Falcons break 2A state meet record in boys 4×400 relay

Central's Watson ties meet record in girls discus, wins state title

Central's Saxon Franklin hands the baton off to teammate Kyle Clanton during the boys 4x400 relay race at the VHSL Group 2A State Track and Field Championships. The Falcons won the state title in the event and set a new 2A state meet record. Brad Fauber/Daily

ELKTON – The four members of the Central High School boys’ 4×400 relay team busied themselves with various other events during the much of the Virginia High School League Group 2A State Track and Field Championships at East Rockingham High School over the weekend. But the final event of the meet on Saturday afternoon, to them, was the only one that truly mattered.

Seniors Saxon Franklin and Carston Shockey, junior Coy Jimenez and sophomore Kyle Clanton spent the spring preparing themselves to make another run at the Falcons’ second straight 4×400 state title, and on the final day of the two-day state meet the quartet ended their season in emphatic fashion.

Not only did the Falcons repeat as state champs in the event, but they also broke the previous 2A state meet record by nearly two seconds while doing so. Their winning time of 3:26.44 beat the previous mark of 3:28.37 set by Martinsville in 2014.

“Coming in that’s all we were thinking about,” said Jimenez, who ran the fourth and final lap for the Falcons. “This is our last ride, this is our last chance we have to really do something special with these guys because two of them are seniors. … They’re family to us. We work extremely hard together and we give it absolutely our all, and we know we can rely on each to do a lot of great things.”

Shockey began the race by running the opening leg for the Falcons before passing the baton off to Franklin, the only newcomer to the 4×400 team at the start of spring after he stepped in as the replacement for the graduated Wyatt Robinson. Franklin, who received the baton with Central in second place, quickly gained the lead for the Falcons early in his lap around the track.

Central senior Kila Watson competes during the girls' discus at the VHSL Group 2A State Track and Field Championships on Saturday in Elkton. Watson won a state title in the event and matched the 2A state meet record with a throw of 125 feet, 3 inches. Brad Fauber/Daily

Clanton turned Central’s slim lead into a comfortable margin on the third lap as he streaked away from the rest of the field in the first 100 meters of his run to set up an uncontested final lap for Jimenez, who was essentially just racing the clock after receiving the baton on the final pass with about 2:35 showing on the timer.

The Falcons beat runner-up Glenvar by 6.5 seconds.

“Going into it we were trying to strategize, figure everything out. Honestly I think we over-thought it,” Franklin said. “We just needed to go out there and do what we do. Once Carston got me the stick, I knew I wanted to get Kyle a lead. Got Kyle a lead, Kyle extended that lead and just like always, our workhorse here, Coy, he brought us home.

“That’s my last ride,” he added. “That’s the most I can ask for.”

Though the quartet combined to compete in six other events at the state meet, the 4×400 relay was the only gold-medal performance for the Central boys, and likely no one needed the victory more than Clanton, who was disqualified from the 100-meter dash – one of his best events – after false starting in Friday’s trials.

Strasburg senior Elijah Waters clears the final hurdle during the boys' 110-meter high hurdles race in the VHSL Group 2A State Track and Field Championships on Saturday in Elkton. Waters placed second in the event. Brad Fauber/Daily

“A dream come true, I guess,” Clanton said of the relay win. “After false starting it’s a little rough, gets you down. But we brought it back up today, so I’m good. Feeling good.”

Central’s Kila Watson nearly gave the Falcons a record-setting performance on the girls side earlier on Saturday, as her throw of 125 feet, 3 inches tied the state meet record. The senior gladly accepted the state championship medal that came along with the heave.

She needed every bit of that distance as runner-up Jocelyn Midkiff of Giles nearly matched her with a throw of 125-02.

“It feels pretty amazing,” Watson said. “Worked really hard to get here but definitely wouldn’t have got here without all my coaches. It’s really awesome.

“Ever since freshman year I was like one day I hope I can be a state champion and it’s amazing that today I got to do that.”

Central junior Brooke Ryman leaps during the girls' triple jump at the VHSL Group 2A State Track and Field Championships. Ryman finished eighth in the event to earn all-state honors. Brad Fauber/Daily

It was the first state title for Watson in her final high school track and field meet. She placed fourth in the discus last season.

“It’s been a lot of work, a lot of hard work,” said Watson, who also earned all-state honors (given to the top eight individuals in each event) with a fifth-place performance in the shot put on Friday. “I struggled sometimes with a little bit of a knee injury but it’s been going good this year. My family had to push me a lot too, and I had good coaches throughout the whole season, great teammates. It just happened to be one of the best years and I’m thankful for it.”

Strasburg senior Elijah Waters couldn’t say the same on Saturday after his record-setting high school career ended with a second-place finish in the boys 110-meter high hurdles one year after winning a state title in the event.

Waters, who completed the finals in 15.14 seconds to come in just behind Appomattox County’s Delonta Kelso (15.12), claimed after the race that someone had stolen his racing spikes from his bag while he left it unattended to use the restroom on Saturday morning. He ran his final race later that morning in a pair of shoes borrowed from Stonewall Jackson’s Tyler Patton, which were a size and a half too big.

“My mom ran to Dick’s Sporting Goods, they didn’t have any spikes. I don’t even know if she made it back in time for my race,” said Waters, who added that he had the “worst start of his career” off the blocks due to wearing the wrong shoe size.

Saturday was the final frustration in what turned into an unfortunate senior season for Waters, who worked his way back from offseason knee surgery only to suffer a hamstring injury in the first meet of the season that limited him to just four meets – including the state championships – this spring.

When asked how he felt about ending the year with a runner-up medal, Waters could only shake his head.

“I didn’t come to this meet expecting to get first or whatever,” he said after a long pause, “but to just not even have like a fair chance at it in the beginning, that just sucks man. That’s my last race ever in high school.

“If I had made like some wrong choices or something or did something wrong, I’d understand. It’s just bad luck.”

Central’s boys, who finished fourth as a team with 40.5 points, got third-place finishes from Franklin in the triple jump (43-10.50) and Jimenez in the 400 (50.37), a fifth-place effort from Clanton in the 200 (23.08) and a seventh-place performance from Bryan Davis in the shot put (45-10).

On the girls side, the Falcons – who placed eighth (28.5 points) – saw Brooke Ryman (triple jump, 34-00.50) and Mikayla Helsley (300 hurdles, 50.20) each take eighth place.

Maggie Walker swept the boys (69 points) and girls (92) team championships.