By Jeff Nations
Stonewall Jackson High School senior Ashton Davis has enjoyed a spectacular career for the Generals as a top-flight runner and jumper.
One thing has eluded Davis, though, and that's an individual state championship. On Saturday in the Group 2A state track and field meet at Radford University, Davis will get her best -- and final -- chance at taking home the top prize when she runs in the 400-meter dash.
Davis is seeded second in the event with a time of 59.54 seconds.
"This is it," Stonewall Jackson coach Dick Krol said. "She graduates next week and this is her last shot."
Davis finished fourth in the Group A state meet in the 400 as a sophomore, and then took sixth in the same event last year. This year she looks primed to challenge for the state crown. Two main rivals loom in Brunswick freshman Brooke Stith (57.87 seconds as the top seed) and George Mason's Tara Holman (59.59 seconds). Krol thinks Davis should be right there competing for the state title.
"We think so," Krol said. "She did not have to compete against the No. 1 girl [Stith] last week because she pulled a muscle, so she did not run. But she beat everybody else."
Davis will have a busy Saturday. She's also seeded fifth in the triple jump, and hopes to qualify for the 200 meters during Friday's trials. She's seeded 21st in that event. Davis also joins Amanda Dotson, Cheyanne Green and Cheyenne Crigger to form part of a rock-solid 1,600-meter relay unit that enters Saturday's competition as the No. 5 seed in the 2A state rankings. Davis will also compete in Friday's long jump, entering as the 20th seed in that event.
"We don't see anybody coming up that we haven't seen," Krol said. "If they run a good race, they have a shot to finish higher than their seeding."
The Generals are short on numbers heading into today's first day of the two-day meet, with Krol pointing to Maggie Walker as the clear-cut favorite due to that school's near monopoly on the pole vault and a strong distance group. But Stonewall has the ability to score points, and it doesn't stop with the versatile Davis.
Senior Andrew Roy is seeded seventh in the 800 and junior Derrick Smith is ninth in the 100. Smith will also compete in the 400 (14th) and 200 (16th) for the Generals.
In the girls competition, Amanda Dotson (seeded seventh in 300 hurdles) and Angela Misquith (14th in 300 hurdles), plus Crigger in the triple jump (seeded 15th) can potentially make an impact.
"We don't have any depth at all," Krol said. "If we're at a big meet, we can score some points because of the quality we have."
Strasburg has solid depth, by comparison, but not nearly the experience the Generals enjoy at the state level.
"We've got a lot of young kids going this year," Rams jumps and sprints coach Emily Brandon said. "That's been really exciting for us. We only have a few going that have state experience."
As always, Strasburg will lean heavily on its throwers in Radford. Senior Jonathan Kloosterman leads a deep group. He's seeded third in the discus, and will have teammates Trenton Davis (seeded ninth) and Thayer Norris (15th) to keep him company. Norris will also compete in the shot put, where he's seeded ninth.
The Rams are just as strong on the girls side, with McKenna Orndorff scheduled for double duty in the shot put (seeded seventh) and discus (15th). Katie Dofermire (ninth in shot), Taylor Showalter (sixth in discus) and Rachel Funkhouser (11th in discus) will also throw for Strasburg this weekend.
Strasburg also brings nearly a full complement of relays to the state meet, missing only an entry in the girls 400 relay.
"We're really excited about our relays," Brandon said. "That's an area where we've been really strong all season. Also, we're excited about our throwers. We always have a strong throwing program."
Tops on the list of state contenders is the Rams' girls 3,200 relay of Kelsey Jenkins, Payton Miller, Madison Orndorff and Cheyenne Combs (seeded eighth). Combs will also join Brooklyn Amrich, Makayla Vargas and Marissa Sager on Strasburg's 1,600 relay (seeded 15th).
On the boys side, Cody Darr, Papoose Steed, Michael Conley and Colton Funk will look to better their 12th-place seeding in the 400 relay. Conley and Darr will combine with Cody Price and Austin Schlentner in the 1,600 relay (13th), and Austin Bartley, Matt Chimento, Angel Hernandez and Ryan Davis form Strasburg's 3,200 relay (seeded 17th).
Other individual qualifiers for Strasburg's boys include Matthew Clutter in the high jump (seeded 11th) and Darr in the 400 (10th). Morgan Carter has a strong shot at all-state in the 3,200 (seeded seventh) and Amrich will run in the 400 (12th) for Strasburg's girls.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>