Girls’ Track Preview: James Wood Looks To Defend Title

Posted: March 19, 2016
By ROBERT NIEDZWIECKI
The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — All signs pointed to the James Wood girls’ track and field team having a big year last year, and the Colonels went out and delivered — their Conference 21 meet championship was their first postseason title since winning the Northwestern District meet in 2002.

Given that they have virtually all of that talent back — and have added some key reinforcements — it’s no wonder Handley coach Mike McKiernan thinks James Wood is going to be tough to beat in Conference 21 West this year.

“James Wood has to be the favorite right now,” said McKiernan, whose boys and girls teams have combined for five conference and district titles in the last four years.

The Colonels — who only had three seniors on last year’s team — lose one of the area’s and state’s best throwers in Sarah Johnson, but James Wood’s strength in the field will once again be the envy of most teams.

For starters, they still have a standout thrower in Grace Greene. The senior posted the area’s top marks in the discus (124-11) and the shot put (36-2) last year, and she earned all-state honors by placing fifth in both events at the Group 4A state meet. Greene placed seventh at the state indoor meet this year.

Sophomore Rene Rosso also earned all-state honors last year by taking eighth in the triple jump. Rosso posted the area’s best mark in that event last year with a school-record leap of 36-4. She also tied for ninth in the state in the high jump (5-0) and ranked second in the area in the long jump (16-7). (Rosso was fifth in the state in the high jump in indoor track this year.)

Rosso also stood out on the track, recording a school-record 47.49 in the 300 hurdles to take ninth in the state, and she ranked third in the area in the 100 hurdles (15.94).

Senior Becca Ferrulli ranked second in the area in the triple jump last year (35-11/2) and placed third in the conference. Ferrulli was also part of last year’s conference champion 4x100 team that set a school record (50.75) and returns all four of its members this year.

And then there’s junior Emma Hammond, who didn’t compete at all last year because of injury but had a standout freshman season in which she qualified for states in the triple jump (top mark — 35-43/4) and high jump (5-0) and placed fourth in the conference in the long jump.

James Wood coach Matt Stegmaier said watching the trio of Rosso, Hammond and Ferrulli as they make their way to the jumping pits should be particularly interesting.

“They’re really going to push each other,” Stegmaier said. “Becca’s being a good leader, and Rene has a better idea of what to expect this year.

“Emma hasn’t missed a beat. You wouldn’t know that she ever had injury issues. She’s strong, and she’s hungry. She’s angry that she couldn’t compete last year, and she’s looking to have a big season.”

Sprinter Princess Sales (third in the area in 200 with a top time of 27.17 and a 4x100 runner) and distance runner Sophia Dorsey (second in the area in 1,600, 5:37.67) add to a well-rounded team.

Naturally, the rest of the conference schools plan on making things as difficult as possible for James Wood, and Sherando boasts a number of athletes who can pile up the points.

Foremost is junior Davina Lane, the two-time Winchester Star Girls’ Track and Field Athlete of the Year. Lane posted the area’s fastest times in the 200 (25.64), 100 hurdles (14.97) and 300 hurdles (44.59) and earned all-state honors in each by taking sixth, sixth and fifth, respectively, in those events at the state meet last year.

Sherando coach Tom Grim said Lane — who also ranked among the area’s top three in the 100 (12.84) and 400 (1:02.24) — could also see some work in the field events.

The Warriors have several other top athletes. Junior Ania Summers was a state qualifier in the 100 who ranked among the area’s top three in that event (13.05) as well as the 200 (26.93). Sophomore Paige Conner was the area’s fastest in the 3,200 (11:52.46) and qualified for the state meet. Sophomore Donzailya Berg placed second in the high jump at the state indoor meet this year (5-0).

Millbrook senior Nadia Dahimene (top 3,200 time — 11.55.41) finished ahead of Conner at the Group 4A state meet, and she could be in for a bigger year since she was actually able to participate in cross country and indoor track this year.

Dahimene — who was the area’s top 1,600 runner last year (5:31.68) — was sidelined with thyroid cancer for much of her junior year. Millbrook coach Kevin Shirk said she’s having strong workouts, and would like to see her contend for all-state status in the 3,200.

The Pioneers are also led by senior thrower Lindsay Lockhart, who placed 10th in the state in the discus last year and ranked third in the area (111-10).

Handley boasts a strong corps of athletes and features a freshman who’s already won a state title in track in Taylor Beard. Beard won the indoor state title in the high jump with a mark of 5-3, which would have tied her with senior teammate Angelica Robinson for the area’s best mark last year.

Robinson is back after tying for ninth in the state in the high jump in 2015, and junior Mya Mintschenko (4-11) also qualified for outdoor states in the high jump and was sixth at the indoor state meet this year. Handley also returns Alysandra Worrell, who posted the area’s fastest times in the 100 (12.83) and 400 (1:01.88). Worrell was a state qualifier in the 100.

Clarke County brings back most of the athletes that helped it finish second behind George Mason at the Conference 35 meet last year, though the Eagles will be without Sophia Snead (all-state in Group 2A in the 3,200) for the season because of a foot injury.

The Eagles feature sophomore Madison McClean, a state qualifier in the 400 and high jump and one of three returning members of the 4x400 team that took third in Group 2A, and sophomore Catherine Lewis, who earned all-state honors by taking sixth in the 800 and is one three holdovers from the 4x800 team that placed sixth in the state.

The four Winchester and Frederick County schools will open their seasons at 10 a.m. today at the Arrowhead Invitational at Sherando. Clarke County will not open its season until April 2 at the Strasburg Invitational.

The following is a glance at each area team:

James Wood

Coach: Matt Stegmaier, 11th year.

