By Jeff Nations
There's still plenty of season left to go, but it's shaping up to be another strong year for a pair of Central High School track and field standouts.
Senior Justin Bauserman, the two-time defending state champion in the 300-meter hurdles, has already bettered his personal-record in that event. Senior Josh Gum, who placed last year in the state discus competition, has likewise already eclipsed his top distance from last season.
Bauserman, who clocked a season-best time of 39.46 seconds last year before winning the Group A state title in the 300 hurdles with a time of 39.82, lowered his best time of 39.26 on April 12 at the Turner Ashby Invitational.
Gum, who had an off day at the Group A state meet in Radford last year and finished 15th overall, bettered his top throw from last year (150 feet, 3 inches) during that same meet earlier this month at Turner Ashby. Gum took third overall with a throw of 151 feet.
"Both of those were set at the Turner Ashby meet, and it just so happened that it was a fabulous day with the weather," Central coach Rick Lytton said. "The weather was nice and we had some really good competition."
Bauserman, who will be gunning for his third straight state championship this year and first in the newly reclassified Class 3A division, got a good push at Turner Ashby from Spotswood's Elijah Haag. Lytton said the two were neck and neck until the fifth hurdle, when Bauserman started to nudge ahead. When Haag later grazed a hurdle, Bauserman found another gear for the lightning-fast finish.
"Justin saw that, and then just exploded and won the thing," Lytton said. "It wasn't real close at the end."
Lytton said he's noticed an improved closing burst from Bauserman this spring.
"I think his speed is a little bit better," Lytton said of Bauserman. "At this point he is finishing stronger than he has in the past. "
Gum also benefited from having top-flight competition at Turner Ashby, including winner Michael Herdon of Riverheads (165-06) and runner-up Collin Lahan of Waynesboro (151-06). Gum's teammate, Travis Cooper, also saw a boost in his throws with a fourth-place effort of 150-06, giving the Falcons the area's top two in the discus this year.
ON THE RISE: First-year coach Shedrick Washington has Massanutten Academy's track and field program making impressive strides this season.
The Colonels, still short on numbers, have nonetheless made a solid impact on this week's area leaders rankings. Damoni Gunter (200 meters), Ricky Gouety (300 hurdles) and Diomande' Moussa (high jump) all rank among the area's top three in boys competition, while Selah Applin (100) and Chelsea Reid (100 hurdles, long jump) are among the top three in the girls rankings.
That's particularly impressive, considering the Colonels have minimal practice facilities including a gravel track and no jump pit on campus. Washington said Central athletic director Kenny Rinker has been very helpful in allowing his team to practice on Central's track at times this season.
"Mr. Rinker opened it up to us anytime we can get there, as long as we can give him a day's notice and there's nothing going on that day," Washington said. "We had a good week of practice at Central last week, got a chance to work on some high jumping and some long jumping and just get a feel for running on that track."
Washington said plans are in the works to improve athletics facilities across the board at Massanutten Academy, but until then the Colonels will work with what they've got. The team has already qualified for "four or five" individual events at the upcoming Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association state meet.
IMPACT FRESHMAN: Sherando's girls track team has gotten a boost from the arrival of freshman Davina Lane, who already ranks among the area's best in several events.
Lane boasts the area's top time in the 200 meters (26.23), 100 hurdles (15.73), 300 hurdles (48.45), top height in the high jump (4-10) and runs a leg on the Warriors' area-leading 400-meter relay.
Lane's times in the 200 and 100 hurdles already are better than the area's year-end top marks from last year, and she's close to doing the same in the 300 hurdles.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>