ELKTON, Va. - If they had given out a trophy to the busiest athlete last Saturday, it would have probably gone to Ella Maiden of Patrick Henry.
The talented sophomore participated in seven - yes, seven - events at the Class 1/2 Track & Field Championships at East Rockingham High School.
Not surprisingly, Maiden was worn out when it was finally over, but it was all worth the effort.
"I am very tired. It has been a long day," Maiden said, "but we all pulled it out in the end so that is what matters."
Definitely. Patrick Henry was able to pull away from Auburn to capture its first state team championship since 1996, having finished runner-up to the Eagles the previous two seasons.
Maiden certainly did her part, led by her first place and record breaking performance in the pole vault, an event that - along with the 4x100 relay - has become her event of choice.
"I had always watched it. I was like ‘I would really like to do that,’" said Maiden, who was also a key cog in Patrick Henry’s state championship volleyball team in the fall. "Coach (Mark) Love said we are going to have a pole vault team. I was like ‘Ok, I want to do it.’"
She does it well too, having been coached up by longtime Tennessee High and later King University track coach Tom Murrell, who has returned to helping out with the Vikings’ program, and any other programs looking for a helping hand.
"When Patrick Henry started coming down I started just helping them," Murrell said. "I enjoy it and they are great kids. I am happy for them."
Murrell was in Elkton on Saturday to watch the Rebels finish on top. He was certainly attentive to the efforts of Maiden, especially in the pole vault.
"She is easy to coach. She makes a coach look good," Murrell said. "She has really embraced the event. They only get down one day a week to practice and she has made great progress."
Maiden did more than just win the pole vault. She won it by two inches, and broke the previous Class 1 girls record by a full inch.
That event was slated to be held on Friday, but rain forced the entire meet - which involved girls and boys from two classes - into one very busy day under a scorching sun at East Rockingham.
"I was happy about it, but then I was like, well, it is going to be tough," she said, with a laugh.
Still, Maiden was game.
"I didn’t know how that as going to turn out. She hadn’t done that all year long," said Love, a co-head coach with Sarah Helton at Patrick Henry. "In the region, we checked her out of two (events). She did pole vault the day before, but she only did five events the day of the meet.
"Then to get rained out last night and she does seven events in one day, that was unbelievable. That is hard to do."
There were no complaints. She combined with Maggie Buchanan - who also won the 200 and 400 meter runs and was fifth in the long jump - Sarah Cornett - who was second in the 400, third in the 200 and fourth the high jump - and Julia Street to claim the 4x100 relay event.
She also placed second in the 100 hurdles, third in the high jump, sixth in the triple jump, and combined with Ashlynn Light, Maisie Kiser and Street to finish eighth in the 4x400 relay. Maiden also placed 10th in the long jump, the only event she didn’t place in among the seven.
"I have never coached a girl quite like that," Murrell said. "I know she scored a whole lot of points."
There were plenty of others who contributed to the Rebels as well, including Abigail Belcher and Casey Quillen, who finished third and fourth in the discus. Belcher was also seventh in the shot put. Buchanan also set a state record in the 400 meters for the Rebels.
No wonder Murrell was impressed with what he saw from the entire Patrick Henry track team.
"I am fortunate to work with all the girls and guys. It is a testament to the whole PH program," Murrell said. "They do whatever they can to help each other."
There were plenty more memorable moments involving local athletes on Saturday:
*Kelsey Harrington, Virginia High
The Bearcats junior won both the 1600 and 3200 meter runs, defeating her rival, Mary Caroline Heinen of Maggie Walker in both, and set state records in both events. Her efforts led the Bearcats to a 12th place team finish, the highest among area 2A girls teams
"I was feeling like the heat was horrible, but honestly I don’t see how I ran that good," said Harrington, after shattering the previous Class 2A 3200 meter record by nearly 24 seconds. "It feels pretty good. I was worn out by the last couple of laps, but I feel like I stayed strong throughout the whole thing.
