By Dennis Atwood - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- The pressure was on for the Sherando girls 4x400 relay quartet as they warmed up in the infield, 6.25 points behind first place National Cathedral School (DC), among the 20 schools entered in Saturday's 45th H. Brian Landes Apple Blossom Track and Field Invitational, hosted by James Wood.
National Cathedral picked up 10 points with Satowa Kinoshita's first place in the 3,200, to overtake Sherando, which didn't place in the event.
That final event pressure, with the opportunity to grab the team championship with a superb performance, was concentrated most heavily on the anchor, Warriors' senior Nisha Moore.
Moore burned up the track with a 60.3 second anchor leg, helping the Warriors take nine seconds off their 4:20.91 seed time, to take second place with 4:11.92, a scant .81 of a second behind first-place Handley.
Those eight points catapulted Sherando into the girls championship with 75.75 points.
Greencastle-Antrim (Pa.) took third (57.57), Handley was fourth (32), Warren County 10th (20), and Strasburg 13th with 14 points.
As it happened, National Cathedral didn't compete in the 4x400, due to the scheduling of another school event, an ironic reversal of fortune for Sherando.
The Warriors girls did not compete in the 4x400 in last Saturday's Handley invitational, foregoing an opportunity to win a team first place, due to the requirements of prom preparations.
"We knew we had to do really well to win [the girls championship]," Moore said. "McKayla [Jackson] gave me a good baton hand-off, so I got a good start. [Jackson] was freaking out, because she usually runs a 64 [second] leg, and we told her we needed some 62's in their somewhere, and she ran it [62.9], her best time."
Moore also took second in the 400 (1:01.3).
"We had to get first or second to win it," Sherando coach Tom Grim said. "They did a great job. They improved nine seconds [on their seed time]. That's what I love about track -- coming down to the last event.
"That's one thing we try to sell our kids on. Everything [else] is done, everybody's watching. People in the know, know what's going on."
National Cathedral head coach Jim Ehrenhaft provided a gracious explanation.
"There's a dance gala going on at our school, so some people had to leave early, and we just didn't feel comfortable throwing another event on the ones who were still here," Ehrenhaft said. "So, we're at peace with where we were.
"That's not an excuse, because I think the result would have ended up being the same. Sherando had a great 4x400, and our girls are so happy with how they did."
Although measuring only 5-feet tall, Sherando sophomore Angelique Matthews covered plenty of distance in the field events.
Although entering as the 13th seed (31-03) in the triple jump, Matthews eclipsed that by well over a foot to take first place with 32-11.5
Matthews also had the best effort in the long jump, landing a 15-04.75, but ended up second to Warren County's Katy Harriman in a tiebreaker.
"This is my first year doing the triple jump," Matthews said. "I felt like I did really good. I did not think I was going to get that long a jump, but I was really impressed with what I did and I try to work hard. It was my second attempt in the finals. Our [field events] coach, James Minney, does a great job."
Matthews also checked in on the track to take fifth in the 100 hurdles (16.51), just ahead of teammate Candice Banks, who took sixth, and followed up with fourth in the 300 hurdles, in a season best 49.04.
Junior Alaina Combs represented the Warriors well in the weight events, taking first in the discus (108-04), and third in the shot put (33-08).
"My first throw was my best, my second was 102, and I threw out my last two, but I was really happy with my first throw," Combs said. "I was really pushing, and when I really push I don't' focus on my form.
"Shot put is a whole different world. Basically, with discus, you have to treat it as a dance, because it's really technique. And, with the shot put, it's brute force."
Harriman broke through a long-standing 5-00 PR ceiling in the high jump by clearing 5-02 cleanly, earning second place behind the 5-04 leap of Stacey Christy, of Williamsport (Md.).
"I started the high jump last year, in the indoor season, and at regionals was the first time I PR'd at 5-00, and ever since then, I've been at 5-00," Harriman, reached by phone, said. "So it's been about three seasons and I finally got my PR at 5-02. I'm so excited today that I finally broke the mental barrier. It was my first attempt. I was talking to some of the competitors. They were distracting me, and I just turned around and went for it and made it. I wasn't thinking about it at all.
"I think it definitely helped a lot. That's what I needed. It was my cleanest jump of the day. It was very beautiful. I tried 5-04, but I was long-jumping at the time, going back and forth to the pit."
Which worked out well, as Harriman won first in the long jump with 15-04.75, but short of her 16-01.75 seed, in a tie-breaker with Sherando's Matthews.
Harriman completed her day with a fifth in the 300 hurdles (49.98), in only her second time competing in the event.
Harriman's accomplishments accounted for all of Warren County's 20 team points.
Strasburg's Kembryana Jackson heaved the discus 104-10 to earn second place.
On the boys side of the ledger, Group AA defending high jump champion Chris Smith, of Sherando, came within a graze of clearing 6-05, and had to settle for second, at 6-04, in a jump off (fewest attempts) with Nick Johnson, of Williamsport (Md.). Neither competitor could clear 6-05.
"There were two attempts in the jump-off and I was going second, which is better, because there's not as much pressure," Smith said. "If [the first jumper] makes it, there is pressure, but I like those moments. At 6-05, I just nicked the bar with my trailing calf."
Strasburg 's Troy Gordon took second in the 100 dash (11.3), accounting for all of the Rams' points.
Handley captured the boys championship with 55.5 points, Loudoun County tied with St. Albans (DC) for second (46), Sherando tied with Millbrook for seventh (30), Strasburg was 13th (8) and Skyline 14th (2).
Girls Most Valuable Participant honors went to Handley's Lisa Meneau, who set new meet records in both the 100 (15.07) and 300 (44.33) hurdles and ran on the first place 4x400 relay team.
Patrick Joseph earned boys MVP honors, setting a new meet record in the 800 (1:54.83), in spite of a short interval after having placed third in the Penn Relays Mile Run challenge (4:07.88), Friday evening.