Unlike the past couple of seasons, no local boys or girls outdoor track and field teams enter their state meets likely to walk away as overall champion, though the Lafayette and Jamestown boys teams could be in the mix for top-five or better finishes.
The Lafayette girls won a 3A championship two years ago and finished second in 4A last year, but will not have the numbers this season to compete for an overall trophy. The Rams still have several top competitors in individual and relay events for the 4A/3A meet in Harrisonburg on Friday and Saturday.
Lafayette's boys were third in the Group 4A East Region track and field meet May 26-27 in Portsmouth, edged only slightly by Deep Creek and Heritage. Jamestown did not crack the top 10, but the Eagles did not employ a full-strength squad and have a wealth of talent, particularly on the boys' side, that should impact who steps on the podium Saturday.
State meet storylines
Last season's close loss for the Jamestown's 4x100-meter boys team makes this quartet's story one of the most intriguing ones to watch on Saturday.
Zach Pennycuff, Darius Reed, Jordan Willis, and Jordan Turner each are back to run it again for the Eagles, after finishing second (41.89) to George Washington High by seven hundredths of a second in 2016.
Willis and Turner are four-year Jamestown veterans. Willis will compete for the University of Virginia next season and Turner for George Mason. Reed, the only junior in the bunch, has three seasons under his belt for the Eagles, while Pennycuff is newer to the sport.
Pennycuff was green — very green — last season, and was motivated to join the track team despite his lack of running experience if for no other reason than to beat one of his best friends, Willis, who is in search of his first outdoor gold medal.
"We've always been friends with him and last year, we encouraged him to come out for outdoor," Willis said. "He had no training, no form. He's just fast."
Collectively, they form the fastest 4x1 team in school history and enter the state meet as the top seed.
They say their handoffs and team chemistry are just as important as their speed —Turner, the anchor, will also compete in the 100.
"We all just come together as a cohesive unit," Reed said. "We come together and make sure we're focused on the target and not anyone else around us."
However the results shake out for the Jamestown girls, the Eagles should have plenty to build on for next season.
Look no further than the 4x8 relay team, which features senior Lauren Connell, junior Thorin Jean and freshmen Kirsten Long and Olivia Patrinicola (plus alternate Sorenna Jean, a freshman and potential future standout).
The team is only seeded seventh, but will lose only Connell for next season and the individuals comprising the group are poised for breakout seasons. Thorin Jean has already emerged as a standout distance runner, taking top Virginia Gazette honors in cross country in the fall, and is coming off a fourth-place performance in the 4A East Region 3200 last week.
"These girls every day come out here and work extremely hard," Connell said. "During practice, they do their warm-ups right. Even if the workout is really hard, they go through it and they do what they need to do. Once they get on the track, the only thing in their head is, 'We need to get this time. We need to beat this time.'"
Lafayette sprinters and Steck
Lafayette's Rashawn Smith and Hezekiah Grimsley were second and fourth, respectively in the 100 meters at the region meet.
They will have some work to do to catch Qhiyal Towns of Heritage, who won the region meet in 10.64. Smith clocked 11.18.
"They're going at each other, plus they like each other," Lafayette coach Mel Jones said of his sprinters. "They don't really get jealous. They just go to work hard."
Konrad Steck will pick up points for Lafayette and look to follow up his 4A East gold medal in the 800 meters. Last season, he finished fifth and took second in the winter in the indoor 1,600.
"We have good sprinters as well as distance and throws," Steck said. "It helps to have it spread out, get points wherever you can."
The Rams have collected plenty of points in pole vaulting as well, with Jax Palmer leading the way for the boys and Peyton Blanding for the girls.
Warhill's top pole vaulter is Anthony Giacchetta, one of several Lions boys to make the 3A meet.
The Lions have had a trying end to their season, losing Juan Spence and Ruben Davila after the pair was involved in a car crash May 22. Spence, who had qualified for states in the high jump, remains in the hospital with injuries suffered in the wreck, while Davila was also unable to return to the team.
Warhill coach Kenaan Canady will have his eye on the 4x8 team of Hezekiah Hayes, Spencer Conti, Nick Rogers, and Jordan Blamey. The same group will run the 4x4; except substitute Douglass McGee for Rogers.
"I've seen pretty much every athlete on that 4x8 develop not just as an athlete but as an adult," Canady said. "If you were to put a brick wall somewhere on that track, these four guys would make a conscious effort to run through it."
Competing for gold
Bruton coach Kendall Green has several athletes that could compete for gold in the 2A meet in Elkton including Clara Wincheski, who won the 3200 last season and is also a standout in the 1600. She finished two spots behind teammate Kaitlyn Ardrey in the 1600 at the 2A East Region meet last week.
Isaiah Gist, Tyler Sakimura, Kevin Mahoney, Sheneir Johnson will look to defend their indoor title in the 4x4 boys relay while Gist should also compete for a title in the open 400.
Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.
4A/3A meet, Friday/Saturday at Harrisonburg High
2A meet, Friday/Saturday at East Rockingham High