Kelly's Collins, Va. High's Johnson win gold at state track meet

George Thwaites • May 31, 2009 at 12:00 AM

RADFORD, Va. — Virginia High girls shot putter Kim Johnson had a state record performance and J.J. Kelly’s Joseph Collins also found gold at Saturday’s VHSL Group A track and field meet at Radford University.

As for the Bearcats much-anticipated boys team state championship?

“It just wasn’t meant to be,” said VHS coach Terry Smith, whose injury-crossed squad finished nine points behind winning Riverheads (56).

Thanks to Brian Brillhart’s third-place finish in the 3,200 (10:10.21), the ’Cats were within six points of Riverheads headed into the 4x400 relay. But Anthony Jones, Ahmad Eccleston, Jack Quesenberry and Charlio Bradley needed to finish third or better — and for Riverheads to somehow come away from the event empty-handed.

The teams both ran in the fast heat. Riverheads finished third, Virginia High finished fifth, and the math took care of itself.

“Most of our points came from our seniors this year, so next year it’s going to be hard to total up the points like we have,” said Jones, who took fifth in the triple jump (43-11) and long jump (21-9 ¾). “We just missed it.”

The meet was arguably lost during the 100 dash preliminaries, when sprinter Damon Dock pulled a hamstring and was forced to scratch out of the entire meet.

The junior sprinter’s injury not only took potential points in the 100 and 200 off the table, it also reconfigured the exchanges of Virginia High’s 4x100 relay — the state’s fastest squad entering the meet (43.29). Quesenberry, who took third in the 800 (2:04.2), replaced Dock, and Mark Waugh moved to Dock’s erstwhile spot as anchor. Virginia High slipped to a third-place finish in the event with a 44.76.

“We needed (Dock) because this was the first time Jack ran the 4x100 since forever, something like his sophomore year,” said Eccleston, who collected fourth in the triple jump (44-1) and sixth in the long jump (21-9½).

All in all, it was a bittersweet day for the Bearcats, who finished third in last year’s state meet.

Waugh took an impressive win in the 110 hurdles (14.65), but a promising showdown with Chatham’s Shemie Witcher in the 300 hurdles fizzled. Witcher won it in a state-record time of 38.50, but Waugh’s timing was slightly off on the first hurdle and he never got his steps fully recovered. Waugh finished fifth (41.61).

Kelly’s Collins at least partially lived up to his own high expectations, winning the boys’ 400 dash in a time of 49.96 despite having wrestled with a chest cold since the regionals.

“That was a really bad time. But I’ve been sick for the past two weeks. I guess it was OK,” said Collins, who finished third in the event last season.

Gate City’s Quinton Jones finished third in the shot put, throwing the stone 51-½ to conclude his high school career in elite company.

George Wythe’s Will Sawyers captured the discus championship with a heave of 163-10 while Powell Valley had two scoring points in the event, with Taylor Barton placing sixth (136-1) and Brent Jessee taking eighth (130-1). Clintwood’s Trey Meade was seventh in the 200 (2.84) and Gate City’s Freddie Hicks was eighth in the 110 hurdles (15.79).

Clarke County’s Ben Veilleux broke two state distance records, taking the 1,600 with a 4:18.90 and raising the bar in the 3,200 with a 9:28.60.

All season long, the Lady Bearcats’ Johnson admitted she felt extra pressure to perform well this year at state because she’s signed to compete for Radford University next year. She made herself right at home Saturday, writing her name in the record book with a toss of 42-1.

“When I opened up with 40-8½, it was amazing. I didn’t have to worry about it anymore,” said Johnson, who claimed the record on her last throw of the finals.

“It was my final throw of my senior year in high school, and I just let it go.”

The only other girls record set Saturday was by Lancaster’s Andrea White, who bested her own state mark in the high jump with a 5-8.

Coeburn freshman Lindsay Lawson had an outstanding Radford debut, coming from back in the pack in the 400 to finish second with a PR time of 60:57. Powell Valley’s Tasha Trent placed seventh in both the discus (101-10) and 300 hurdles (51.19). John Battle sophomore Mariah Arnold finished fifth in the 3,200 (12:25.82) after missing the district and regional meets with a stress fracture in her foot.

Clarke County won the girls’ team title with 60 points, 21 more than runner-up James River.

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