By Jeff Nations
Tom Grim had a lot of names to place with faces this season.
The longtime Sherando High School track and field coach had an abnormally large contingent of athletes come out for the sport this spring. That's good, giving the Warriors plenty of options to sift through as they prepared for meets. It could also be bad, a potential headache for Grim and his staff as they tried to find time for so many eager runners, jumpers and throwers.
Grim made it all work, of course, just as he's been doing for years in Stephens City. Under his guidance, Sherando's girls came tantalizingly close to winning a Northwestern District title, stacked the Region II meet with entries and made a strong impression at this year's Group AA state outdoor meet in Harrisonburg. For that, Grim is the Northern Virginia Daily's 2013 Girls Track and Field Coach of the Year.
"We had a fairly balanced team," Grim said. "We were blessed, and had a fairly deep team so we were able to, No. 1, find out which people fit best, and No. 2, figure out where they most helped the team."
Grim takes that evaluation process seriously, using the mid-week duals and mini-meets as proving grounds for his athletes and a chance for them to gain valuable competitive experience.
"A lot of teams don't see a lot of value in dual meets," Grim said. "I am just the opposite. Some people feel that if it's not a [regional or state] qualifying meet, it's not worth doing. I feel just the opposite. I want to get my kids in meets."
At the start of the season, Grim had about 40 girls track and field athletes to work with, when normally he might have a group numbering in the high 20s. By taking advantage of those mid-week meets, Grim somehow found track time for all of them. Not surprisingly, most of those that started the season finished it under Grim.
Sherando didn't just have quantity, though -- there was plenty of quality sprinkled throughout the roster. Paced by junior Alaina Combs' two victories in the shot put and discus, plus a win in the 800-meter run, the Warriors nearly had enough to deny traditional power Handley at the Northwestern District meet. Sherando came up just short, falling by seven points -- a deficit that Grim thinks might have been overcome if injured middle distance runner McKayla Jackson had been able to compete.
"We fell a little bit short, but the girls responded fairly well at the regional meet," Grim said. "Alaina and the throwers were solid all year. We did well in the jumps again. I took two hurdlers to the state meet for the first time since the first year of the school. As always, we had some strong distance runners."
At the state competition, Combs highlighted another solid weekend for the Warriors. After winning the Region II championship the previous week, Combs scored a personal-record throw of 113 feet, 5 inches to claim sixth place in the state competition.
"We went down there and gave it our best shot," Grim said. "They performed well."
Watching those performances unfold, year after year, is why Grim isn't considering stepping away from coaching anytime soon. This was his 14th season as head coach, and he has every intention to keep right on going.
"Right now I don't see an end in sight," Grim said. "I know there is one, I just don't see it yet. I enjoy being around the kids, it keeps me young. It's fun going to a good track meet and watching these kids perform."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>