By Jeff Nations
STRASBURG -- Jeff Rudolph landed a pretty good gig this season, and now the first-year Strasburg High School track and field coach aims to keep it a plum job for the present and the future.
Taking over for longtime coach Glenn Proctor this season, Rudolph soon found he had plenty to work with -- especially in the program's two traditional strengths, throws and distance running.
Speed has been a bit harder to come by in recent years, and that affects sprints, hurdles and jumps. If Wednesday's six-team home meet is any indication, Rudolph and his staff are starting to turn up enough quality athletes to compete in just about any event.
"It's big shoes to step in and fill in for coach Proctor, and I will do all I can to make sure I keep everything running," Rudolph said. "Everybody's excited and happy. We had a big turnout for this year -- we almost had a hundred athletes come out for spring track, and that's huge."
Strasburg's boys turned in a second-place effort (117 points) behind James Wood (161). Clarke County was third with 98.5, followed by Massanutten Academy (56), Page County (38.5) and Moorefield (W.Va.) (20).
James Wood made it a clean sweep by also winning the girls meet with 159 points, followed by Clarke (139), Strasburg (118), Massanutten (44), Moorefield (15) and Page (10).
It was a solid day for the Rams, and perhaps even more encouraging to Rudolph was how well his team spread those points out.
The Rams got their customary points in their strength events, but also got a first-place effort from Matthew Clutter in the high jump (5 feet, 8 inches). Strasburg's 400-meter relay also scored a first-place finish, as Adam Gordon, Cody Darr, Colton Funk and Michael Conley flashed Strasburg's team speed with a winning time of 46.70 seconds.
"We're still working on little things with technique, stride length and the cadence," Rudolph said. "Colton Funk and Michael Conley have made improvements already, so we're going to keep doing that. Cody Darr will be bringing home the 400 meters, and he's looking for the school record in the 400 this season. So we are getting faster."
In the girls competition, Strasburg's Cheyanne Combs won the 800 meters (2:43.60) and Morgan Carter doubled up with victories in both the 1,600 (5:57) and 3,200 (12:55.80). Carter, who didn't go out for track last season, felt like she was running two different meets -- first relatively warm and sunny conditions for the 1,600, and later a chilly night run for the 3,200.
"It really was very different weather," Carter said. "I kind of like the colder weather, but it's definitely great weather for long distance."
Massanutten Academy made the most of its small numbers with a pair of fourth-place team finishes. That's especially impressive in the girls meet, since the Colonels only brought three athletes. Selah Applin won the 100-meter dash (13.70), added a second in the 400 and was fifth in the 400. Massanutten's Chelsea Reid won the 100 hurdles (18.70), took second in the 300 hurdles and third in the long jump. Reid, a first-year track athlete, only recently learned to hurdle.
"It was hard in the beginning, but I'm a quick learner," Reid said. "I got it pretty fast and I enjoy them."
New Massanutten coach Shedrick Washington found a bit of help for the track team on the school's postgraduate boys basketball team, where juniors Diomande Moussa and Ricky Gouety played during the winter. Both originally from the west African nation of Ivory Coast, neither the 6-8 Moussa nor the 6-9 Gouety had previously competed in track.
Gouety was especially impressive, winning both the 110 hurdles (13.70) and 300 hurdles (46.10) and taking fourth in the high jump. Moussa was third in both the high jump and 400.
"With Diomande, right now he's just learning," Washington said. "He's coming back from a back injury, so the 400 is his race, and the high jump. Ricky, he's hurdler and a high jumper. It's the first time the guys have ever tried it. They come to practice and they practice hard, but we just don't have a high jump pit or mat, so we can't practice. With practice, I think both of those guys could go 5-10 or 6-0."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>