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Posted April 25, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Blossoming Simms headlines Invitational

James Wood's John Simms competes at a tri-meet
James Wood's John Simms competes at a tri-meet at Central High School on Wednesday. Simms is a favorite in the 100 and 200 at today's Apple Blossom Invitational track meet at James Wood. Dennis Grundman/Daily

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By Tommy Keeler Jr. -- tkeeler@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- There's a little extra excitement in the air for James Wood's boys track team as it gets ready to host today's 41st annual H. Brian Landes Apple Blossom Invitational.

The Colonels are off to a great start this season. They are undefeated in the Northwestern District and are coming off a second-place finish in last week's Don Glick Invitational at Spotswood.

"This is the first time since I've been here where I feel like we have a really good chance to do really well in the meet," James Wood coach Matt Stegmaier said. "The boys team has really met the expectations that we had for them this year."

One of the top performers for the Colonels has been freshman sprinter John Simms. He has the fourth-fastest qualifying time in both the 100 and 200 meters. He finished fourth last week in the 100, which was won by Harrisonburg's Alex Owah.

His biggest competition today will likely come from R-MA's Victor McKoy, who won the 100 two years ago.

"I just want to push myself to get faster. I want to compete against the fastest guys and see how I do," Simms said. "I'm looking forward to the meet. There's going to be a lot of teams there, and hopefully I can do well and help the team out."

James Wood's James Thorne has the top qualifying mark in the high jump (6-2), and Mason Smith could give the Colonels points in the triple jump, where he has the second best mark behind McKoy.

There are 15 teams in this year's event, including Clarke County, Handley, Millbrook, R-MA, Sherando, Skyline, Strasburg and Warren County. Sherando and Millbrook's girls teams could also be big factors in the meet.

The Warriors finished sixth in last week's Loudounprepsports.com Invitational held at Heritage High School, followed by the Pioneers in seventh. Sherando has the top marks in all three of the jump events. Sherando's Carolyn Theil has the top marks in both the triple jump (36-1) and long jump (15-8), while Lauren Carter's 5-2 in the high jump makes her the meet favorite.

Millbrook is led by Schavon Springer. The senior is the favorite in the 100 hurdles (15.47) and the 300 hurdles (48.0). She also has the second-best jump in the high jump (5-0).

Warren County could make a splash in the boys meet, coming off an eighth-place finish in last week's meet at Heritage. The Wildcats are led by Rueben Shanks. The senior has the top mark in the discus (158-4), and has the third-best throw in the shot put (44-10). Warren County's Japheth Chunn is seeded just behind McKoy in the long jump (20-11).

"I think overall our team is pretty well-rounded," Warren County coach Kennon Yeck said. "I'm looking forward to seeing James Wood's boys. We haven't seen them yet, but they seem to have a strong team. We're hoping to get some people to place and bring home some medals."

Handley's girls team could also have a solid showing, led by freshman Brittany Myers, who will run in the 800, and be part of the 4x400 and 4x800 relay teams. Smith has the second-fastest qualifying time in the 800 (2:26), while the 4x400 relay (4:07) has the top time. The 4x800 relay has the second-fastest time (10:30), behind only Millbrook (10:00.76).

"I'm really nervous [about the meet]," Myers said. "Hopefully I'll do really well. I think our 4x400 relay team will do good. There's a few girls in the 800 that I'm looking forward to running against."

Clarke County could also make some noise in the girls meet, led by sophomore Andrea Gaither. She has the fastest time in the 100 (12.7). Senior Sophia Holmes is the favorite in the 1,600 (5:21).

"Being a single-A team, we like to participate in big meets like this and see how we do," Clarke County coach Andre Kidrick said. "We like to compete against the bigger schools. We know this will help us out when we get to states."

Skyline will be led by Ashley Rasmussen, who is favored in the shot put (39-3.5). Cassie Frye will lead Strasburg and has the top discus throw coming in at 133-5. Clarke County's Ben Veilleux has the top 1,600 time (4:17), while Sherando's Berham McDowell is the favorite in the 800 (2:02.58). Sherando's Danny Stiefvater is the favorite in the 3,200 (9:45.61).

Stegmaier said the best matchup the day may be in the 4x400 boys relay. Millbrook enters with a time of 3:32.19, while James Wood's top time is 3:32.79. It will also be the last event of the day.

"Millbrook has a really good 4x4 team and I'm looking forward to that," Stegmaier said. "It should be fun to watch."

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