Last season, just about the most dramatic track and field meet Walsingham Academy coach Rich Higgins has ever witnessed yielded the Trojans' second consecutive Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division 2 girls championship.
The most drama this year, as the Walsingham girls made it a three-peat with another win Saturday in Richmond, was reserved for whether the team would make it back in time for prom. After an opponent broke her leg in the triple jump Saturday, some of the Walsingham student-athletes were in fact late, but at least they returned to Williamsburg with a new trophy.
Walsingham shared the girls title with Broadwater Academy last year, but claimed the title last Saturday by 49 points over second-place Cape Henry Collegiate.
A championship was still no given entering the meet with some schools in the field the Trojans had not competed against before on the state level in recent years.
"We all came in thinking that we could possibly lose because some teams came down from D.C. and Cape Henry came down from DI," said Walsingham junior Caroline Schumacher. "We just came in thinking that we want to three-peat because that's never happened in Walsingham history, and we had prom the same day."
Ironically, the only individual event the Trojans won Saturday was the one that kept them from claiming an outright title last season: pole vault.
Walsingham did not have a pole vault contingent last year, and didn't this year as much as they had sophomore Clare Kinney, who trained two days a week in Richmond after picking up a pole for the first time in March. With only she and three Broadwater Academy vaulters to compete against, Kinney won with a vault of 7 feet. The win, in the first event of the day, was more valuable in psychology than anything else. The Trojans weren't going to have to rally from a 24-0 deficit this time.
By the 11th event, Higgins was able to foretell the outcome of the overall standings that included 22 teams. The result solidified the program's standing as a state power on the DII level.
"The enthusiasm, the desire, the work ethic that these girls have is what's doing it," Higgins said.
The only other win for Walsingham came in the 4x100 relay featuring Sarah Benson, Caroline Schumacher, Cammie Mann and Leyjah Hamrick. Their mark of 51.65 broke a school record.
Walsingham scored in 16 events had multiple scorers in five events including a 2-3-4 finish in the long jump by Benson, Mann and Dana Abraham.
The Trojans also had 14 girls earn all-state status or hit school records. Joining the 4x100 relay and Kinney's pole vault, other school records were Christin Toth's second place in the 300 hurdles at 51.41 and Hamrick's second in the 100 at 12.79 seconds.
Walsingham's 4x800 relay team of Kinney, Catherine Schumacher, Dolby Forrest and Frankie Riggs and the 4x400 relay team of Keily Curran, Hamrick, Khatiana Perez and Caroline Schumacher both took second place.
Chelsea Marcombe took second in the discus, Benson was second in the high jump, Curran was third in the 400, and Mann took third in the triple jump.
"It feels pretty good just knowing that all of us collectively had something to do with it," said Hamrick, a freshman, "and just knowing that all of us had a team effort in helping us win, it's a good feeling just because you feel like you're helping other people."
Higgins marveled at the dedication of his team, noting that runners like Catherine Schumacher had never even competed a year and a half ago. Now, she is a competitive distance runner and valuable contributor.
"To me, it's important that I just see these kids have success," Higgins said, "to see the hard work they put in really turn into something."
Boys take 3rd
The Walsingham boys finished third of 23 teams behind Hampton Roads Academy and Peninsula Catholic.
Walsingham's Chris Correll, who will run for Randolph College next season, and Jay Gutches each said the Trojans exceeded expectations after being seeded fifth.
The Trojans were led by a second place in the high jump by Tredell Blow and Holden Kearns taking third in the shot put and fifth in the discus.
Gutches was fourth in the 400, fifth in the 200 and Connor Norris who took fourth in the long jump, sixth in the high jump and sixth in the triple jump.
It was a particularly satisfying performance considering Walsingham's best runner last season transferred to a school outside of the area and the team relies on several athletes that compete in other spring sports to fill out the squad.
"Each year, we definitely got better," Correll said. "My junior year, last year, was probably the best. This year, I feel like we may not have done as well as we could have… but I think third place was a good performance for us."
Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.