Last year: Conference 21 champions; tied for 6th in 4A North Region; 21st in Group 4A.

Key loss: Sarah Johnson.

Top returnees: Sophia Dorsey, Jr., distance; Halle Esparza, Sr., distance; Becca Ferrulli, Sr., sprints/jumps; Grace Greene, Sr., throws; Emma Hammond, Jr., jumps; Maria Harter, Jr., distance; Rene Rosso, So., sprints, jumps, hurdles; Princess Sales, Sr., sprints; Kayla Shaffer, Jr., hurdles; Lydia Sunderlin, Jr., distance.

Top newcomers: Sophia Addison, Sr. sprints/hurdles; Dy’Avean Sloane, Jr., sprints; Haley Witt, Fr., distance.

Stegmaier’s outlook: “If we stay healthy, I think we’ve got a strong shot at repeating as conference champions. We did things a little different this year and started working with our athletes earlier in a series of mini-camps from August to December, and I think the kids have benefited from the extra time with each other.

“Princess Sales is just a great leader and role model, and she’s been working hard on her own too to prepare for this year. It’s nice to have Noelle Schoeman back. She missed the last two years because of two knee surgeries. She’s working her way back into track shape, but she did well in the sprints and hurdles as a freshman.”

Sherando

Coach: Tom Grim, 17th year.

Last year: Third in Conference 21; 9th in 4A North Region; 20th in Group 4A.

Key losses: Katie Rogers, Andi Crosby.

Top returnees: Davina Lane, Jr., hurdles/sprints/jumps; Paige Conner, So. distance; Ania Summers, Jr., sprints; Donzailya Berg, So., sprints/jumps; Rachel Burton, So., jumps; Allison Combs (third in the area in the shot put, 32-1), Sr., throws; Abigail Henderson, Jr., throws.

Top newcomers: Alora Dennis, Fr., sprints; Victoria Reese, Sr., distance; Stella Williams, Fr., distance.

Grim’s outlook: “Sprints and jumps should be big for us. After taking second at the state indoor meet I think Donzailya is going to have a big role for us in the spring. In the conference, James Wood has a lot of good athletes, and Millbrook, Handley and Woodgrove will be tough. But we have a lot of depth, and we hope we can beat teams with our numbers.”

Handley

Coach: Mike McKiernan, 5th year.

Last year: Fourth in Conference 23; 20th in 4A North Region.

Key loss: Miriah Smith.

Top returnees: Angelica Robinson, Sr., jumps; Alysandra Worrell, Sr., sprints/jumps; Mya Mintschenko, Jr., jumps/hurdles; Olivia Dickens-Bowman, Jr., hurdles/sprints; Genna Davis, Sr., throws; Sydney Aschenbrenner (third in the area in the 3,200, 12:02.99), So., distance.

Top newcomers: Taylor Beard, Fr., sprints/jumps; Cierra Corbin, Fr., sprints/jumps; Maddie Bromley, Fr., sprints/jumps; Kristin Blake, So. distance; Kenzie Fergus, Fr., distance; Elise Smith, So., distance; Casey Nelson, So., sprints/throws.

McKiernan’s outlook: “We should be strong in the sprints and the jumps, and we have some young distance runners who have potential. I think we can do well in dual meets, and we’ll just have to see what we can do in big meets. Taylor Beard is obviously a very talented athlete, but she’s still a work in progress. Hopefully she and Angelica can push each other in the high jump, and we’ll look to see what Taylor can do as a 200 and 400 runner.”

Millbrook

Coach: Kevin Shirk, 5th year.

Last year: Fifth in Conference 21; tied for 14th in 4A North Region; tied for 32nd in Group 4A.

Key losses: McKenzie Schrank, Mia VanderToorn, Kelley Wyatt.

Top returnees: Lindsay Lockhart, Sr., throws; Nadia Dahimene, Sr., distance; Hannah Croyle, Sr., distance; Mellany Groll, So., jumps/middle distance; Kami Buza, So., jumps/sprints.

Top newcomers: Kaycee Cox-Philyaw, Fr., distance; Maddie Lloyd, Fr., distance; Sophie Edlich, Fr., distance; Emily Muldowney, Fr., distance; Joanne Keenan, Fr. multiple events.

Shirk’s outlook: “We have strengths in the throws with Lindsay Lockhart coming back in the discus, and also in the distance events with several solid returners and a group of strong newcomers. In the jumps, Kami Buza comes back as our top girl after a strong freshman year. We’re still looking to see who will step up as a strong 100-400 runner as those events are a current weak point in comparison to other events.”

Clarke County

Coach: Andre Kidrick, 10th year.

Last year: Second in Conference 35; 9th in 2A East Region; tied for 15th in Group 2A state meet.

Key losses: Sophia Snead (out for season with foot injury), Kolby Parrott, Caile Broy (transferred to Warren County).

Top returnees: Madison McLean, So., sprints/jumps; Jayla Stephenson, Jr., sprints; Madison Palmer, Sr., jumps; Javonna Lansdown, Jr., throws, Emma Jenkins, Jr., sprints; Kendall Benoit, Jr. middle distance; Allegra Eyles, Sr., jumps; Catherine Lewis, So., middle distance; Piper Mettenburg, Jr., distance.

Top newcomers: Skylar Bragg, Fr., distance; Kellieanne Bryson, Fr., throws; Stephanie Miller, Fr., multiple events.

Kidrick’s outlook: “Our overall depth should help us score points in a number of different events and keep us from struggling in any one area. We’ve just got to keep working our butts off. We’ve got a lot of good athletes who had a lot of success in the postseason last year working together on the relays, and we hope that pays off with improvement this season.”

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Follow on Twitter @WinStarSports1

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