After a lengthy season that began in mid-March, the RCHS coed varsity track team earned plenty of bragging rights.
The team’s final meet of the season was on May 12 at George Mason High School. Several Panthers came away with accolades and awards on Mustang turf.
In the 400-meter dash, senior Justin Fitzmorris won his event, earned first place in the district, and qualified for state competition with his individual time of 51:42. “I’m undefeated this season, but the competition at Mason was a lot different than it had been. It was closer. I know regional competition is gonna be a tough test. I’ll go in ranked fourth or fifth, but I have high hopes — very high hopes.”
High hopes also described the feelings about the men’s 4×400 meter relay team. Josh Frye, Seth Wayland, Reed Dove, and Justin Fitzmorris finished third with a season-best time of 3:34:58, which qualified them for the regionals and simultaneously made them head coach Scott Stephen’s first relay team to run at the state championship competition.
Reed Dove, who had no previous 4×4 experience, said: “Normally, I’m a distance runner, so it was very exciting getting to do a sprint event. It’s my first time moving on to regionals and states, so I’m pretty excited about it.”
The men’s 4×100 meter team of Julious Lucas, Chris Jenkins, Huck Pace and Zack Armor qualified for regionals, as well. “It was crazy!” Huck Pace said. “Coach said that all I had to worry about was getting the stick around. We got the stick around! All four of us are first-year track runners: three seniors and a freshman. And now, we’re going to regionals.”
One other male teammate joined in the excitement about regional competition. After long jumping 18 feet 10 inches, Josh Frye will also be competing at regions.
The women’s team tasted some of their own success in the final meet of the season. Assistant Coach James Sharpe reported: “Joslyn Smith qualified for regionals in an impressive four events: the 100 meter, 200 meter, long jump, and also as part of the 4×400 meter relay with teammates Carly Day, Ashlee Armor, and Sarah Garrison.”
Carly, who ran the first leg, described her role on the team. “My job is to get us a good start — put us in front really fast. Ashley and I stayed on the competitors’ tails. Then our star athletes, our Luke Skywalkers, took it from there.”
Sarah Garrison, the anchor and an ordained “Skywalker,” detailed the latter part of the race. “Carly and Ashley were in the back; then Joslyn got the baton. She passed Strasburg and George Mason until she got to me. I held that position until the end.”
Sarah also qualified in the individual 400 meter run, placing second in the district with a time of 63.2 seconds. “It was my first race in two weeks. I felt like I could’ve pushed more — could’ve closed the gap more. I didn’t feel like it was my best race.”
Maybe Sarah did not have her best race at George Mason, but the season certainly allowed some of her teammates to log their personal bests in the stats book.
Coach Sharpe said, “Our students got a lot of personal bests this year. To name a few: Amanda Phillips threw over 21 feet for shot put; Lily Nealon threw about 80 feet for discus; Justin Fitzmorris clocked a 51.42 in his 400 event; Josh Frye flew 18 feet 10 inches in his long jump; Joslyn Smith hurled herself 14 feet 7 inches in the long jump; and Reed Dove ran a 4:57 mile.
Amanda Phillips commented: “I had a bad day with the disk, but somehow — magically — my last shot put throw was my personal record. At first I couldn’t judge because the sector lines had been washed away by rain, so when they said ’21 feet’ after my first throw, I was jumping up and down. When they announced my third throw as 21 feet 6 inches, I ran over to my mom and screamed.”
Reed Dove said of his mile race: “I achieved one of my goals this season. I was very happy with my time. To break five minutes is something every miler wants to accomplish.”
“As far as the season as a whole goes,” Coach Sharpe said, “we’re a small school — half as big as the next smallest in the district. We have some stand-out athletes, and they have been performing well in the meets. Even though there aren’t enough kids to fill all the events, the athletes are usually competitive in their events. We were fortunate enough to borrow a couple of participants from our soccer teams, and they will now be able to compete on relay teams at regionals and states with their track teammates.”
Next year, Coach Sharpe hopes to avoid some of the nagging injuries that have plagued the team this season. Although he admits that the loss of several seniors will present some challenges, he is also optimistic about the underclassmen who will be stepping forward.
The regional track meet is tomorrow (May 28) at Monticello High School in Charlottesville. State competitions will be held June 5 at Radford University.