By Jeff Nations
CULPEPER -- Central High School senior Travis Cooper is well aware that his biggest competition for winning the discus competition at next weekend's Group 3A state track and field meet might well be teammate Josh Gum.
Central's Justin Bauserman knows his biggest threat toward winning a third straight state title in the 300-meter hurdles is even closer -- himself.
Both Cooper and Bauserman flashed serious state championship form during Wednesday's 3A East Region meet at Culpeper High School. The fellow seniors were the only two area athletes to win individual regional championships on a hot, sunny day in Culpeper.
Cooper scored his regional championship in the discus with a winning throw of 148 feet, 7 inches. That wasn't quite his season best, but it was good enough to win by nearly nine feet.
"It wasn't a huge surprise," Cooper said. "I've been working really hard in practice and lifting heavy, just working at it. I knew if I did the best that I could it wouldn't be a problem."
Gum took third in the discus to place in the top six and automatically advance to next week's two-day 3A state meet in Harrisonburg.
"They'll be ranked high in the state next week," Central coach Rick Lytton said. "But there will be some really, really good competition."
Cooper and Gum have already been checking out those potential rivals from the 3A West Region, just to know where they stand.
"We've looked at the other region and it's about the same as this region," Cooper said. "So I know if we just throw our best, we should have a chance of coming away with it. Josh can do it at any moment, too."
Bauserman wasn't at his best, either, but he still had more than enough to take down the field by almost a second and a half. Bauserman's winning time was 40.69 seconds, a bit off his season best of 39.26.
"I messed up on my start and coming out of the turn over there, but either way I won and got what I needed to do done," Bauserman said. "I did my job. I'll just move on to the next one and hopefully have a better race at states."
Bauserman thinks he'll get another challenge from Lafayette's Micah Canaday (second) and Zarron Moses (fifth) in Harrisonburg, but if he runs to his potential there should be no one to beat him.
"You never know -- something always happens, somehow," Bauserman said. "There's definitely some good hurdlers from Lafayette. They gave me a run for my money."
The trio of Cooper, Bauserman and Gum (also eighth in the shot put) led Central's boys to a tie for seventh in the region, the best team finish among area squads. Bauserman also added a fourth-place finish in the 110 hurdles, while Gum was eighth in the shot put.
Lafayette swept both the boys and girls competitions.
Warren County also had a nice day in the throws, as sophomore Quay Caison took second in the boys shot put and senior Crystal Utter finished third in the girls discus.
"We're just really happy with both of them and how they finished today," Wildcats coach Joseph Owens said.
Caison has been a real find for Warren County this season, as he just started throwing this year and has steadily made an impact.
"I always thought shot put was cool," Caison said. "I never really wanted to come before, but I said this year why not give it a shot."
Warren County's Wesley Childress also advanced to states with a fourth-place finish in the 800, but there were some disappointments for the Wildcats. Standout distance runner Rachel Oden, seeded high enough to advance in the 1,600, came down with an illness Wednesday morning. She finished both the 1,600 and 800, but it was apparent she was far from her best and didn't advance.
The Wildcats also got a bitter disappointment in the opening boys 3,200 relay when the squad was disqualified from the race.
"I guess apparently they said our guy stepped on the back of the triangle, and his heel went over so they disqualified the team," Owens said. "On that last leg, Wes [Childress] got them from ninth place to fourth place, which would have qualified them for states."
Skyline had a better time of it in that same race, as the Hawks' quartet of Demetry Arnold, Luke Cline, Tanner Steed and Landon Holben took third to move on to states.
"It wasn't a great time, but they ran a good race," Skyline coach Steve Burton said. "They put themselves in the position where they needed to be."
The Hawks' Jamal Parker earned state qualifying spots in both the 100 and the long jump with a pair of sixth-place finishes, and Ronnie Clifton was fifth in the discus but won't be able to attend the state meet due to a scheduled SAT exam that day.
Central's girls got its 3,200 relay through as Emily Walker, Heather Landes, Dana Painter and Leah Adams scored a sixth-place finish.
"That was a very nice surprise," Lytton said.
The Falcons also got a great performance from Bethany Neri in the 1,600, as the junior posted a personal-best time of 5:34.18 to finish fourth and move on to state competition next week.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>