The list of Lafayette High girls track and field accomplishments is long, with the most recent addition being Kathryn Tomczak’s clearance of better than 13 feet in the pole vault that earned her All-American honors.
But for all of the excellence, the Rams’ girls have never won a team state title. They came tantalizingly close indoors last month, becoming the only girls team in history to score more than 100 points in a state meet and not earn a championship when they were edged 123-116 by Blacksburg for the Group 3A title.
The near-miss seems to have added fuel to the Rams’ determination for a state title, because they are on fire to start the outdoor season. Not only did they snag a school-record six gold medals in the historic Colonial Relays recently, they did so with a host of performances that rank them at or near the top of the state rankings among all classifications.
The showing did not surprise Mel Jones, who has coached track at Lafayette since the school’s opening in 1973, but it very much pleased him.
“We know we’ve got the pieces to the puzzle in place,” Jones said of making a run for the 3A outdoor state crown. “At this point, our job is to fine-tune them and to get them better.”
Should the Rams get much better by the time they arrive in Harrisonburg for the 3A state meet June 5, their state championship dream could become a reality. Tomczak, an Air Force Academy recruit, is the given, a state championship lock if she’s healthy with an outdoor personal best of 12-9 already to her credit this spring.
But even Tomczak, who won at the Colonial Relays and usually occupies center stage for the Rams, was overshadowed by the triple jumpers and relay teams in the meet at William and Mary. Alexus Wells won the triple jump with a school-record leap of 38 feet, 5 inches, while teammate Alexis Brender A’ Brandis’ 36-9 was the second-best in school history.
Wells’ jump ranks her No. 1 in the state at the moment. Also on top of the state standings for all classifications is the 4x800 relay of Audrey Hurley, Brooke Crookston, Adriana Hooks and Summer Chambers, whose time of 9 minutes, 29.88 seconds shattered the school record.
The 4x400 foursome of Hurley, Crookston, Wells and Megan Jones moved to the top of the state rankings with a good early-season time of 4:00.79. The 4x100 team of Hurley, Wells, Jones and Selena Jones gave the Rams three relay gold medals in the meet.
Megan Jones gave the Rams a sixth gold medal with her 12.41 in the 100. The depth that nearly won the Rams the indoor state title was evident in the second-place finishes of Crookston (800), Hooks (mile) and Megan Jones, who was followed closely in the long jump by third-place Wells and fourth-place Brender A’ Brandis.
“These girls are confident and walk with a swagger, like the Menchville boys teams of the 1970s and ’80s and the Bethel girls teams of the 1990s and 2000s,” Jones said.
The only thing that’s missing are the team state titles, but Jones feels that this group has the camaraderie and team-oriented focus to accomplish the feat.
“Megan Jones has great leadership qualities and is like a coach on the field,” he said. “Alexus Wells is big, strong and powerful and brings a great attitude.
“We all know about Kathryn, who’s a good hurdler as well as pole vaulter. Audrey Hurley, the 500 indoor state champion, is one of those rare athletes who is good at the 55 meters and the 800 and everything in between.
“All of the girls are working hard, because if you don’t work hard on this team, you’ll get left behind. I definitely think we have our best chance of winning a state championship.”
O'Brien can be reached by phone at 757-247-4963.