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By Jeremy Stafford - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- John Simms felt strong and his head was clear and the weather was perfect.
And with everything fitting together so nicely, so properly, Simms on Thursday set a Northwestern District meet record in the 100-meter dash. His time was 10.81. The old time was 10.88.
It didn't take long for the James Wood sprinter to separate from the rest of the runners. When he did, his breaths escaped him in short, quick bursts; and his head snapped repeatedly and methodically. When he finished the race he said he was pumped. Later he said he was blessed.
"It was just perfect -- the weather, the vibe, the coaching, my support, everything," Simms said. "My body was feeling right and it all matched perfectly.
"Every piece fit to the puzzle."
Simms has felt good before. But never this good. Of the four or five variables that affect his runs, there always seems to be one that refuses to fit with the others.
Sometimes he feels strong and fast, but his head is cluttered. Or the weather is bad. Last season he was too injured to break records, though he won races just fine.
Simms said the meet record he set was also a James Wood school record.
He also won the 200 (22.53) and the 400 (51.63), and in doing so helped the Colonels win the boys meet with 144 points. Skyline came in second (121), Sherando came in third (116), Millbrook, fourth (60) and Handley, fifth (50).
Cody Wright won the 800 (2:00.29) for the Colonels, Ben Jenkins won the 110-meter hurdles (16.20), and Anthony Ingle won the triple jump (42-09.50).
The Sherando girls, too, had a drove of athletes place in a number of events.
Warriors senior Lauren Wilkins placed in five of the six events she competed in, taking second in the high jump, (4-08), third in the long jump (16-07.75), second in the triple jump (35-02.50), third in the 100 (13.39) and anchored the Warriors' second-place 400-meter relay team (51.74).
She admits her bustling from one event to another took its toll on her, wore her out. But behind her efforts Sherando, with 173 points, won the girls meet by a hefty margin. Handley placed second (128), James Wood, third (90), Millbrook, fourth (68) and Skyline, fifth (24).
Krista DeCeault won the 1,600 (5:03.84) and the 3,200 (10:48.50). Alaina Combs won the shot put (31-07.00) and Maddy Morris won the discus (104-07).
"It's an awesome feeling that we could come together as a team and support each other," Wilkins said. "It's just awesome to win another district title, that's for sure."
For a time, Skyline's boys kept pace with James Wood. Thomas Madden won the 1,600 (4:21.15), the Hawks took the 400-meter relay (44.90) and Kwaunte Stewart's second-place leap in the high jump set a school record. But Skyline boys coach Steve Burton said the Hawks "were one horse shy" of a district title.
Indeed: Skyline trailed James Wood by two points going into the 200. When Simms won the sprint, he simultaneously gave James Wood a comfortable lead as the meet seeped into its final events.
"Looking on paper, we saw where we could move some kids around, and put them in different places," Burton said, "but in the end we were still a couple points short."
The Handley girls, too, hoped a little shuffling of athletes would garner more points. Britani Myers, after winning the 400, ran in the 800, a race she said she hadn't run in two years. Myers trailed Sherando's Shelby Spangler for the bulk of the race, felt Millbrook's Crystal Nelson close in from the outside, then sprinted by both of them. She won in 2:18.41.
Verna Hilaire-Lee won the 100 (12.54) and the 200 (25.87), and took second in the long jump (16-09.00). Lisa Meneau won the 100 hurdles (16.90) and the 300 hurdles (46.35). And that was about it for Handley.
But Myers was still content with the Judges' performance.
"We actually placed really well, we just don't have the depth that Sherando has," Myers said. "Overall I think we did really well, but I think if we would have had more bodies, maybe we would have had a better chance.
"But we did the best we could, and we actually did really well today, so I'm excited."
Some other boys winners: Handley's Chris Arslan won the 3,200 (10:01.36); Millbrook's Rodney Culbreath won the 300 hurdles (40.95); Sherando's Chris Smith and Devon Newman won the high jump (6-03.00) and long jump (20-11.00), respectively; Handley's Derek Dowrey won the shot put (48-04.00); and Sherando's Justin Neff won the discus (141-09).
On the girls side, James Wood's Shannan Thorne won the high jump (4-10.00); and Skyline's Oshene Kelly won the long jump (16-09.00) and the triple jump (35-04.25).