ELKTON, Va. – At one point in the VHSL state track meet on a hot Saturday afternoon at East Rockingham High School, both Patrick Henry and Auburn were tied for first place with 64 points apiece.
Maggie Buchanan told teammate Sarah Cornett what they had to do.
“Right before the 200 [meters] they called (the score out) and Sarah and I just looked at each other and we were just like ‘let’s get it done,’” Buchanan said.
They did. After finishing second to Auburn in each of the last two seasons, the Rebels finished on top this time, scoring 114 points to 102 for the Eagles, leading Patrick Henry to the Class 1 state championship, its first girls team title since 1996.
“I am very pleased with the way they have performed,” Patrick Henry co-head coach Mark Love said. “Like he said, the coach from Auburn, they kept coming and we kept responding to it and that is what did it.
“We just kept going and going and going and we were able to get it done at the end.”
Buchanan led the way for the Rebels, winning the 200 and 400 meters, and also combined with Cornett, Ella Maiden and Julia Street to win the 4x100 relay. Buchanan, who was also fifth in the long jump, set a meet record in the 400 at 57.43.
“It feels nice to finally win it,” Buchanan said. “It helps a lot because we had Sarah Cornett and Ella Maiden too. I don’t think we could have done it without them. We needed every single person in here.”
Maiden did more than her share, participating in seven events on a scorching afternoon, setting a meet record in the pole vault. Maiden, who also placed second in the 110 hurdles, wasn’t able to complete a couple of events on Friday due to inclement weather.
“I am very tired. It has been a long day, but we all pulled it out in the end so that is what matters,” said Maiden, who was a key cog in Patrick Henry’s volleyball championship won in the fall. “It feels amazing. I was not part of the team the last two years, but just knowing that they had got runner-up and then we all came and did it this year, it is really special.”
There were plenty of other contributors as well, including Abigail Belcher and Casey Quillen, who finished 3-4 in the discus, Maiden and Cornett, who were 3-4 in the high jump and Catherine Grossman, who was second in the 3200 meters and fourth in the 800 meter run.
“We got a couple that compete in several events, but it took the whole team,” Love said. “We had to have our pole vaulters, we had to have our distance runners, we had to have our sprinters, we had to have our hurdlers, I mean it was everybody.
“And the throwers. If we didn’t have everybody it would not have happened. Right toward the end of the meet I was looking where can we get more points and then I remembered we haven’t done discus yet.
“I was down there and they finished third and fourth and that was huge. They did a fantastic job.”
There were other individual champions from the region as well, led by Virginia High junior Kelsey Harrington, who captured both the Class 2 1600 and 3200 meter runs, setting a state record in the two-mile, defeating rival Mary Caroline Heinen of Maggie Walker in both events.
It was pretty intense the last 100 meters, but then I heard my team over there cheering and I was just like ‘I am just going to go all out’ and I beat her right at the very end,” said Harrington, who shattered her previous personal best mark by nine seconds in the 1600. “She kind of pushed me. I felt like that last lap, normally that is where sometimes I slow down, but I feel like where she started to pass me I felt like I had to keep that pace up so my time would be good.”
Another double winner was Union senior Justin Barnett, who won both the shot put and discus, achieving a goal he set at the start of the season.
“It was the goal for my senior year to win both shot and discus to leave my mark on Southwest Virginia,” said Barnett, who will compete next at Virginia Commonwealth University.
“It is bittersweet. It is sad, it is happiness,” said Barnett, who led Union to a distance second place (55.2) team finish to Maggie Walker (84). “I am going to miss everybody moving far away, six hours, and everybody it going to be somewhere. It is going to be hard, but I am just happy.”
Perhaps no one overcame more than Chilhowie senior Molly Rhudy, who captured both the Class 1 long jump and 100 meter dash, and also finished third in the triple jump.
It was my goal. I really set my mind to it and I was hoping to be able to pull both of them off,” said Rhudy, who will compete next at East Tennessee State. “To me the 100 was the more difficult win. Long jump, I have kind of been going up with that all year long and just kept getting better all year. With the 100 it was more of a battle trying to get here and trying to win that.”
Rhudy was diagnosed early this week with Lyme Disease, but didn’t let it slow her down in her final high school meet.
“Early this week I went to the doctor and figured out that I have Lyme Disease so it was really, really difficult for me because with Lyme Disease come the flu-like symptoms so I had body aches and I was tired all the time,” Rhudy said. “It really scared me for state because I was afraid I was just going to be too tired to be able come out here.”
Another Class 1 state champion was J.I. Burton junior Lydia Blair-James, who captured the 100 and 300 meter hurdles. She has now accumulated three state titles and one third-place finish in the last two seasons in finding the sport of her choice.
“I don’t like teamwork things because when I lose I feel like it my fault sometimes,” she said, with a smile. “If I lose on my own I don’t feel as bad.”
Jordan Keith of Holston won the Class 1 800 meters, while freshman Maddox Reynolds of Wise County Central captured the Class 2 110 meter hurdles and placed third in the 300 hurdles.
“He wanted to win the 110s and compete hard in the 300 and I think the 300 as he gets older and stronger will be a little easier race for him,” Wise Central track coach Jason Mullins said. “Again, he runs that awful well also. He won the indoor in the 55 (meter dash) also.”
Second place individual finishers included Class 2 participants Avery Jenkins (Union, 300 hurdles), Justin Calhoun (Gate City, shot put) and Ridgeview’s 4x100 relay team which involved Matthew Sexton, Nick Phillips, Trenton Adkins and Issac Lockhart.
Kennedi Plymal of Grundy was second in the Class 1 discus.
ancaster won the Class 1 boys crown, finishing ahead of Auburn 70.50-52.0. The Class 2 girls title went to Maggie Walker, which accumulated 97.50 points to 60 for second place Prince Edward County.
Don’t count Patrick Henry out from challenging for a repeat in 2020. But, the Rebels are going to enjoy this one for a while.
First certainly beats finishing second.
"This performance proves what we believed all week long. We emphasized to our athletes to come out and do our best and do what we are capable of doing and everything will fall into place," Patrick Henry co-head coach Sarah Helton said. "We have some really talented kids coming up too so hopefully with the kids that are graduating, our rising ninth graders will settle in and be able to contribute."