The clouds hanging over the state track and field championships for several local high schools lifted Monday.
The joint Group 3A/4A state track meet at Harrisonburg High School came to an early end Saturday due to thunderstorms. Competitors left that afternoon unsure whether the meet would resume or whether it would remain uncompleted.
Then the Virginia High School League announced Monday morning that teams would reconvene in Harrisonburg at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday to complete the championships.
The Phoebus and Heritage boys track teams and Lafayette girls track team all stood in the thick of competition for their respective state titles when the meet was called around 5 p.m. Saturday after a two-hour rain delay.
“It was not a jovial mood,” Phoebus track coach Vernita Brown said. “We had a lot of seniors crying. They thought their season had ended.”
Meet director Joe Curcio informed coaches of the decision to scrub the final events: the 4A boys high jump, the 4A girls and 3A boys and girls 800-meter race and all sections of the 200-meter dash and 4x400-meter relay. Curcio told coaches he could not say whether the events would be rescheduled or canceled, according to Curcio and Brown.
If the remainder of the meet had been canceled, no team championships would have been awarded at the 3A and 4A levels, per the VHSL handbook. Individual titles would still have been awarded for the completed events.
Meet organizers were dealing with a rare situation, according to Curcio, who has coached the Staunton River track team since 1975.
“We have stopped a meet many times,” Curcio said. “We had a rain delay last year. But we never, to my knowledge, have stopped it without a good window in which we would be able to resume it later that day.”
VHSL communications director Mike McCall did not respond to multiple messages.
The potential cancellation of the meet upset many coaches and athletes, but Curcio’s hands were tied, he said. He is not a VHSL official, so he was not authorized to reschedule the meet.
Though Curcio could not offer teams assurance, he had reached out to the VHSL. By the time he left Harrisonburg on Saturday night, the league was working to see if the championships could be salvaged.
“By the time I got in my truck heading this way, the wheels were starting to turn to get rescheduled,” Curcio said. “Nobody wants to stop a state event. Nobody wants to do that. It was not a decision made lightly.”
The Phoebus boys team left the meet in first place in Group 3A, 4.5 points ahead of Blacksburg. While comforting broken-hearted athletes, Brown remained hopeful that they would be able to finish their quest for a championship.
As soon as she found out that the meet had been rescheduled for Wednesday, she contacted her athletes and called for a last-minute practice at 6 p.m. Monday at Darling Stadium to prepare for the final push.
The Heritage boys team ended Saturday in second place, 10 points behind Liberty Christian Academy in Group 4A. The Hurricanes will return to Harrisonburg looking to make up ground.
Already, Heritage sophomore Qhiyal Towns won the state title in the 100-meter dash, finishing in 10.80 seconds. In the preliminary round, he tied the meet record (10.77).
For Phoebus, senior Jalen Williams won two titles. He set a meet record in the 300-meter hurdles (37.60) and also was first in the triple jump (45 feet, 3 3/4 inches). On the girls side, junior Amira Aduma also claimed two championships and set meet records in the 100-meter dash (12.23) and the long jump (18-6 1/4).
The resumption of the meet is also good news for Lafayette High. The Rams’ girls trail pre-meet favorite E.C. Glass 41-40, although it will be tough to overtake the Hilltoppers because the remaining events offer potentially big points for the Lynchburg school.
Nevertheless, if the Rams finish second, it will be important because Lafayette is in a tight battle with Great Bridge and Loudoun Valley for the Group 4A Wells Fargo Cup — the trophy awarded to the school in each classification with the best all-around athletic results on the state level for the school year. After the winter season, Great Bridge led with 215 points to 190 apiece for Lafayette and Loudoun Valley.
The Rams’ boys resume in fourth place with 33 points and little chance of overtaking first-place Liberty Christian, which restarts with 51. But, with favorite Mike Tyler still to go in the high jump, and a strong 4x400 team still on deck, the Rams could make a run for second or third, and lots of crucial points in the Cup chase.
“We’re just happy to get the opportunity to go back and finish the meet,” Lafayette coach Mel Jones said. “You never know what can happen.”
The Bay Rivers District already boasts two winners in the 3A meet. New Kent boys pole-vaulting superstar Griffin Kowal cleared 15 feet to take first with ease, while Tabb triple-jump standout Maya Hanks added to her collection of state-meet firsts in the event with a winning leap of 39-8 1/2.
Yanchulis can be reached by phone at 757-298-5176. O'Brien can be reached by phone at 757-247-4963.