By Brad Fauber
PALMYRA -- Sherando junior Alaina Combs went into Wednesday's Region II track and field championships at Fluvanna County High School with one specific goal -- qualify for the Group AA state tournament in both the discus and the shot put.
Combs achieved that and then some on Wednesday, as she battled through the blazing 90-degree heat to record a toss of 106 feet in the discus -- a full six feet further than the next closest competitor -- to win the Region II title in girls discus.
"I was really proud of myself. It was my first throw that I hit my 106 with, and then I could just feel my body getting completely fatigued from the heat ... but I'm really proud of myself for that," Combs said. "It's a great accomplishment and I'm just excited to go to states and have a chance to compete some more."
Combs also had a strong showing the shot put event, as she heaved a toss of 35-02.50, good enough for a second-place finish behind John Champe's Makayla McGowan (35-10). The solid showing by Combs in the throwing events helped boost Sherando's girls squad (34 points) to a fourth-place finish. Fauquier won the girls event with a score of 75.33.
"Overall the girls did really, really well," Warriors coach Tom Grim said. "Alaina Combs has had a stellar season. She's always come through for us in the throws."
Combs wasn't the only local athlete to overcome the intense heat and win a regional championship on Wednesday. Warren County's Katy Harriman, who has been a consistent contributor for the Wildcats all season long, came up huge in the girls high jump, winning a Region II title by clearing the bar at 5-02.
The high jump has been the senior's go-to event this season, but even Harriman was surprised to walk away with a regional title on Wednesday afternoon.
"It was unexpected. The girls who are normally the high competitors weren't having a very good day, and I was having a really good day, so I guess it kind of flip-flopped," Harriman.
Harriman also surprised some people -- including herself -- when she qualified for the state meet in the long jump with a leap of 16-08, good for sixth place in the event.
Wildcats senior Matt Nicholson also had a strong day in the boys long jump, taking third place with a distance of 21-04.75. Nicholson was visibly frustrated with his first two attempts in the finals, but he pulled out a good jump on his final attempt to climb to the third spot.
"That's usually his pattern. He usually has one or two bad jumps and then he has a good one," Warren County coach Kennon Yeck said.
Sherando will send six individuals to the Group AA meet next week, as well as the 4x800 boys and girls relay teams. The boys 4x800 team took first place on Wednesday with a time of 8:14.17.
Senior Candice Banks and sophomore Angelique Matthews both will compete in the 100-meter hurdles at the state meet.
Banks placed sixth (16.32 seconds) in the 100 hurdles on Wednesday, and the senior also qualified for the 300 hurdles (48.64) with a fourth place finish.
"Our goal was to get Candice in one event, and she made it in two," Grim. "This is the first time I think since the first year of the school that we have had a girl in the 100 hurdles, and we've got two of them. But we've got our second and third best times all time in school history with those two girls, so it figures they should go."
Matthews also qualified in the long jump with a fourth-place (16-09.50), and Nisha Moore took fourth in the 800 with a time of 2:22.18.
Sherando was without defending Group AA boys high jump champion Chris Smith, who is battling a hamstring injury, and Seth Chewey, who has already qualified for states in the boys 800, was battling a foot injury on Wednesday. Sherando's boys finished 16th with 10 points, and Loudoun County (51) took first place overall in the team event.
Warren County will also send Jasmain Ford and Joshua Owens to the state meet, as Ford finished fifth (12.70) in the girls 100-meter dash, and Owens finished fifth (20-08.25) in the boys long jump.
Skyline will be represented by senior Darius Schmitz in the Group AA meet, as his leap of 20-03.75 in the boys long jump was good for sixth place.