Sherando boys claim Apple Blossom title


WINCHESTER – Now almost completely healthy for probably the first time this season, Sherando’s boys’ track-and-field team roared through its competition at the 42nd annual H. Brian Landes Apple Blossom Invitational Saturday at James Wood’s Jerry Kelican Stadium in humid conditions.

The eight-hour event was pushed back an hour because of a downpour that hit the city at about the time that the meet was to begin.

After that, girls and boys from the 21 high schools represented here got busy and when it was all over the Warriors (97 points) had claimed their first Apple Blossom Invitational, probably in school history.

Neither games committee members Dave Weir and Rusty McDonald (former James Wood High School coaches), nor referee Bill Stewart, former Sherando track coaches Tim Ritter and Tom Grim could remember a time when a boys’ squad from the 24-year-old high school in Stephens City had walked away from the Apple Blossom Invitational with a gold medal in hand.

Most believed that if such a championship occurred it might have been under the supervision of ex-Warrior head man Stewart, who later went on to Handley High School as director of activities.

Stewart, who coached the Warriors from the mid- to late-’90s, reported via email Sunday night that his teams’ best finish at the James Wood event was a second. His Sherando clubs did so, twice.

Mark Pearson spear-headed the SHS team that won the Handley Invitational.

This year’s team was led by Jacquari Hayes, who accumulated 25 points by winning the long jump – 21 feet, 10 ½ inches, the triple jump – 44 feet – and finishing fourth in the 200-meter sprint – 23.17 seconds – for the Warriors.

“Jacquari had a good day,” said Sherando coach Jamie McCarty. “He’s not quite there yet – he’s been battling some heel issues, but he’s been wearing ‘heel cups’ (padding) in his shoes and that seems to be working out.”

First place earned 10 points at this event, with 8 going to second, 6 to third, 5 to fourth, 4 to fifth, 3 to sixth, 2 to seventh and 1 to eighth. All events were completed in flights, with athletes competing against the clock or distance.

Sherando thrower Isaiah Allen, a sophomore, put on another dynamic show before the dozens of folks who gathered around the shot and discus pits.

Allen, also an all-conference defensive lineman for Sherando football coach Bill Hall, reset his own school record in the shot with a throw of 52-8.50. His previous best was a toss of 52.7 made earlier in the season.

Last week at a meet at Lake Braddock High School, Allen set the school’s record mark in the discus with a throw of 158 feet.

His toss failed to match that level here in Winchester, but a 143-07 effort was good enough for the silver medal behind a throw of 157-07 by Greencastle-Antrim, Pennsylvania, athlete Jacob Hockman.

Still Allen tallied 18 points for his squad.

Allen has remodeled his technique since his freshman year. He started using a spin move at last year’s Group 4A Conference 21 West meet and has continued to perfect it through this record-shattering season.

He said the spin provides better momentum in the throwing ring than merely attempting to advance the shot or the disc by “gliding” into it. Those types of throws comes from an almost stationary position.

He works with Sherando throws coach Tim Combs at practice. On the weekends Allen and his mother Joanne, a 1984 graduate of Warren County High School, find other places where he can perfect his craft.

Joanne Allen videos all her son’s meets and together they go over elements of his release and finish away from the school.

Isaiah Allen said he learned about the spin move on his own, watching videos of others and then attending clinics throughout last summer.

“I finally got consistent (with the spin) and have been hitting the ’50s’ (feet) ever since,” said the Warrior. “With the spin under control, it’s really boosted my confidence.”

David Restrepo was the other Sherando boys’ gold medalist by taking first-place in the gritty 300m hurdles (40.62). That was a personal record for the Warrior, who nipped Millbrook’s Andrew Smith (40.63) for the crown.

“When he first started hurdles, hurdling wasn’t natural for him,” said McCarty. “What he’s done he’s earned on his own – he’s worked at it.”

A major player for the Warriors who was unable to enter this event was Hayden Williams, probably their best long-distance runner.

Otherwise, everyone else was ready to go, said McCarty: “We’ve finally gotten to the point with some of our younger guys where they are more comfortable competing in events where they are slated. We started the season with several sophomores and they have worked hard to get ready through the rest of the season and on into the postseason.”

Locals played large parts in picking up points in both throwing events.

Sherando’s Sam Johnson finished second in the shot (47-01) and fourth in the discus (135-06) to pick up 13 points.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the pits came from Strasburg High School’s Ryan Day. Day finished third in the shot (46-09) and third in the discus (141-02) against competition offered by larger schools.

“I’ve been in a slump the last two weeks so today was my day to break out of it,” said Day. He was clean on all eight of his throws in his two specialties – not an easy trait based on other performers.

“He was very consistent today and that’s what we’ve been looking for,” said Strasburg throws coach Tommy Simmons. “What he did today would stand up in our conference meet.”

The Rams are from Group 2A.

Skyline’s Landon Holben finished fourth in the 400-meter with a time of 51.65.

While the Sherando boys were celebrating their second major meet victory since beginning the season at the Strasburg Ram Invitational, the Warrior girls were on point, too.

Paced by electrifying Davina Lane, Sherando placed third (64 points). Woodgrove was the team winner (83) ahead of runnerup and host James Wood (82).

Lane competed in three events and won the 100-meter (12.7), the 100 hurdles (15.08) and the long jump (17-2.50). She did not run her specialty, the 300 hurdles, because she was headed for the evening’s prom. Yet her 30 points boosted the Warriors.

McCarty accompanied his speedy gem to the world-class Penn Relays in Philadelphia last week. The coach said Lane finished sixth in the high-school 400-meter hurdles, which will probably be her event of choice when she matriculates to George Mason University next fall on scholarship.

“She has been traveling (with the Penn Relays) so it was a very solid week for her,” McCarty said.

Olivia Couillard won the 3,200-meter run (12:15.21) with a huge kick on her eighth and final lap around the James Wood oval.

The Warriors also finished second in the 4X100 relay. The team of Ania Summers, Donzailya Berg, Ann Marie Kelly and Kaitlyn Roberts combined for a 51.84-second showing.

Warren County’s Cor’Shauna Cunningham earned a third in the shot (36-11.00) and a silver medal in the discus (112-02).

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In related news, Skyline coach Steve Burton said that former distance runner Sabrina Wilkins will be returning to his team this week. She was at the Apple Blossom to root on the Hawks.

Wilkins was a cross-country standout who chose to play soccer, but injured her arm. Now recovered, she will take her place among the Hawks as early as this weekend, according to the coach.

Contact Jim Laise at sports@nvdaily.com