Averi Witt graduated from Western on June 2, but she wasn’t done representing her school quite yet. The next day, she woke up to run the 1600 in the 3A State Championship track meet in Harrisonburg.
Having already raced as part of Western’s third-place 4x800m relay team the previous day, Witt had to race wisely, and she executed her plan: she claimed her third individual state title with a time of 5:03.85. Racing side by side with junior teammate Zoe Clay for the first two laps, Witt pulled ahead in the third and held off Clay, who finished third, and challenger Kaitlynn Wolfe from rival Blacksburg, who finished second.
Though Witt had already won state titles during the indoor season, in the 1600 and the 800, this one meant something extra. “Outdoors, I really wanted to get the top spot on the podium. Winning the mile was my number one goal. It was extra special having two of my teammates make the podium with me,” Witt said, referring to Clay and to sophomore Alyssa Santoro-Adajian, who placed seventh to join Witt and Clay in the medal ceremony.
These three speedsters, along with sophomore runner Caroline McGahren and freshman jumper Katia Amos, earned the opportunity to extend their season another two weeks to compete at the next level: New Balance Outdoor Nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina on June 16-18. Witt, who often has had to lead the pack or run on her own in local races, got to be part of the elite pack in the mile. Cherie Witt, Western’s distance coach, who also happens to be Averi’s mom, was happy with how Averi handled the pressure of being boxed in and found a way to maneuver out and move up in the second half of the race. She crossed the finish line in a time of 5:00.33, which converts to personal best of 4:58.59 for a 1600m. The excellent time earned her a 12th place finish overall.
The feat becomes even more remarkable in the light of Witt’s past injuries. Two years ago, she had to undergo surgery to fix a genetic anomaly in her knee cap that suddenly left her unable to run. After a lengthy recovery and copious cross-training, much of her junior year was spent rebuilding her strength, working hard in the weight room to correct the deficit in her injured leg. The work clearly paid off, as all these state championships prove. This fall, Witt will join the cross country and track teams at James Madison University, where she hopes to be able to make an immediate impact. She was impressed by her soon-to-be coach there, as well as by the professors she met in anthropology, her intended major.
The national race in Greensboro was a fun culmination of such a successful year for Witt and her teammates. In addition to her individual 12th place finish in the mile, Witt anchored her teammates Clay, Santoro-Adajian, and McGahren in the 4xmile relay race. They were pleased with their 18th place finish. They also got to cheer on Amos to her personal best in the triple jump, 32-07.00, which earned her 29th in the freshman event. After the competition, the girls got to go to the Greensboro Science Center, visit the Wet-n-Wild Water Park, and see Wonder Woman in the theater, a fitting end for wonder woman Witt and the Western squad.