Virginia High races to another Region D title

George Thwaites • May 16, 2009 at 12:00 AM

COEBURN — Virginia High has been in Region D for only two years. But the program has put together one of the region’s most dominant collections of track and field athletes. As in: ever.

The Bearcats boys broke three meet records on their way to their third consecutive regional crown in Saturday’s championships at Coeburn’s Alumni Stadium.

The girls’ meet wasn’t settled until Lebanon clinched it with a victory in the 3,200. But Virginia High’s victory had the ring of inevitability early on. After five events, its boys already had 48 points, with Gate City and Clintwood tied in distant second with 16.

The Bearcats finished with 207. They were repeatedly hailed as “the next Group A state champions” over the PA system.

“I’m awfully proud of them. We’ve been together for a long time and we’re 11-0. We want to try to get that 12th one,” said Virginia High coach Terry Smith, who takes the team to Radford on May 30.

Anthony Jones won the long jump at 21-2½, with Ahmad Eccleston second at 20-7¾. VHS also went 1-2 in the triple jump, with Eccleston winning at 42-8½ and Jones a mere inch behind him.

“We like to go at each other. That’s why we do as well as we do. We make fun of each other if we don’t, but it’s all in good fun,” said Jones, who also joined Charlio Bradley, Mark Waugh and anchor Damon Dock on the winning 4x100 relay team, which displaced J.I. Burton’s 1991 meet record (44.44) with a scorching 43.41.

Jones, who also finished second in the 110s and the 300 hurdles, has committed to play defensive back at Emory & Henry. Eccleston, five-tenths of a second away from a meet record when he won the 200 (22.89), could end up running track at King or Radford.

Eccleston also took a second in the 400 and joined Bradley, Josh Vaughn and Jack Quisenberry for the anchor leg of the winning 4x400 relay (3:38.07).

The ’Cats got a 1-2 showing in both long distance events. Kevin Derr took the 1,600 (4:37.46), followed by Brian Brillhart, who won the 3,200 (9:56.70) trailed by Derr. Quisenberry shook things up in the 800, clocking a 2:02.35 to eclipse George Gambrell’s 1989 meet record (2:02.40).

Waugh was once again singularly impressive in the hurdles, smoking the field with a 15.01 in the 110s and owning the 300s with a meet-record 39.28 — displacing a 40.64 clocked by Nat Lewis in 1981.

Shaka Andrew collected a win in the discus for VHS with a throw of 133-1. Gate City’s Quinton Jones won the shot with a heave of 48-9.

There were fast kids from elsewhere. Clintwood’s Trey Meade won the 100 (11.33) while J.J. Kelly sprinter Joseph Collins narrowly missed a meet record in the 400, clocking a personal-best 49.90 to win that event. J.I. Burton’s Major Griffey — a member of that 1991 Raiders 4x100 squad — retains his record 49.54.

On the girls’ side, Virginia High shot putter Kim Johnson flirted with 40 feet while setting a meet record. She lobbed the rock 39-3¾, displacing the record 38-10 she threw last year.

“I didn’t expect it. But I woke up this morning feeling just amazing and came out here and threw and had a blast,” said Johnson, who signed with Radford’s track program Wednesday.

Lebanon, which won with 71 points, was led by sprinter Lora Mitchell, who took wins in the 100 (13.27) and the 200 (27.48). The Lady Pioneers’ Tabitha Arwood won the 1,600 (5:56.70) and did it again in the 3,200 (13:12.88). Laura Coleman took the high jump (4-9).

John Battle’s Mariah Arnold, who has already qualified for state in both distance races, sat out Saturday’s meet with a stress fracture in her foot. The talented sophomore’s status for the state meet two weeks from now remains uncertain.

Powell Valley’s Tasha Trent had a fine day, competing in seven events and placing in five — including wins in the discus (99-10) and the 300 hurdles (50.33). Gate City’s Callie Sloop won the 800 (2:32.95) and joined Mekayla Brickey, Lindsey Burke and Ashley Lawson for a win in the 4x400 relay (4:28.88).

Coeburn’s Jennifer Salyer won the 100 hurdles (17.95) while the Lady Blue Knights’ Lindsey Lawson took the 400 (1:01.68). J.J. Kelly’s Jaydee Brewer won the long jump, and Virginia High’s Aubree Hutt — who joined Rachel Wingard, Angelica Miller and Gracie Baker for a win in the 4x100 (53.51) — took the triple (32-7½).

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