As the recently crowned Region 3A West champions, the Western Albemarle High School girls track team is riding high. But the excitement goes beyond simply winning the event—fact is, the girls dominated the podium.
“At the regional meet, Madison Masloff was crowned champion pole vaulter and Averi Witt won both the 1,000 and the 1,600,” said coach Cherie Witt. “In relay competitions, we had the 4-by-800 team of Julia Berg, Claudia Giortz-Jorgensen, Zoe Clay and Witt take first-place, as well as the 4 x 400 team of Faith Reid, Val Hajek, Katrine Berg and Masloff.”
The team placed numerous runners-up, including Sarah Tolman in the pole vault, Kate de Jong in the 55-meter hurdles and Clay in the 3,200. Third-place finishers were Nichole Heon in the long jump, Katrine Berg in the triple jump and the 4 x 200 quartet of Val Hajek, Katrine Berg, Masloff, and Nichole Heon. Reid took fourth in the 500 and Claudia Gioertz-Joergensen fifth in the 1,000. Finishing in sixth place was Leah Ackerman in the shotput, Masloff in the 500, and Emma Ratcliffe in the 1,000. While Jenna Hill, Anna Harris and Melina Punsalan didn’t place, their performances were strong enough to win them slots at the state tournament where, after scoring 95.4 points, the Warriors took the state title.
At the state competition, the team was led by Witt, who won both the 1,600 and 1,000 and anchored the winning 4 x 800 relay team. “The 4 x 800 relay team set a 3A state meet record, a school record and qualified for the elite division at nationals,” said Witt.
Western had one more individual champion, Masloff, who took first place in the pole vault. Clay finished second in the 1,600 and the 3,200. Third place finishers were Julia Berg in the 1,000, Tolman in the pole vault, and the 4 x 400 relay team of Reid, Hajek, Berg, and Madison Masloff. And the 4 x 200 relay team of Anna Harris, Katrine Berg, Masloff, and Heon placed fourth with a school record time of 1:49.42.
“The greatest thing about this team was we were so well rounded and able to pick up points in so many areas,” said Witt. “Everyone on the team played an important role and each meet was a total team effort. We had 26 of our 40 team members compete at the regional level and, with 18 qualifying for the state meet, this was the largest group of girls we’d ever brought to the competition.”
Beyond their depth across the field, the team’s success had much to do with its strong core of senior runners. “Four years ago, as freshmen, the seniors on this team made an impact right away,” Witt explained. “Throughout this indoor season they’ve led this team in a big way. These girls have worked hard for four years and it’s great to see it paying off in their senior year.”
And by paying off, Witt means more than just regional and state accolades. “Two of our relay teams have qualified for national competition as well as one individual,” she said. At the New York City event, which will be held from March 10-12, Witt will compete in the 1,600 and 3,200 meter individual races, and run with teammates Clay, Reid and Julia Berg in both the 4 x 800 meter event and the distance medley relay.
On the season, Witt was a definitive standout and, despite suffering a major knee injury as a sophomore, has bounced back to have one of the most amazing careers in WAHS history. “After placing second in the freshman mile at nationals, the following fall she had to undergo three surgical procedures to correct a genetic defect in her knee,” said coach Witt. What’d happened was, during the prior season, due to a shallow groove, Witt’s kneecap had slipped out of place 15 times. And the measures necessary to correct it were extensive. “The doctors had to create a deeper groove for Averi’s kneecap, move her patella tendon over with screws, then use a piece of hamstring to recreate her medial patella tendon,” said coach Witt. “It took almost two years to get her back to full strength and yet, all the while, she never looked back and stayed positive.”
Considering that Witt will sign with James Madison University in April, the dedication has paid off. “She’s one of their top recruits this year and is eager to make an impact right away for them,” said coach Witt.
While the team will lose many seniors, Witt isn’t worried in the least. “We have some impressive young performers that are more than capable of filling the big shoes our seniors will leave behind them,” she said. “The list is long and includes de Jong in the 55 hurdles and high jump, Katrine Berg in the jumps and 300, Katia Amos in the jumps, Julia Berg and Claudia Giortz-Jorgensen in the 1,000, Clay and Hill in the 3,200, and Ackerman in the shot put.”