After four straight state titles, you might expect the Walsingham Academy girls track and field team to take a moment to catch its breath and rest on its laurels.
Instead, despite some obstacles this year, the team showed no signs of slowing down en route to capturing the Trojans’ fifth straight Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division 2 state championship.
“Coach Rich Higgins and his staff have done a tremendous job in creating a winning culture that always puts the team first,” said Neil Bailey, the director of athletics at Walsingham. “We had some injuries early in the year, one of our best runners from last year wasn’t even able to run this year, but the rest of the team came together, and we had some talented newcomers really come through.”
The Trojans earned 107 points across 17 events at the championship last Saturday, giving them 39 more points over second-place Oak Crest.
The team earned high placements in several events, including first place in the 100-meter hurdles by Jocelyn Covaney, first in the pole vault by Clare Kinney and a second-place finish in the 4x400-meter relay by Kinney, Emma Lobash, Khatiana Perez and Olivia Robinson.
It was a 1-2-3 finish in the 300-meter hurdles that put the Trojans over the top, with freshman Emma Lobash finishing first, Covaney second and senior Christin Toth third.
Walsingham junior Leyjah Hamrick was named the event MVP, following second-place finishes in the 100, 200 and 400 meters, something she said was the perfect end to the year.
“I outdid a few personal and school records sprinting this year. I try to set the bar really high for myself, and keep pushing myself to do better,” said Hamrick. “It’s a really great feeling, especially when you’re part of a team that’s really close, and we all got to contribute to another victory this year.”
Walsingham senior Clare Kinney has been on the team for the past seven years. She will be attending Roanoke College in the fall where she will run track.
Kinney says she couldn’t imagine a better end to her time competing for Walsingham. She finished first in the pole vault.
“It was a great way to end the year, especially as a senior. I’m thrilled to have been a part of some great squads here,” said Kinney. “We got to continue the legacy we’ve worked so hard on here, and I’m happy to have played my part.”
As for the rest of the team, after taking a moment to celebrate, it’s already getting ready to come back next year and make it an even six.
“We’re already looking forward to next year, the team as a whole is looking to keep this streak going for another season,” said Hamrick. “We’re all very close. We’re less of a team and more of a family here, and I think that gives us that push we need. We’re not just competing for ourselves, but for each other.”
Sean CW Korsgaard can be reached at 757-968-1529, by email firstname.lastname@example.org, and on Twitter @SCWKorsgaard.