By Jeremy Stafford - email@example.com
WINCHESTER -- James Thorne admits he's comfortable competing on his home track.
Lucky for James Wood.
His performances Saturday garnered the bulk of his team's 53 team points, which earned the Colonels a third-place finish at the Apple Blossom Invitational at James Wood.
The senior won the high jump with a leap of 6 feet, 2 inches, and placed second in both the long jump (20-05.50) and the triple jump (41-09.50).
"It's so much more comfortable," Thorne said of competing in a home meet. "You're used to seeing everything in practice, and then just to be able to convert that into a meet is really important."
Although Thorne's 6-2 bound won the high jump, he unsuccessfully attempted to repeat the 6-4 leap he fashioned at Sherando on Wednesday.
The senior admitted, though, that simply winning the high jump at home was satisfying enough. Besides, with sophomore speedster John Simms taken out of the 200-meter dash because of a slight but nagging injury, James Wood needed all the precious points Thorne could muster.
James Wood won the Apple Blossom Invitational a year ago, but lost a host of middle-distance runners to graduation. The tall, lanky, leaping Thorne, in effect, has become the Colonels' workhorse.
"That's just part of being a good athlete: You're gonna be asked to do a lot, and we pretty much told [Thorne] at the beginning of the season that, 'We're gonna expect a lot out of you,'" coach Matt Stegmaier said. "'We're gonna ask a lot, we know it's gonna be a lot, but we wouldn't ask it if we didn't think you could do it.'
"It's nice when kids like James, especially, comes in and scores as much as he can."
And Thorne's capabilities extended far beyond point-nabbing on Saturday afternoon. In the 400-meter dash, Colonels sophomore Mason Smith sloshed through a slow start before fighting to catch up to Thorne, running with the middle of the pack.
When he reached Thorne midway through the race, Smith went into his kick early to win the event's fourth heat. Though Smith's finish was .05 seconds shy of earning James Wood any points, his run proved how important Thorne's mere involvement can be.
"We always push each other, and just knowing that he was in the same heat as me, I knew that someone was going to be on my tail the whole time," Smith said of running with Thorne. "Just knowing that in my head just gets me pumped up."
Jamel Johnson finished third in the 110-meter hurdles (15.99) for the Colonels, and teammate Aaron Shiffler finished fourth (16.33). Simms took second in the 100-meter dash (11:37) before Stegmaier pulled him from the 200.
Clarke County, which finished fifth overall with 44 points, has found new ways of gobbling up points now that the Eagles aren't as deep in the running events as they have been in years past.
Hilton Morgan won the shot put (47-11.75) and Caleb Hartsook placed second in the discus (139-08). Billy Parker gave the Eagles a few more points with a fourth-place showing in the discus (131-02).
"Field events this year, especially the throwers -- Hilton, Caleb -- they've placed in every meet we've been in," Clarke County coach Andre Kidrick said. "They are consistently getting us points."
Ron Anderson and Daulton Teaford, both of Clarke County, tied for second behind Thorne in the high jump (5-10).
Warren County ended the day in 10th place (23 points), led by Seumas O'Reilly's second-place finish in the 1,600-meter run (4:28.46) and Chase Rexroat's third-place finish in the 300-meter hurdles (41.26).
Skyline's Thomas Madden won the 3,200-meter run (9:32.55), and the Hawks won the 4x800-meter relay (8:23.24), finishing 11th in the meet.
Sherando finished 12th, Millbrook was 13th and Handley was 15th.