Storms Cancel Some Events At State Track Meet

Posted: June 6, 2016
By ROBERT NIEDZWIECKI
The Winchester Star

HARRISONBURG — Exhausted from the heat and their recently completed 1,600-meter run, seniors Tyler Cox-Philyaw of Millbrook and Trevor Whiteside of Sherando both expressed their doubts to each other about competing in the 800-meter run later in the afternoon.

Because of lightning, those two and everyone else entered in the 800 didn’t have a choice about competing.

Following the Group 3A girls’ 800 at 2:45, the meet was delayed because of lightning. During the ensuing two-hour and 30-minute delay there were stretches of heavy rain, but at 5:15 p.m. the decision was made to cancel the remainder of the Group 3A and 4A state meets because lightning was being forecasted for the rest of the evening.

That decision cancelled the 800 for Group 4A and the Group 3A boys, the 200 and the 4x400 for all divisions, and also officially wiped out the Group 4A high jump, though Handley assistant coach Derek Dowrey said there were only two people still jumping when the delay was called for.

As far as local athletes, the decision prevented Sherando’s Davina Lane from running the 200, Millbrook’s Tyler Cox-Philyaw and Sherando’s Trevor Whiteside and Thomas Shea from running the 800, and Millbrook from running in the boys’ 4x400. The decision also means Handley sophomore Trey Causey’s performance in the boys’ high jump is unofficial, though his 6-4 placed him among the top seven jumpers and would make him all-state.

As a result of the aborted meet, no team state championships were handed out.

Meet director Joe Curcio said based on the information officials had, trying to continue the meet on Saturday would not have been safe.

“We did not feel like we would have been able to finish the meet in a timely fashion,” Curcio said. “I felt like I needed to get teams out of here and headed towards home.”

As for team state champions, Curcio said VHSL guidelines state that if no clear-cut champion can be determined, then a team champion can’t be declared.

If there is a clear-cut team champion, he said the VHSL could make a ruling on whether to award them the state title this week. In Group 4A for example, each of the second-place teams could pass the first-place teams based on their remaining entrants. In the Group 3A girls meet though, I.C. Norcom appeared to have an insurmountable lead over the rest of the field.

Sherando head coach Tom Grim — who coached in his final track meet on Saturday (see related item later in this story) — said he was surprised during the coaches’ meeting during the delay that VHSL officials decided the best move was to cancel the rest of meet and not figure out a way to finish it.

For starters, Grim said he thought it was strange that the VHSL didn’t alter the state meet schedule by either moving events up or allowing less time between events in order to try and beat the forecasted bad weather.

“I know you want to give athletes the proper amount of time to warm up, but if you know the forecast looks bad, I don’t know why you don’t move forward with the meet,” Grim said.

Grim said someone in the meeting suggested finishing the meet at a different location on a different day if Harrisonburg couldn’t host it on a different day, but as of Saturday evening it was not clear if that would even be considered.

Grim said it’s disappointing for the athletes - he brought up his three Warriors that didn’t get to run - and for fans. For example, national indoor high school mile record-holder Andrew Hunter of Loudoun Valley was scheduled to run the 800.

“I heard the grandparents of [Fauquier senior] Raul Chavez came from Mexico to attend the meet, and they didn’t get to see him run the 800,” Grim said. “We’ve got the best distance runner in the country in Andrew Hunter, and people don’t get to see him run the 800.”

Grim, Ritter exiting Sherando track

For head coach Tom Grim and distance coach Tim Ritter, this year’s state meet was their last coaching track and field at Sherando High School.

Grim has been the Warriors head coach for the last 17 years and was an assistant coach when Sherando became a school in 1993-94, while Ritter - who became Sherando’s head cross country coach for 10 seasons starting in 2002 - has been an assistant to Grim for almost all of Grim’s tenure as head coach.

Grim - a 1977 Handley graduate and an assistant coach at James Wood for seven years before going to Sherando - said the time has come for him to focus on one sport. After stepping away from cheerleading for a year-and-a-half, Grim returned to the program last October, and he wants to give his attention to that.

“It’s exhausting being the head coach for two sports,” Grim said. “I’m still going to be at the track timing meets though. So I’ll still be able to watch a lot of good athletes, but I won’t have to be at practice, so that will be pretty enjoyable.”

Under Grim, the Sherando girls won back-to-back Northwestern District championships in 2010 and 2011, with Grim earning The Winchester Star Track and Field Coach of the Year in 2011. Sherando also won a total of 11 outdoor individual and relay boys’ and girls’ state titles during Grim’s tenure.

Five of those 11 state titles during Grim’s tenure came from Ritter’s distance runners.

Ritter, a 1973 James Wood graduate, said the time had come for him to move on. Ritter had stopped being Sherando’s cross country coach in 2012. He tried to step away after 2009, but had to come back in 2010 with no experienced replacement to take over (he won Winchester Star Cross Country Coach of the Year honors that season). Ritter stepped away after that season, but had to come back in 2012 - his final season - after Kent Snare left after one season.

“I think it’s time for someone else,” Ritter said. “Because of my knees, I’m not able to run with the athletes like I used to, which is something I like to do. And I’d like to travel and see more of my grandkids.”

Each coach said there’s a lot they’ll miss about coaching track.

“Track’s one of the few sports where you can measure yourself against yourself,” said Grim, who has coached athletes in just about every type of event in track over the years. “You can look at the numbers and see how much better you’re becoming.

“I’ve had a chance to work with a lot of great athletes over the years, like Tom Cooke (a 1990 Group AAA state champion in the pole vault for James Wood) and Latasha Watson (a 400-meter state champion in 2006 for Sherando). But what I really enjoy is working with the athletes who really only get to compete in dual meets. Just seeing their faces light up when they go from 15 seconds to 14.5 in the 100, moments like that are what I’ll miss the most.”

Ritter enjoys seeing individual improvement, but he gets particularly enthused when it comes to working with relays.

Ritter talked excitedly on Saturday about the boys’ 4x800 team that took third and broke the school record for the third straight year with a 7:58.60. Grim said at the beginning of the season that he wasn’t sure if Sherando could have the same type of relay success that they’ve had in the past since only Trevor Whiteside and Thomas Shea were back on the 4x800, but veteran Thomas Powars stepped in, and James Kelly (who ran a 2.03.9 leg on Saturday with those other three, improving by 14 seconds from the beginning of the year) and Billy Brown gave the Warriors a deep crew to work with.

“We had a girls’ 4x800 team win states here, but my favorite relay might be the girls’ 4x800 we had a few years ago that really wasn’t expected to do much but qualified for regions,” Ritter said. “I just like seeing a group of people push each other to get better.”

Both coaches definitely enjoyed working with the other.

“I appreciate the opportunity [Grim] gave me here,” Ritter said. “He really cares about the kids. With him the most important thing has always been to develop the kids as people. That’s always been more important than developing them as athletes, and that’s something that made a big impression on me.”

“He’s one of my best friends,” Grim said of Ritter. “We’ve been through a lot together, both good times and seasons that weren’t so good, but we worked well together. We didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but we always respected each other’s opinion.

“Whatever success we’ve had is due to Tim being a member of our staff.”

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