By Nick Ward
Western Albemarle’s athletic teams are now on the final stretch of their race towards another Wachovia Cup Championship. Last year, WAHS won the prestigious award that factors in sportsmanship and the productivity of both the boys and girls athletic programs during an entire school year. With a strong showing in the spring another title is possible.
On Saturday, February 28, the boys and the girls track teams traveled south down Route 29 to Liberty University to compete at the VHSL AA State Track and Field Championships. When thinking of the track program at Western, the mind quickly conjures up names like Tyler Stutzman and Kyle Satterwhite, stars who have represented Crozet on the national level. Both the girls and the boys track teams had high expectations for themselves against statewide competition this year. During the winter indoor season, much of the focus turned towards William Tillery’s girls team, who won the Jefferson District and their regional meet.
The strength of the girls team thus far has been their distance running, their relays, and their fantastic pole vault program. The first event of the meet was the 4×800 meter relay, and the Warriors were seeded in the fast heat. With the second fastest time coming into the event, the girls were excited about their chances at the elusive state title. Only Blacksburg High School was seeded ahead of the Warriors, but unfortunately the girls in gold were not able to overtake their foes from the southwest.
After running a hardfought race, the ladies from WAHS crossed the line in an impressive third place, scoring six points for the team.
The boys 4×800 meter relay was also in the fast heat at States, and the four half-milers that Coach Lindy Bain put out on the track exceeded their fourth seed and finished the race only one second out of the lead. The Warriors’ seeded time was 8:16.86, and the boys ran an incredible indoor time of 8:02.71, breaking the previous AA meet record set by Fort Defiance in 2006. Just as in the women’s relay, Blacksburg High School held the top seed, and they were again able to defend that rank and won the boys title. Blacksburg ran 8:00.76 in the boys 4×800, setting a new AA state record in the process. Finishing second in the first race of the day was a great feat for Coach Bain’s team, and the boys continued exceeding their projected potential throughout the meet.
Although Western is not usually known for their sprinters, a few of the Warriors represented their school in the shorter races and did very well. Senior Maggie Borowitz ran 44.64 in the 300 meter dash, placing 19th in the state. Ryan Dettmann and Lucas Brown also ran the 300 meter race for the boys and finished 15th and 20th, respectively. Kelsey McClary ran 9.30 seconds in the 55 meter hurdles, placing 9th in the meet. Although these athletes were not able to score points for their team, having four athletes place in the top 20 in the state in one event is very remarkable indeed.
The 500 meter dash has been one of the strong points for both the girls and the boys programs this season, and Coaches Tillery and Bain were excited about the points to be won in this event. Junior Jordan Haws has been one of the most prolific performers for the lady Warriors all season, and after medaling as part of the 4×800 meter relay, she was on the track once again, hoping to place in the long sprint. Haws ran a season best time, 1:23.20, and finished in the top 15, placing 13th. For the boys, Adrian Sitler and Aaron Myers have also been top performers in the 500m race. Sitler, coming off of a regional championship in the 500m was in the top heat of the race and finished in 8th place, gaining one point for his team. Myers improved his seeded time by almost an entire second and finished in 6th place, scoring another three points for WAHS.
Like the 500m dash, the 1000m run has also been a strong event for the Warriors this winter. Hilary Wayland and Katie Farina crossed the line together in the race, only one hundredth of a second apart from each other. Wayland edged out Farina, finishing 10th, and Farina, the talented freshman, finished 11th, a great start to a varsity running career. The 1000m meter run has been one of Stutzman’s specialties indoors through his illustrious career, and he was planning on adding another state title to his resume. Stutzman, who has recently accepted a scholarship to Stanford to run track and cross country, was seeded first and would not be denied his gold medal. The talented senior ran 2:30.12, less than two seconds off of the state record. His mark was also good enough to qualify him for the national meet, making this the second event that he has earned a spot in.
Emily Moffet was the lone miler for the girls at the state meet, and the sophomore ran a wonderful race. Moffet finished ninth, only one place out of the point-earning positions. She ran 5:30.86, which was almost five seconds better than her previous season best. Stutzman was on the track again for the Warriors in the mile, which has become his best event. The senior, a nationally renowned miler, had the best time headed into the race. Once again, “Tex” would settle for nothing less than another title and won his second individual championship of the meet, running 4:16.49. Stutzman will be traveling to Nationals to compete in the mile as well, where he hopes to avenge his loss to Robbie Andrews in the Millrose Mile run in New York City earlier this indoor season.
Both of the WAHS athletes who ran in the two-mile race ran incredible races for their teams, scoring major points. Sophomore Claire Johnson finished fourth in the state for the girls, running 11:34.04. This was almost 20 seconds off of her seeded time of 11:54.26. Johnson solidified herself as one of the top distance runners in the state.
Satterwhite, who was not able to practice the day before the meet due to illness, fought through the flu-like symptoms and toed the line with the best that Virginia has to offer. Satterwhite won the two mile race as a sophomore, but was beaten as a junior. During his junior campaign, Satterwhite was also sick the weekend of the state championships, and was forced to drop out of the two mile mid-race. The gritty senior would not allow an illness to get the best of him during his senior year, and competed wonderfully on Saturday. The nationally ranked cross country runner ran 9:24.42, winning the race by almost four seconds and qualifying him for the national race in the meantime.
Coach Bain’s last two relay teams, the 4×200 meter and the 4×400 meter relays, both performed very well for the Warriors as well. The 4×200 meter relay team made up of James Howard-Smith, Aaron Myers, Lucas Brown, and Ryan Dettmann finished 7th, scoring two points in the event.
Last year at the state meet, the boys capped off their state championship-winning season with a win in the 4×400 meter relay. By the time that the 4×400 rolled around this season, it was obvious that the Warriors were out of the running for the overall team title, but the four athletes who were on the line wanted to repeat and win another relay title for WAHS. The squad comprised of Myers, Howard-Smith, Dettmann, and Stutzman won a state title in the exalted 4×400 for the second year in a row.
After all of the races had been run, and the team points were tallied up, both WAHS teams finished in notable positions. The boys placed 3rd in the state, and the girls finished 10th. Although neither team was able to capture the title that they both desired, it was still a great feat for WAHS, placing two teams in the top 10. Both squads are looking forward to improving on their marks in the outdoor season.