State track meet resumes Wednesday

The abrupt premature ending to the Group 3A/4A track and field state championships on Saturday due to severe thunderstorms in Harrisonburg caused quite the stir over the weekend, drawing criticism toward the Virginia High School League and spawning the Twitter hashtag #WhoWonStates.

The meet entered a lightning delay immediately following the finish of the 3A girls 800-meter run, halting competition with parts of the 800 and 4A boys high jump and all championship races of the 200-meter dash and 4×400 relays yet to be conducted. Over two hours later, meet officials made the decision to end competition, and athletes and coaches left Harrisonburg High School with the impression that the state championships would not be resumed and no team champions crowned.

Many of those athletes and coaches received encouraging news Monday when the VHSL announced the Group 3A/4A state meet will indeed be finished with a 2:30 p.m. start time Wednesday in Harrisonburg, but that announcement may still have been too late for a couple local athletes.

Sherando head track coach Tom Grim said Monday morning that he was unsure if any of his three athletes with events remaining would be able to make it to the conclusion of the state meet Wednesday. That trio includes junior Davina Lane, who won state championships in the Group 4A girls 100- and 300-meter hurdles on Saturday and was chasing the rare third title in the 200-meter dash before the weather intervened, and seniors Trevor Whiteside and Thomas Shea, who are seeded second and 11th in the boys 800, respectively.

Asked Monday morning if he felt disappointment in the fact that several of his athletes likely won’t get to participate in their final events of the year, Grim replied, “Oh my goodness, yes.”

“Davina having a chance to be a three-timer, that doesn’t happen very often,” said Grim, who added that Lane – the Region 4A West champion in the 200 – will be in Colorado on Wednesday. “And that actually would’ve put us fairly decently in the points standings as a team. Even if she places second or third in that we’re gonna be up in the 30s and that’ll put you in the top seven or eight in the state.”

Grim said he’s experienced a mix of “disappointment and shock” among the reactions of those affected by the meet’s sudden ending, which began with a lightning delay at 2:40 p.m. after Harrisonburg High School’s on-campus lightning detection system indicated lightning in the area. Thunderstorms began dropping heavy rainfall coupled with persistent lightning strikes an hour later, and coaches met with meet officials at 5 p.m. as rain continued to pour. An announcement was made shortly after the meeting that the rest of the state meet would be canceled, with the understanding among coaches that the meet would not be concluded at a later date.

“Not exactly what we wanted,” Skyline head coach Steve Burton said, “but when you look at the VHSL’s handbook, I mean that’s pretty much how it happened. That’s how it’s written. Harrisonburg and the VHSL pretty much did it as they thought they should. But it still feels bad for all those kids who are ready to compete and finish up.”

Grim noted that about an hour after the decision was made to cancel the meet, the weather was “actually not too bad out there.”

“I think they could’ve waited longer and I think a lot of people were shocked and disappointed that we didn’t,” Grim said. “I mean with Davina, for sure, we were willing to wait around until three o’clock in the morning if we had to.”

Grim added that the controversy could’ve been avoided by switching the meet to a rolling schedule based on the knowledge that severe weather was in the forecast later in the day.

“If they would’ve just said we’re just gonna go to a rolling schedule due to the impending weather and we’ll get this thing finished up, we’d have been finished probably a half an hour, 45 minutes, maybe even an hour before that stuff even came,” he said.

Monday’s announcement does benefit Skyline sophomore Olivia McGill, who entered the meet as the top seed in the Group 3A girls 200-meter dash and ran the second-fastest time in Friday’s prelims. McGill placed second in the 100 on Saturday behind Phoebus’ Amira Aduma, who ran the fastest preliminary time in the 200.

“For us it was just Olivia that was left (on Saturday),” Burton said. “She was like, ‘OK, what do we do next? Are they gonna make it up? Do we need to come back tomorrow?’ So she’s ready to run.”

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