JAMES CITY — Lafayette senior Michael Tyler and junior Tyler Jump's practice space Wednesday in the right corner of the track behind their school couldn't have been much quieter.
In the first half of practice, they were the only two at work on that side of the grounds as Tyler rehearsed his long and triple jumps and Jump his shot put and discus throws.
The 4A and 3A track and field championships commenced Friday and will continue Saturday in Harrisonburg while the 2A competition will also finish Saturday at Radford University.
A less-than-bustling practice, in a program that usually has several dozen members on the roster and earlier in the season, tells Tyler all he needs to know.
It's that time of the year.
"That's how you know you're one of the top dogs," Tyler said.
Tyler and Jump have plenty of company in Harrisonburg, though, and the Rams should at least challenge for team championships in both the girls and boys competitions.
Last year, Lafayette's girls won the 3A outdoor title, but finished fifth in their indoor campaign behind E.C. Glass, Midlothian, Liberty Christian, and Deep Creek. More than 40 points separated Glass and Lafayette although the outdoor season is a different game with athletes that played other winter sports joining the fray.
Lafayette is seeded third entering the meet based on points accrued throughout the season.
"I could definitely see us coming out with a win," said Lafayette senior Summer Chambers. "Everyone is really close up there. It would be really great if we did. I think everyone is hoping to, especially the seniors who won states last year and are really hoping to repeat."
"We have a lot of people in a lot of events and a lot of people that are underestimated in those events," senior Delaney Savedge said. "… if we just move up little by little, we could potentially do very well."
Chambers is a middle-distance runner and finished sixth in the Richmond regionals last week, four spots behind teammate Serenity Chavez.
Lafayette has no shortage of standouts. Audrey Hurley is another top middle-distance performer and Brooke Crookston and Savedge are top performers in longer distances. Crookston, a junior, won the 1600 at regionals in 5:12.64, about four seconds shy of her season-best and six seconds better than Savedge.
"I think one of the great things about our team is we have so many great field event competitors," Chambers said. "We have strong distance, but we have really strong sprinters, great pole vaulters and jumpers."
Alexis Brender A Brandis is strong in the jumps and Peyton Blanding was third in pole vault at regionals with a PR of 10 feet.
The Rams have only three total pole vaulters: Blanding and Jax Palmer and freshman Damonte Dixon of the boys team.
Those points add up though, like Palmer and Dixon's combined 13 points at regionals.
"It really helped the boys win the regionals," Lafayette coach Don Mollenhauer said. "It was a total team thing, but every little part helped out."
Lafayette's boys were third in indoor states behind runaway champion Liberty Christian Academy and second-place Fauquier.
Tyler said outsiders will pin the Rams' hope of a team title on him or distance star Konrad Steck. "But it's really some of the low-key guys like Tyler Jump in the shot put and discus," Tyler said, "and Noah Cane, a sophomore in the 300 hurdles. That and maybe even our 4x4 and 4x1 relays. If we get top place, that might be a good way to get us in the top (overall) spot."
Then there's senior middle and distance runner Vince Roselli, who Rams head coach Mel Jones noted has "been around here forever."
Roselli won't be bringing back an individual gold, but he can boast something no one else in the track and cross country programs can: He competed in each cross country and indoor and outdoor track season since stepping into Lafayette as a freshman.
"I was never one of the elite, best runners," Roselli said. "But I'm really happy that I was able to pull off 12 seasons to stick it out."
Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.