By Jeremy Stafford - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- No one could find Britani Myers.
Kara Dixon, Caroline Crowe and Verna Hilaire-Lee called for Myers, the sophomore who anchors Handley's relay team, but she was nowhere to be seen.
Myers' head soon poked from behind a small gathering of people. Dixon, Crowe and Hilaire-Lee swarmed her with a six-armed embrace, then told her the news: They had just set a Region II meet record in the 4x400-meter relay with a run of 3:58.29, four seconds faster than the Handley school record (4:02.64) the girls had set at the John Handley Invitational on April 18.
It was the second regional record the Handley girls relay team had set at the Region II track meet at Handley on Thursday, and was possibly the most telling event of the meet; the only reason this Handley relay team hasn't faced serious competition this season is because the serious competition hasn't been able to keep up.
True, Crowe and Dixon have always done their part in the team's relay events, but by the time Hilaire-Lee typically got the baton on the third leg of the mile relay, the near-insurmountable gap between first and second place had already been established.
Hilaire-Lee had an issue with that, especially with Louisa County sporting a seed time of 4:03.72.
"Kara and Caroline have been pushed in the first legs, but Britani and I, it's been said a lot that we haven't been pushed," Hilaire-Lee said. "So I felt the need that, when I got the baton ... I just took off running."
In the first leg, Crowe kept up with the lead runners, specifically the lead runner from Louisa County, so that Dixon had little ground to make up on the second leg.
By the time Dixon handed the baton off to Hilaire-Lee, Louisa County had a five-meter lead before Hilaire-Lee exploded off the Handley track.
She made up the five-meter deficit in seconds, and gained a 10-meter lead 200 meters into her lap.
Myers increased the lead to 25 meters midway through the final leg, and secured a five-second win for the record-setting Judges.
Louisa County, finishing in 4:03.54, didn't match Handley's seed time.
"I think they were a little nervous about it," Handley coach Sam Finley said of his relay team. "Actually, I know they were ... nervous about that, but I just told them, 'You go out there and you do what you do.'
"I was looking forward to this because I think it's the first time that all four of them had to run a little bit."
But the biggest surprise for the foursome came much earlier in the meet, when they set the Region II record in the 4x100-meter relay (49.01), again ousting Louisa County for the region title.
"We weren't even expecting that at all," Hilaire-Lee said. "Once again we were trying to beat Louisa, because they were seeded first.
"We didn't know we were gonna beat a region record."
The Handley girls track team, with 56.2 points, ended the meet in third place overall. Myers won the 400-meter dash earlier in the meet (58.14) and Crowe won the high jump (5-02). Dixon finished second in the 100-meter dash (12.73) and sixth in the long jump (16-05.75). Hilaire-Lee finished sixth in the 200-meter dash (26.40).
Millbrook's girls tied for eighth (20), followed by Sherando (19.20) in 11th, Warren County in 13th, James Wood in 15th and Skyline tied for 17th.
Warren County freshman Jasmain Ford won the 100 (12.67), beating Dixon by a leg despite getting off to what Ford said was a relatively bad start.
Fifty meters into the run, Ford peaked; when she sensed Dixon closing in from behind, Ford kept her pace up.
Though the middle of her race was about pushing the limits of her ability, the minutes leading up to the race were about pushing away the nerves of living up to being the top seed in the region.
"I always get nervous before every race," she said. "I didn't know if I was gonna lose, but my mom always tells me to be humble, so I just humbled myself."
Ford also placed fourth in the 200 (26.22) and fifth in the long jump (16-09).
Sherando junior Lauren Wilkins placed second in the triple jump (35-11.50) and was followed by Skyline sophomore Oshene Kelly in third (35-02.25).
Sherando's Keyaira Newman placed second in the shot put (34-10).
Tammy Cheung finished second (5:05.08) for Millbrook in the girls 1,600-meter run, and Rachel Carson, originally seeded 11th, finished fourth for James Wood (5:17.45). Carson also finished second in the 800-meter run (2:20.15).
The Warren County boys placed third in the region behind a second-place (43.58) showing in the 4x100 and a second-place finish (9:42.93) by Seumas O'Reilly in the 3,200-meter run. Gage Steele also earned a second-place finish with a leap of 21-04 in the long jump.
Tom Delaney won the 3,200 for Handley (9:38.23).
Sherando senior Dalton Boyd's second- and fourth-place finishes in the 100 and 200, respectively, led the Warriors' boys team to a fourth-place finish (30.33).
James Wood tied for ninth (26), Millbrook finished 13th, Handley finished 16th, and Skyline, 19th.
James Thorne won the high jump with a leap of 6-04, and later tried for the James Wood school record (6-6.25), which is 1.25 inches higher than his best leap.
Thorne didn't reach the Colonels' school record, but he did manage to transfer the positive karma from his win in the high jump to a second-place finish in the triple jump (43-11).
Thorne said that, with the improved competition he expects to see at the Group AA state track meet next week, the high jump school record shouldn't be too far off.
"I looked at the [Region II seedings] and there was a lot of people right there with me," he said, "so I was hoping somebody there would push me a little bit more so I could try to break the school record. That's basically what I was working for at the end.
"I'll get it next week, I'm not gonna be too bummed out about it."