ELKTON – Stonewall Jackson’s track and field team begins its true postseason on Monday when it hosts the Region 1B Championships, but the Generals got the chance for a final tune-up this week.
Stonewall traveled to East Rockingham for the Shenandoah District Track and Field Championships on Wednesday evening, and while many of the nine teams were competing for spots in their upcoming regional meet, the Generals – one of just two Class 1 teams in the district – could compete without the pressure of posting qualifying performances.
The Generals’ top athletes were already guaranteed spots in the Region 1B Championships regardless of Wednesday’s outcome.
“With meets constantly, we’ve had a hard time trying to train, you know, (we’ve had to) train through some of these meets,” Generals head coach Debbie Ritchie said after the meet, which saw Stonewall’s girls place seventh and the boys eighth as a team. “We’re definitely up for this. … We had a lot of kids who did really well today. We had some places and some good jumps over here and some good races. I think we’re about where we need to be going into the region.”
Stonewall didn’t earn any gold medals on Wednesday evening, but nine Generals did place among the Top 6 in individual events to earn all-district status.
Stonewall came closest to gold in the first track event of the meet, the 4x800 relay, when the Generals’ boys squad of Zach Wine, Zachari Munoz, Ashton Hilton and Riley Gonzalez teamed up for a second-place finish in a time of 9:09.76, nearly seven full seconds behind Buffalo Gap.
In the individual events, it was junior Victor Gonzalez who posted the Generals’ best finish with his third-place effort in the boys 110-meter high hurdles (18.39 seconds).
“I actually expected second but it’s all the same, as long as we all enjoy the race,” said Victor Gonzalez, who entered the day with the third-fastest seed time in the 110s.
“I wasn’t expecting to be ranked that high, actually. I thought I was gonna be bad … but so far pretty good. I’m actually impressed with myself.”
Six of Stonewall’s individual place winners came on the girls side on Wednesday, led by a pair of fourth-place efforts from senior Carley Bennett and sophomore Lexi Franklin.
Franklin, who Ritchie said is coming along in the jumps and hurdles, placed fourth in the girls long jump with a leap of 14 feet, 7.5 inches.
Bennett, who took last track season off to recover from injury, has added the 800-meter run to her list of events this spring and took fourth place in the event with a time of 2:38.95.
“This year I just feel like I’ve come back stronger, and so that’s really helped me with the (800),” Bennett said. “I’ve actually still been struggling with injuries. I have shin splints, and so I had to take some time off and use the (exercise) bike for like two or three weeks. It’s been kind of hard but that’s really helped me with recovering, so I can actually run this well. I believe I (set a personal record in) my 800 today, and according to my coach I rank first in the (800) in the region, so I’m looking forward and hoping that I’ll get to go to states in my first individual event.”
Wine, a sophomore, dabbled in several different disciplines on Wednesday and was the only General to place in two individual events. He finished fifth in the boys 400 (55.32 seconds) and sixth in the triple jump (36-08.00).
“I didn’t do as good as what I could’ve in the 400, so I’m gonna focus on that and try to state qualify,” Wine said. “I’ve gotta work a little bit to try and state qualify in the 400. It’ll be a little bit challenging but just try to work harder in these couple of days before.
“It means a decent bit,” he added of earning all-district in two events. “I’m really focused on regionals, though.”
Stonewall freshman Aamirah McDonald placed fifth in the girls 400 (1:06.34), and junior Melissa Oczkowski, who said she’s got her sights set on a state qualification in the 1,600-meter run, was fifth in that event on Wednesday with a time of 6:16.87.
Juniors Ella Hervo-Smith (girls 800, 2:52.68), McKenzie Pilkerton (girls 3,200, 14:34.66) and Riley Gonzalez (boys 800, 2:11.95) each placed sixth in their respective events.
Stonewall’s boys 4x400 relay team entered the Shenandoah District meet with the third-fastest seed time but had to scratch on Wednesday because one of the Generals suffered a hamstring injury, Ritchie said.
“I think our relay teams, our four-by-eights and even our four-by-fours are looking pretty strong,” Ritchie said. “The district is more competitive, I think, than the region is gonna be. You kind of get up for this and then you go to the region and you’re like whoa, suddenly everything is a little bit down. It’s a little bit weird.”
East Rockingham won the girls team title with 151 points, while Stuarts Draft (117) took top honors on the boys side.
Wilson Memorial’s Paige Miller (40 total points in the district meet) was the Shenandoah District’s Girls Player of the Year, and Draft’s Colby Phillips (36 points) was the Boys Player of the Year.