stearns. “I have four (excellent) athletes.”
At the 6A state championships, the boys placed eighth with 26 points, while the girls tied for 24th place with four.
The boys were boosted by a pair of juniors who gave the Sharks two state champions – distance runner Antonio Lopez, and jumper Joshua Prince Gilliard.
Lopez, originally from Spain, was a force of nature in the distance runs on Saturday. As the sun began to peek its head at 9 AM on Saturday morning, Lopez closed out the boys 3200 with a convincing five and a half second win (9:15.38) over Cox senior David Scherrer. Later, he placed third in the 6A boys’ mile (4:16.74), behind Northern Region veterans Brandon McGorty of Chantilly (4:13.91) and Alex Delvecchio of Lake Braddock (4:14.03).
Gilliard has labored a bit in his development as a long sprinter and 300-meter hurdler. However, he has excelled as high jumper since tying for third with a jump of 6-4 as a freshman at C.D. Hylton two years ago. On Friday, Gilliard upped his best by an inch, and his 6-7 leap was enough to overtake both Terrence Sakyi of T.C. Williams and Kurt Powdar of Oscar Smith, who both jumped 6-6, to give the Sharks their second outdoor individual state championship.
The girls have been just a bit slower to develop, but they have power in numbers and some talent in the shadows. In particular, Davis draws attention to sisters Grace Yeboah-Kodie, a junior, and Lauren, a freshman. Grace placed fifth in the triple jump, although her hop, skip and jump of 38-10.75 was off the 39-6.5 she jumped to place third in the 6A North meet. Lauren placed seventh in the 55-meter hurdles during the 2017 indoor states with a time of 8.23, and she is also showing marked improvement as a long jumper.
Davis also noted his girls’ 4x400 relay of Jordan Smith, Asha Martin, Tina Coulter, Payton Brooks and alternate Courtney Knox. Although they placed just outside of scoring range, their time of 4:07.46 bodes well for the future.
Most of the Shark performances give the coaches hope for the coming years, and serve as one reason why Davis, who has coached at the high school and collegiate level (eight years over two stints at Georgetown) for 42 years was primed to make the move when learning of the new school. A chance to collaborate with his former rival and partner, Stearns, also played a role.
“I knew Bill from when he coached in New Jersey, but when he moved to Virginia, he was the coach at Potomac, at the same time I was at Hylton,” recalls Davis. “We would put our kids together to train, and both teams benefitted. People hated us because we were in the same district. But did I want to beat his team? You bet! Did he want to beat mine? Of course! But we did it (collaborated) for the kids.”
“We remained friends and he had just retired as an athletic director. When the coaching job posted, I gave him a call and said, let’s see if they would hire us as co-coaches.” The two share head coach billing for cross-country, indoor and outdoor track.
Davis didn’t look far to find two other qualified assistants, seeking out Skeeter Jackson and Melissa Tirone. “I’ve known Skeeter for a long time, and Melissa was with me for 12 years at Mountain View.”
The quartet maintains a great synergy which has kept interest high. “We make it work,” said Davis. “It’s a great atmosphere. Skeeter works with the jumpers and hurdlers and we have some Olympians from Nigeria that used to run with me that come out to practice. The kids get to benefit as not many high school kids get to watch Olympians practice on a regular basis. Bill and Melissa generally work with the distance runners, and I’ll be with the sprinters or throwers. But we all do a bunch of stuff. If one of us misses practice, it’s not a big deal because someone can fill in.”
The numbers don’t lie. In spite of the school’s performing arts theme, the Sharks roster has swelled to over 90 athletes. “Of course, we have kids that have to miss for a band concert or chorus, and that’s what you’re dealing with.”
Next year, the bar will go up. ”We have 70 percent freshmen and almost operate as a middle school program,” said Davis. “But the expectations are there. He thought back to the first day of cross-country practice to illuminate his point. “We had a ten-minute run. We might have had a couple of runners who could go for 30 minutes, but most of them had never run at all, and we could only go for ten minutes.” He speaks proudly of his team’s long distance runs which now last from 60-90 minutes.
Davis and Stearns will already face one challenge with the loss of Lopez, who will move back to Spain. But he aims to turn a setback into an opportunity, a theme which could define the Sharks in the next few years. “The levels of the people that ran with Antonio every day gave them expectations. That’s where we’re going.”