By Jeff Nations - email@example.com
RADFORD -- Crouched in the shade below the stands at Radford University's Patrick D. Cupp Memorial Stadium, Dylan Shirley's growing fatigue from his hectic day at the Group A state track and field championships was all too apparent.
Already, Shirley had won a state title in the long jump, taken fifth in the high jump, third in the triple jump and still had enough left to win the 400-meter state championship.
Nevertheless, the Stonewall Jackson senior still had another event to run before his day was through as the final leg on the Generals' 1,600-meter relay team.
"I'm completely exhausted," Shirley said before that final race. "If I move in any direction, I'm getting cramps in every single part of my body -- my thighs, my quads, my calves, my hammies, my hips, but I'm all right."
Shirley did just fine, running a strong final leg to help the banged-up Generals finish third in that relay. It also capped an astounding day for Shirley and fellow senior John-Michael Pirtle, whose massive individual contributions helped Stonewall Jackson win its first-ever boys track and field state championship on Saturday.
"They came to win a championship, and they did," Generals coach Dick Krol said. "It's just a great day for our kids. They came, they competed, they worked hard. They're seniors and this was the time to shine, and they sure did."
Strasburg's girls nearly pulled off the same feat, coming up five points shy with 62 to finish as the runner-up to James River.
Saturday belonged to Stonewall's 1-2 punch of Shirley and Pirtle, who opened the meet with a dazzling 1-2 finish in the long jump. Shirley's winning distance of 23 feet, 1.75 inches broke a 35-year-old school record held by John-Michael Pirtle's father, Willie.
"The previous two jumps before that I wasn't even on the board," Shirley said. "I didn't even touch the white and I went 22 feet, 5 inches. I had about an inch to spare on the board on my last jump, and pulled out that 23 footer."
The day had just begun for Shirley, who then split time between the high jump and triple jump, and in between had to squeeze in his leg of the Generals' school record-setting third-place 400 relay and run his own 400 meters.
That tight schedule nearly cost Shirley in the high jump. Shirley left the high jump area to run in the 400 relay after having cleared 6-3; by the time he returned, the bar was at 6-7 and he was compelled to try. Krol's protest won Shirley a second shot at 6-5, but after two attempts he settled for his fifth-place finish to save time to prepare for the 400.
Wise move, as Shirley clocked a winning time of 49.90 to beat second-place finisher Rodrell Smith of Nelson County. It was a sweet bit of revenge for Shirley, who was passed by Smith in the final stretch during last week's 1,600 relay at the Region B meet. That was costly, as the Generals lost the regional title by just a point.
"I'm a little disappointed in the 400," Shirley said. "I'm glad I came in first with a 49.9, but last year I ran better and came in third with a 49.87."
Shirley was third in the triple jump (45-11.75), again electing to forgo his final jumps to conserve energy for the finish.
Pirtle was nearly as busy, and every bit as instrumental in piling up points for the Generals. He broke through for his own state title in the 110 hurdles with a winning time of 15.03, ran the anchor leg on the Generals' 400 relay (joining Trevor Warner, Devon Martin and Shirley) and took second in the 300 hurdles despite not even running in the first flight.
"It's phenomenal," Pirtle said. "It's a team effort and a good team win for us. It's incredible to go out like this."
Strasburg also had a prolific point-scorer leading the way in senior Katlyn Ayers, who successfully defended her state titles in both the 1,600 (5:06.35) and 800 (2:17.40). Ayers wasn't challenged in the 1,600, but got an early battle from Amelia's Jasmine Mitchell in the 800. Mitchell passed Ayers and led for about 300 meters during the first lap before the Rams senior reeled her in and pulled away to win.
"Jasmine really gave me a run for my money in that one," Ayers said. "It was fun, though. She tried something different -- I wasn't expecting that, so it kept me on my toes and I was able to pr. She's a great competitor."
Strasburg senior Taylor Cockerille also brought home a state championship in the discus (125-05) and a third in the shot put (36-00.75).
"My first throw was enough to get me into the finals, but I still wasn't very happy about it," Cockerille said of the discus. "The wind today was kind of against us a little bit. It killed it in the air, so it was the first meet where I had to do lower throws. I kept getting frustrated with myself."
Central's boys didn't take home a team trophy after finishing sixth with 32 points, but the Falcons did grab a pair of individual state championships. Despite hitting a hurdle and dodging another, Central sophomore Justin Bauserman prevailed to win the 300 hurdles in 40.64. Bauserman spent much of the time chasing Manassas Park's Chuck Moorman, who was ultimately disqualified from the race.
"The turn just screwed up all my steps," Bauserman said. "Then he hit a hurdle, and it went in my lane that really messed me up."
Logan Patrick, a junior, surprised his longtime nemesis, Strasburg's Dylan Callaway, with a powerful closing kick to win the 800 in 1:58.25. Callaway was second in 2:00.51.
"Dylan Callaway, he killed me the whole year," Patrick said. "He seemed to have the advantage today. I warmed up a little earlier and just went for it, pretty much. [Callaway] is a really gifted runner. I surprised myself."
Central's boys also got scoring efforts in the discus from Travis Cooper (fourth) and Joshua Gum (sixth), and Brandon Poff in the 3,200 (fifth).
Strasburg's Anthony Wallis posted a second-place finish in the 1,600, but struggled before ultimately pulling out early in the 3,200 with cramps. Afterward, Wallis second-guessed his decision to hold back a bit in the 1,600 to conserve energy for the 3,200.
Stonewall Jackson's Cody Stout came through with a fifth-place effort in the 1,600 and ran a solid leg in the 1,600 relay (along with Warner, Martin and Shirley) despite injuring his leg.
"There's no one you can complain about," Krol said. "Everybody came and did a great job."
Other scorers for the Rams in the girls meet were Hannah Clinedinst in the 100 hurdles (fourth) and 300 hurdles (eighth), Kirsten Campbell in the 800 (fourth) and 1,600 (fifth), Rachel Speaker in the discus (seventh), Sarah Elbon in the 3,200 (sixth), and Rachel Taylor in the 3,200 (seventh) and 1,600 (eighth). Campbell, Clinedinst, Marissa Sager and Ayers combined to finish sixth in the 1,600 relay.
Central got a scoring effort from Bethany Neri in the 800 (sixth), and Stonewall Jackson's girls got a fourth-place finish from Ashton Davis in the 400.