Skyline’s Parker leaps way to regional titles

CULPEPER — Skyline’s Jamal Parker chose to pull himself from competition in the boys 200-meter dash — an event he was the top seed in — at the Region 3A East track and field championships at Culpeper County High School on Wednesday afternoon. But the senior still brought home plenty of hardware.

Parker was the lone local athlete to win a regional championship, and he did it not once but twice on Wednesday by winning both the boys long jump and the triple jump. The speedy senior also placed second in the 100-meter dash and ran the second leg of the Hawks’ state-qualifying boys 4×100-meter relay team.

Skyline head coach Steve Burton said he knew it was going to be an “exciting” day for Parker when the senior opened with victory in the long jump. Parker’s winning leap of 22 feet, 10½ inches — into the wind, no less — was his personal best by nearly a foot.

“My first one was a scratch but the people around me told me it was a pretty good jump,” Parker said following the meet. “Then some other kid pulled out this like 21-foot, 11 [inch] jump and that caught me completely off guard because that was my PR. I was like oh no, I haven’t hit that since last year, I’ve got to beat that. Then I came down and hit my PR by like a foot. It’s ridiculous, actually. I don’t know how it happened. But then I got [22 feet, 7 inches] on my next jump so I guess it wasn’t a fluke. If I can pull that out at states, I’ll have a chance.”

The victory in the long jump was just the start for Parker, who would go on to earn nearly 30 points to help push Skyline (52 points) to a fourth-place finish, the best by any local school at the meet.

Parker narrowly missed winning the 100-meter dash as well, as he lost to Culpeper County’s Elijah Morton (10.97 seconds) by a “tip of a toe.” But Parker’s time of 10.99 seconds in the event was still a personal record.

The senior ended the day with a winning leap of 42 feet, 4 inches in the triple jump after opting not to compete in the 200 due to a combination of knee and hip discomfort and the draining 90-degree heat. Parker had previously qualified for the Group 3A state meet in the 200.

Parker’s victories in the jumping events were two of a handful of successful performances in the field events for local athletes on Wednesday. Hawks senior Ronnie Clifton placed second in the boys discus, and Central’s Harold Wakeman (boys shot put), Lexi Keller (girls high jump) and Kila Watson (girls shot put and discus) all earned top-five finishes.

The top six individuals and the top six relay teams in each event qualified for the Group 3A state meet next Saturday in Harrisonburg.

Clifton’s throw of 137 feet, 8 inches in the discus was a new personal best for the Skyline senior. Clifton, Parker, Luke Cline (sixth place, boys 800) and members of the Hawks’ boys 4×800 (second-place finish) and 4×100 relays all qualified for the state meet.

“Ronnie PR’d today, so that was expected,” Burton said. “For both of those kids [Clifton and Parker], they’re seniors so now they’re going to make the choice of whether or not to compete next weekend because they walk across the stage [for graduation] at the same time as the state track meet. There’s going to be some heavy decisions this afternoon and some good conversations at their houses.”

Watson, a sophomore, turned in one of the more successful local performances on the girls side, as she placed fourth in the discus and fifth in the shot put. Watson, who had previously qualified for the state meet in the discus, tossed below her seeded throw in the event on Wednesday but her heave of 32 feet, 9 inches in the shot was a personal best by four inches.

“I was throwing 33’s in practice but hopefully at states I’ll break another PR,” Watson said. “I was just listening to what [Central throws coach Mike] Yew had to say with keeping my hips closed in when I was going out until the last end to pull it, to finish. I just did that on the very first throw and got the 32, but I didn’t break it after that.”

Wakeman also qualified for the state meet for the Falcons in the boys shot put as he placed third with a throw of 44-04.25. The senior entered Wednesday seeded 10th in the event.

“I just felt good this morning,” Wakeman said. “It feels like a big accomplishment. I was expecting to only go to regionals.”

Also for the Falcons, Keller tied for third in the girls high jump as she continued to match her mark of 4 feet, 10 inches, and senior Bethany Neri placed sixth in the girls 1,600-meter (5:41.07). The Falcons’ girls 4×800 relay also placed fourth as Central’s girls finished 10th as a team with 24.5 points.

“The girls 4×800 relay ran very well,” Central coach Rick Lytton said. “They moved up I think about six places from where they were ranked coming in. They just did a very, very good job.”

Quay Caison was the lone Warren County athlete to turn in a top-six performance Wednesday as he placed fifth in the boys shot put with a throw of 44-00.50. Caison, who had previously qualified for the state meet, will be joined by girls teammates Diamond Maldonado (long jump) and Scarlet Riehl (high jump) next weekend as both also previously qualified.

The Wildcats just missed sending a couple more athletes to the state meet, as senior Michael Mallery placed seventh in the boys 400 and freshman Cor’shauna Cunningham placed eighth in the girls discus.

“There were some heartbreakers today,” Wildcats coach Joseph Owens said. ” … Overall we were really happy to get the experience of regionals for a lot of these young kids. Like I’ve been saying, this team is heading for great things but as far as the ages now, we have tons of sophomores and freshmen and juniors. The future looks bright and we were just glad to bring 16 kids.”

Skyline’s Olivia McGill did not participate in the Region 3A East championships due to a bout with food poisoning, Burton said, but McGill has qualified for the state meet in the girls 100- and 200-meter events.

Lafayette swept both the boys and girls team championships.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com