By Jeff Nations
Warren County track and field coach Kennon Yeck has a nice little streak going, one he'd very much like to see continue this weekend.
For 19 years, Yeck has had an athlete earn all-state honors by finishing in the top eight at the state track and field championships. Starting Friday and running through Saturday at the Group AA state meet in Harrisonburg, Yeck figures to have six shots to extend that streak to a nice, even 20.
Yeck likes those odds.
"I've had one every year, so hope for the best," Yeck said.
Warren County's hopes rest with Katy Harriman (high jump, long jump), Matt Nicholson (high jump, long jump), Jasmain Ford (100-meter dash) and Joshua Owens (long jump).
Harriman is coming off the best performance by a Wildcat at last week's Region II meet, when she won the high jump with a height of 5 feet, 2 inches. She added a third-place effort in the long jump.
"She's really focused on the high jump," Yeck said. "She's been working on her approaches all week. She's looking to go above 5-2."
Ford hopes to build on her best performance of the season in the 100.
"She was sick for four weeks," Yeck said. "She's got fresh legs, but she hasn't practiced much."
Nicholson was third in the long jump at the Region II meet and Owens took sixth, as both had their predictably unpredictable days in the jumping pits.
"He usually just gets one good jump," Yeck said of Nicholson. "Owens is the same way."
Skyline's Darius Schmitz, the Hawks' lone state representative, completes the Front Royal contingent of jumpers. Schmitz will compete in the long jump.
Sherando coach Tom Grim should be feeling pretty confident about his top jumper's chances in the state meet, and normally he would be. But Sherando's Chris Smith, the defending state champion in the high jump, has battled injuries throughout much of the season. He still managed to set a solid seeding mark of 6-4 early in the year, which gives Sherando reason for optimism. Last year, Smith won the state title with a leap of 6-5.
"He's still in a dangerous position," Grim said of Smith, who's been slowed by a balky hamstring. "Six-foot-six is still the top mark, so who knows? He says he's feeling pretty good and he's going to give it a shot on Saturday."
Sherando teammate Seth Chewey, set to run in the 800 at states, has been dealing with injury issues of his own. In Chewey's case, the trouble is with his foot -- never good news for a runner.
"He's got a foot that's not feeling great," Grim said. "He's been taking it kind of easy this week. But this week, you could not run at all and be fine."
Chewey is also set to run a leg in Sherando's 3,200-meter relay, joining Ryan Hindle, Daniel Snapp and Trevor Whiteside.
The Warriors also have a strong contingent of girls headed to states, none stronger than Alaina Combs. At last week's Region II meet, Combs claimed Sherando's lone regional championship by winning the discus. She also picked up a second-place finish in the shot put and could be a real factor in the always unpredictable throwing events.
"It's nothing to move up three or four spots in a meet like this," Grim said. "We're hoping she's kind of ready to step up."
Grim is also bullish on Nisha Moore's chances in the 800, although it will likely require a personal-best effort to secure a top-eight finish and the all-state accolades that go with that.
Moore will be busy, as she's also set to run a leg in the Warriors' girls 3,200 relay along with Caitlin Dolan, Haley Powers and Katie Rogers.
Warriors teammates Candice Banks and Angelique Matthews will both compete in the 100 hurdles, and Banks is also pulling double duty in the 300 hurdles. Grim thinks the 300 hurdles is Banks' best shot at placing in state competition.
Matthews also has a second event, the long jump, and Grim wouldn't count her out as a top-eight contender.
"If she can improve a little bit and has a good day, who knows?," Grim said. "We've had a lot of people do that down there."