Athlete of the Week: Weight training is yielding track results for Stonewall’s Banks

Wade Banks

QUICKSBURG – The 2016 high school track and field season was a bit of an adjustment period for Stonewall Jackson High School hurdler and jumper Wade Banks.

Banks, as Generals head coach Debbie Ritchie told it on Tuesday afternoon, was a “gawky, tall kid flailing around with no control over his body at all” as he tried to wrangle his long limbs into unison on the track as a sophomore. Even Banks himself admits he used to “wobble all over the place.”

Still, Banks’ 2016 season ended with a sixth-place finish in the boys 110-meter high hurdles at the Virginia High School League Group 1A state championships. But with his sights set on bigger things as a junior this spring, Banks – who stands 6-foot-5 – hit the weight room in the offseason in order to make himself more stable while running.

“The kid just got stronger and he came out here and he started doing things well, and the better he got the more confidence he got,” Ritchie said. “And then the more confidence he got the better he got. I’ve never seen anybody be able to build off his own accomplishments.”

One success after another streamed in for Banks during last week’s Conference 44 Track and Field Championships held on the Generals’ home track.

Banks, The Northern Virginia Daily’s Athlete of the Week for May 15-21, placed first in the 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles and high jump, ran a leg of Stonewall’s championship-winning boys 4×400 relay team and placed third in the long jump to lead the Generals to the overall team title while earning Co-Top Male Performer.

The highlight of his day, Banks said, was his championship performance in the 110 hurdles – which he completed in 16.71 seconds to edge out Riverheads’ Josh Akinwumi by 0.31 seconds – and his showing in the long jump, an event he’s rarely done as a high school athlete.

“I kind of expected to win the high jump and the (300 hurdles) but the 110s, the Josh kid, he had beaten me before at the Augusta County Invitational I think, and it was kind of by a lot so that didn’t really feel too good. So coming back and beating him made me feel good. I’m hoping to repeat that again in regionals,” said Banks, who will compete alongside many of his teammates in Friday’s Region 1A East meet at Sussex Central High School.

“I think my starts have gotten a lot better, even since the beginning of the year, so when I matched (Akinwumi) at the first hurdle I kind of knew that I could win. And I was just real low to the hurdles. Usually I’m kind of way too high over them. That’s not great but that week I was low. It felt great.”

Learning how to keep his lengthy frame low to the hurdles has been just one part of his overall improvement in those events this spring. Ritchie said the junior is more fluid, as well, the payoff of Banks’ dedication to the weight room.

“He doesn’t stutter, he doesn’t chop any more. He’s smooth,” Ritchie said of Banks, last year’s Conference 44 champ in the 110 hurdles. “He’s not bouncing, he’s gliding over them and his legs are so long, he takes his three steps and then he’s done. There’s no hesitation there anymore.”

As Banks’ track and field career has progressed, so too has his level of contribution to the Generals. After beginning solely as a high jumper, Banks picked up hurdling during his freshman year and added the long jump (sparingly) and the 4×400 relay to his arsenal this spring.

Banks also dabbles in the throwing events, and he placed 10th in the shot put and 16th in the discus during the conference meet last week.

“I love scoring points, helping the team win,” Banks said.

At the upcoming regional championships, Banks will compete in both hurdle events, high jump, long jump and the 4×400 relay (he said he’s already qualified for the state meet in the 110 hurdles, high jump and the relay). He is seeded 10th in the high jump and fourth in both hurdle events.

“I really hope to win both,” Banks said of the 110 and 300 hurdles in the regional championships. “… If I could pull off a win in both that’d be a good day for me. Last year in regionals I actually scratched out in high jump because the boys didn’t start until the 300 hurdles had started, and I’m too dead after the 300s to high jump. I’m hoping to pull off a couple wins and hopefully place my way in long jump to states.”