"I thought it would be closer than it was. Honestly I think the heat might have gotten to her too."
*Molly Rhudy, Chilhowie
A future student-athlete at East Tennessee State, Rhudy overcame a bout of Lyme Disease to capture both the long jump and 100 meter dash, both of which were big improvements over last year’s state event. She was also third in the triple jump, and was part of two relay teams, a third place finish in the 4x400 and fifth in the 4x100.
"Last year in long jump I didn’t do as well as I hoped, I think I may have placed like seventh or eighth. In the 100, I may have finished seventh or eighth too so this was a big turnaround from last year," said Rhudy, who led the Warriors to a sixth place 1A team finish. "It has been a lot of work, a lot of work in just terrible heat."
*Justin Barnett, Union
A future thrower at Virginia Commonwealth, Barnett led the Bears to a second place 2A team finish, capturing both the shot put and discus. He finished second in the shot last year, but didn’t place at all in the discus.
"I just enjoy it. I have never really enjoyed any other sports," said Barnett, who looks like a football player, but sticks with track. "My family is a bunch of football players, but I didn’t enjoy it.
"My head track coach asked me to do track my eighth grade year and I have just enjoyed it ever since I have been doing it. It is just an enjoyable sport. You get to meet a bunch of nice people, meet new friends."
*Lydia Blair-James, J.I. Burton
The talented junior won both of the 100 and 300 hurdles, which was the plan from the start. She also placed second in the high jump, leading the Raiders to a seventh place 1A girls team finish.
"My goal, it was to win, and that’s it," said Blair-James, with a smile.
Those hurdling events were spaced out by several hours, requiring Blair-James to pace herself in order to be ready to compete. The hurdles are obstacles that simply must be ignored.
I think it was mostly adrenaline. I laid down and drank water (between events) It was hotter than this in regions," she said. "I keep a rhythm in my head. I have only fell once, but that is OK."
*Maddox Reynolds, Wise Central
Just a freshman, Reynolds won the 110 hurdles, adding that state crown to the 55-meter indoor title won earlier this year. He also placed third in the 300 hurdles.
His future appears to be bright.
"It is natural. We try not to do anything to mess him up. We noticed him in seventh and eighth grade when he was running track," Wise Central track coach Jason Mullins said. "Hurdles was his thing, he just has a natural glide over it and we just showed him a thing or two to try to help him out a little bit."
*Jordan Keith, Holston
The senior captured the 800 meter run, eclipsing the two-minute mark in the process. He also placed second in the 1600 meters and was the anchor of the second place 4x400 relay team.
Keith led Holston to a sixth place finish in Class 1 team points.
*Davion Tillison, George Wythe, triple jump
Tillison finished ahead of Chilhowie’s Todd Martin to claim the Class 1 triple jump. He also participated in the high jump, but did not place in the top 8. The Maroons placed fourth among 1A boys teams.
The regional produced several other second place finishers, including:
Chilhowie: Malachi Thomas, high jump; Todd Martin, triple jump.
George Wythe: Jacquez Younger, 400 meters, Tyrus Green, 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles.
Holston, 4x40 relay team, Noah Thomas, Mason Kersey, Layton Henry, Jordan Keith.
Patrick Henry: Catherine Grossman, 3200 meter run.
Grundy: Kennedi Plymal, discus.
Rural Retreat: Lauren Stuart, long jump.
John Battle: Reed Samuel, placed second in the long jump, third in both the 200 and 400 meters and was part of the 4x400 fifth place relay team. He led the Trojans to a fifth place finish among 2A boys teams.
Union: Avery Jenkins, second in 300 hurdles, third in high jump.
Ridgeview: Issac Lockhart, second in 100 meters, 200 meters, was part of second place 4x100 relay team. Led the Wolfpack to a ninth place 2A boys team finish.
Gate City: Justin Calhoun, shot put.
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