The track and field teams at Bruton and Warhill began the year with new coaches and smaller and younger squads than others in the region. In the end, it didn’t matter as both returned from their respective state championships with three state titles between them.
The Bruton Panthers’ new coach Justin Roberts, himself a former Bruton track star, had a goal of taking the raw talent and youth of the team and building a strong foundation for this year and the future.
Bruton sent 18 track and field athletes to the VHSL Group 2A state outdoor championships at East Rockingham High School over the weekend, and eight of them came back with top-three finishes, including two state championship titles, so it’s safe to say something's working, according to Bruton athletic director Richard Onesty.
“More than half the track and field team went to states this year, and almost half of them finished in the top three, including two first-place finishes, and in all but one event, they set personal records,” said Onesty. “For a small team like we have, competing against some of Virginia’s very best, we couldn’t be prouder, and best of all, they’re young, and we expect they’ll only get better next year.”
Bruton’s boys 4x400 relay team of Casee Jones, Joey Mahoney, Seth Shafer and Josh Hamman won the state title in the event, finishing with a final time of 3:27.86, less than one second short of the state record.
Bruton’s girls 4x100 relay team of Amena Scanlon, Joselyn Jones, Karena Glass and Makayla Phoenix took third place in the event, finishing in 51.09 seconds.
One of those runners, Karena Glass, took Bruton’s second state title with a first-place finish in the 100 hurdles, finishing in 15:26.
This is Glass’s second straight year as the state champ in the event, which along with her indoor state title in the 55-meter hurdles this winter, cements her place as one of the best hurdlers in Virginia.
At the Group 3A/4A state outdoor championships at Liberty University in Lynchburg, of the three local high schools who sent runners to compete, Warhill athletes finished with the best results, including a state title for one event.
Warhill’s girls 4x100 relay team of Niyah Ward, Aiyanna Morning, Jordan Barrett and Jaqueline Jones won the event, and with it, the Virginia 4A state championship. Finishing in 48.63, the team also broke a school record in the process.
Senior Jaqueline Jones, who ran the anchor leg on the relay, also came in second place in both the 100 and 200, while setting school records in the process. This weekend's results, along with setting school records in the long jump in April, and the school record in the indoor 55-meters in February, caps off a fine high school career before Jones heads to Hampton University next year.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to my senior year, or better teammates,” said Jones. “To all the people coming back next year, just have fun, do your best, and I’ll be rooting for all of you guys.”
On the boys side, senior Anthony Giacchetta placed third in the pole vault.
For a team that sent the smallest group to states form Williamsburg — nine athletes — the big results from states over the weekend is proof that the big changes to track and field at Warhill over the year have paid off, from growing a team of a dozen athletes to more than 50 to an entirely new coaching staff, including Kenny Edwards.
“We have made such a great impact on our student-athletes building a solid foundation of track and field knowledge and appropriate training in all areas, but they did the rest,” said Edwards. “The will to win cannot be coached, it comes from the heart of a champion.”
Dan Mullin, the athletic director at Warhill, said that the track-and-field team did the Lions proud, and given the team’s youth and new coaches, said it sets a firm foundation for next year and the future.
“We sent a small, but talented group of student-athletes to states this weekend, just nine kids, but they did what they’ve done all season, they prepared as much as they could and then they gave everything they had,” said Mullin. “Our coaches were new this year, they did a great job, we’ve got a talented group of kids coming back next year, and I’m excited to see how the track-and-field program grows and performs next year.”
Sean CW Korsgaard can be reached at 757-968-1529, by email firstname.lastname@example.org, and on Twitter @SCWKorsgaard.