By Jeff Nations
STEPHENS CITY -- Sherando High School senior Alaina Combs has set her sights on the loftiest of goals for this outdoor track and field season.
The Warriors' top thrower last year, Combs swept the shot put and discus competitions in the Northwestern District meet, won the discus and took second in the shot at the Region II meet, then placed sixth in the discus and 12th in the shot put at the Group AA state meet.
The goal, then, is simple -- improve her places in both those events at this year's state competition and perhaps contend for a championship there.
"I have some goals set," Combs said. "I have a goal to get back to the state level, and I have a goal to do better than I did last year and place higher than I did at the state level. And I also have a goal to beat the school record in shot put and also discus, hopefully, this year."
Younger sister Allison Combs has an even simpler plan for this season -- beat Alaina.
As a matter of fact, that's the same goal Allison Combs had as a freshman last year when she would regularly go head-to-head with her big sister in the throws.
"For me, it was not only trying to place but also to beat her at every single meet, every time," Allison Combs said. "This year my goal is just to try and beat her. It's a little friendly competition."
It does seem friendly enough, at least when the Combs sisters aren't throwing to win. For the most part, Alaina got the better of that competition last year, except for one early-season dual meet against Skyline when Allison nipped her in the discus.
Sherando throws coach Mike Marsh remembers Allison Combs' jubilation that day all too well, and Alaina Combs remembers not saying much at all -- to anyone.
"That made Alaina work harder, but then again that made Allison chase her more," Marsh said. "And it's been that way since."
It could be that losing to Allison, even once, was just the spark Alaina Combs needed to thrive. Immediately following that meet, where she hit a final distance in the 90-foot range in the discus, Alaina Combs started to rapidly improve her throws. Ten days later, she'd picked up a good 10 feet on her discus to again assert her dominance in the rivalry.
By the end of the year, Alaina Combs had a top discus throw of 113 feet, 5 inches, and led the area in the shot put with a throw of 35-02.50.
"The event we thought she was going to place in was shot put," Marsh said of Alaina Combs' state performance. "She ended up doing well there, but she ended up placing sixth in discus and she just missed maybe winning the whole thing. She threw a winning throw, but it was about six inches wide."
Allison Combs made it as far as the regional meet last season, but missed out on states. She's planning on getting there this season.
"I want my little sister to be able to go to states with me before I leave," Alaina Combs said.
Beating Alaina would be a good start, in Allison Combs' mind.
"Last year I was throwing as a freshman what she was throwing by the end of her sophomore year," Allison Combs said with a smile.
Despite the growing threat her younger sister represents as a rival thrower, Alaina Combs has done all she can to help Allison get better.
"I've taught her a lot," Alaina Combs said.
"Everything," Allison Combs confirmed
"She's my sister -- I want her to succeed after I'm gone," Alaina Combs said. "I want our last name to continue on in the district."
It works both ways, of course. Allison Combs watches her older sister throw each and every time, and isn't shy about sharing her observations on any technical flaw she might see.
"They're competitive with each other, but at the same time there's that sibling love they have," Warriors head coach Tom Grim said. "They're willing to help each other. They can mess with each other, but nobody else can mess with them."
Alaina Combs is glad to have Allison around, as teammate and rival, mainly as sister.
"It's great to have her on the team, because you push each other," Alaina Combs said. "I know she's trying to reach me. I have to push myself so that she won't. It's nice and it's really enjoyable because it's family and you get to do something that you love and just share something that you love."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>