By Jeff Nations
RADFORD -- Ashton Davis did all she could, and more than she ever has, in Saturday's 400-meter run at the Group 2A state track and field championships.
Seeded second based on time in the 400, the Stonewall Jackson High School senior still faced a daunting challenge to her hopes of winning a state championship. Top-seeded Brooke Stith from Brunswick had a qualifying time nearly two full seconds faster than Davis.
Davis accepted that challenge, and pushed herself to a personal-best time of 59.36 seconds. It still wasn't quite enough to catch Stith, who won in 58.26.
"Going in, I knew I stood second and the girl in front of me [Stith] was [57.87]," Davis said. "That's hard to beat when you're barely breaking 60, you know? My nerves were getting to me, so I think I ran nervous and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It made me have that want to go after her. The last stretch, I attacked it as best I could and passed one girl.
"For the race overall, I'm not disappointed. I'm not disappointed with my place -- it's where I was ranked. I mean, it would have been nice to have a state championship but it is what it is, and I'm thankful for even having the opportunity to run it."
Davis, who finished as the day's only two-time individual all-state performer after also posting a seventh-place finish in the triple jump (top 8 make all-state), said she "found her race" during numerous 400 workouts in the week leading up to Saturday's competition. Generals coach Dick Krol wouldn't disagree with that assessment.
"Coming down the stretch, we thought Ashton had as much speed as she's had," Krol said. "The only thing is Ashton is not a kid that blazes out and the Stith girl did and put her way behind early, and she couldn't make up the difference. It was still a heckuva race. She did a great job."
No area athletes won state championships on Saturday, but Stonewall Jackson and Strasburg still produced their share of thrilling results.
In the boys 800, Stonewall's Andrew Roy found a gear he didn't know existed to place third with easily a personal-best time of 2 minutes, 29 seconds. That was nearly two seconds faster than his seeding time, which had him ranked seventh heading into the race.
"I did what I could," Roy said. "I didn't want to finish my last race with anything left."
Roy had nothing as he seemed to cross the finish line on fumes after a spectacular surge over the final 200 meters as he passed two runners and nearly caught another.
"The first lap, a little quick -- second lap, I had absolutely nothing and I kept getting faster," Roy said. "I have no idea how."
Strasburg's Cody Darr had a milestone day, as well, helping the Rams' 400-meter relay team set a new school record and then taking down another one by himself in the 400. Darr's fifth-place finish in 51.30 netted him an all-state honor, but the junior's real prize was that elusive school record.
"I'm very excited for him," Rams jumps and sprinters coach Emily Brandon said. "He's been chasing it all year, and he's worked really hard. He's had that goal and I'm very proud that he was able to accomplish that."
Brandon pointed to the Rams' earlier school-record performance in the 400 relay as a spark for Darr, who combined with Papoose Steed, Michael Conley and Colton Funk to set the new mark at 45.01 seconds in their 13th-place effort.
"I think for Cody, what helped him is they broke that [school] record in the 4x100," Brandon said. "I think he used that energy and adrenaline and really went after it."
Strasburg's Jonathan Kloosterman headed a predictably solid day for the Rams' throwers, who totaled three all-state performers. On the girls side, Taylor Showalter was sixth in the discus (104-00) and McKenna Orndorff took eighth in the shot put (34-01). Kloosterman scuffled early in the boys discus, but his best throw (144-06) came last and netted third place.
"I didn't throw as good as I thought I'd throw, but I came through at the end so I'm happy with that," Kloosterman said. "Third is what I was ranked so I did what I was supposed to do, I guess."
Strasburg throws coach Tommy Simmons said the two-day throws competition was predictably unpredictable.
"We pretty much finished where we were seeded, so we did OK," Simmons said. "The discus is just so inconsistent. Every year you come down here and take the top eight, there's going to be two or three of them that don't place."
Stonewall's girls posted the best area team finish with 15 points. Davis had much to do with that, starting with her second in the 400 but also scoring some points in the triple jump with a seventh-place effort (34-05).
"That was a surprise," Davis said. "After the regular jumps, I gathered up all my stuff and came up here because I was jumping really bad. I don't know how I made it to the finals and I pulled a 34-5 out of nowhere."
The Generals' Amanda Dotson also earned all-state honors by placing sixth in the 300 hurdles (50.29) with her best time of the season.
"She blew a hurdle and lost all of her speed," Krol said. "She was doing great up until then, but then hopped it and lost her speed. But she pushed back and caught two girls at the very end."
Dotson and Davis also combined with Cheyenne Crigger and Cheyanne Green to finish seventh in the 1,600 relay (4:22.26).
Strasburg's girls finished in a tie for 20th, getting points from Orndorff and Showalter in the throws plus an eighth-place effort from Brooklyn Amrich in the 400 (1:03.50). The Rams' distance corps also chipped in with an eighth-place showing in the 3,200 relay on Friday. The quartet of Payton Miller, Madison Orndorff, Kelsey Jenkins and Cheyanne Combs finished in 10:53.57. The Rams likely would have gotten even more points, and nearly did, if not for a back injury that hampered top girls distance runner Morgan Carter. The senior still ran and just missed earning all-state honors by finishing ninth.
"Morgan ran a very heroic race, coming in ninth place overall and just missing medaling," Strasburg distance coach Jeff Rudy said. "It was an amazing race to watch her attempt to overcome some physical limitations today."
Strasburg's Matthew Clutter tied for eighth in the high jump (5-10) to help the Rams total 10.5 points to finish 21st in the boys competition.
Derrick Smith tallied a seventh-place finish in the 400 (51.68) to help Stonewall's boys total eight points and finish tied for 24th. Smith also ran in the 100 and 200 preliminaries on Friday. Krol is looking forward to seeing what Smith can do next year.
"He gets a place in the state track meet," Krol said of the 400, "He's a junior, and he gets a chance to come back next year and do it again."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>