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2018 Track and Field Coach of the Year: Lytton leads Falcons to golden year

Rick Lytton

WOODSTOCK – Compared to other high school sports, track and field is less team-oriented than most. There are the relay races, sure, but they’re the outliers in a sport dominated by individual performance. Even still, Central’s showed the value of a unified effort in 2018.

The Falcons enjoyed tremendous success this past spring, winning Bull Run District and Region 2B championships and placing second in the VHSL Class 2 State Championships, their best finish in a state meet since winning a Group A state title in 1996.

Asked about his team’s success, longtime head coach Rick Lytton began by pointing out a series of injuries the Falcons suffered among their sprinters and distance runners, adding that “when someone went down, somebody else stepped up and got the job done.”

“They got along well,” Lytton, who has coach track and field at the varsity level at Central since 1982, continued. “They all realized who could contribute and how good they could be.”

It turned out, Central’s boys could be – and would be – very, very good.

It began up top with the duo of junior Kyle Clanton and senior Coy Jimenez, a pair of all-state sprinters who combined to score 55 of Central’s 61 points at the state meet. Clanton alone piled up 35 points while winning state titles in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes.

Junior Declan Franklin and senior Bryan Davis added all-state performances in the discus and shot put, respectively, while Clanton also earned team points with a third-place finish in the long jump. Freshman hurdler Kamren Wells and the 4×800 relay team of Colin Bradley-Connolly, Sawyer Lucy-Speidel, Anthony Piselli and Shawn Purdy gave Central a total of nine individuals competing in nine of 17 events in the year’s final meet.

The Falcons ended the state championships 29.5 points behind perennial power Maggie Walker, which earned 28.5 points alone in the pole vault, an event Central does not compete in.

Prior to the state meet, Lytton – the Northern Virginia Daily’s 2018 Track and Field Coach of the Year – led Central’s boys to their third straight Bull Run District title and the program’s first regional championship since the early 2000s.

“First of all it helped that you had two guys (Clanton and Jimenez) that were ranked number one and two in the three big sprints,” Lytton said. “That’s 18 and 36 and then 54 points right there that you should count on, and it happened in everything except the 100 meters. And then we figured we had three throwers who should do well, and we had some other kids who you never know about.”

Compared to last season, Central was a deeper team in 2018. Part of that, Lytton said, was due to the addition of Rich Shockey, an assistant coach with the school’s football team, to the track staff, as Shockey was able to recruit some football players to the track team for the first time.

While Lytton said it didn’t take long for the coaching staff to get on the same page this spring, though it took some athletes – especially those making their track debuts – a little longer to buy in.

“It helps when you go to some of those invitationals and you either see how good you can be or you see how good other athletes are,” Lytton said, “and you better work to stay ahead of them or you better work to catch up to them and pass them.”

Among those who took steps from the background into more prominent roles for the boys team this season, Lytton pinpointed Franklin, Purdy and speedster Chris Conner.

“I anticipate we’ll be good in the boys next year again,” Lytton said. “And we have some young kids coming up. I don’t know that we’ll be at the same level that we were last year and this year, but still the program’s at the point where it’s maintaining well each year.”

And while the Falcons’ boys enjoyed a good deal of balance throughout the various disciplines this spring, Lytton said the girls are likely even more balanced “at this point.”

Central’s girls placed sixth in the regional meet and 18th in the state championships. Brooke Ryman (long jump and triple jump), Tycara Scott (shot put) and Central’s 4×800 relay (Ashley Dodd, Aliyah Kibler, Jennifer Moore and Madison Nichols) all earned all-state medals.

“The girls had a good team, a good year also,” Lytton said. “Their talent was spread out between jumpers and throwers and distance runners and they improved. Brooke Ryman was the leader, simply (because) she was a senior and she was one of the best jumpers in the district. Tycara Scott and Ayanna Strother, they were the throwing leaders because they had the most experience there. And then the distance girls, there were some young ones mixed in with some older ones. Almost all the distance girls are back next year.”