Boys' Track - Apple Blossom Track & Field Invitational

WINCHESTER — Handley sophomore and football standout Malachi Imoh said it was difficult to get in the shape he needed to excel in his first year on the Judges’ track & field team.

As evidenced by the excitement he expressed after some of his races on Saturday at James Wood High School’s Kelican Stadium, all the work he’s had to put in over the past few months has clearly been worth it.

“It’s really fun,” Imoh said. “Especially the team events like the 4x100. When you get to compete as a team, it’s really fun.”

Handley’s entire team had one heck of a time on Saturday.

The Judges won their first H. Brian Landes Apple Blossom Track & Field Invitational since 2015 by scoring 114 points, 46 more than runner-up Sherando in the 18-team meet.

Handley usually picks up a lot of points in the pole vault (that event does not take place at the ABI), but it wasn’t needed as a result of the Judges scoring at least four points in everything but the four distance events (800, 1,600, 3,200, 4x800).

Imoh took first in the 200 meters in 22.94 seconds, second in the 100 in 11.09 and teamed with Miles Ashe, Jayden Vardaro and Stephen Daley on the victorious 4x100 relay team (42.98 seconds).

Junior Quinton Newman placed first in the discus (152-9) and second in the shot put (49-2).

Vardaro placed second in the 300 hurdles (39.73), second in the long jump (21-7.75) and third in the triple jump (42-1 in his first attempt at that event this year).

Also, all-state pole vaulter Jack Armel took second in the 100 hurdles (15.80) and all-state performer Tyson Long took second in the high jump (6-2).

“There were a lot of good performances all the way around,” Handley coach Mike McKiernan said. “I felt like we were good everywhere. I think we’re going to be competitive in the postseason with what we’re doing right now.”

James Wood took fourth with 61 points, Millbrook was 10th with 28 points and Clarke County was 13th with 14 points.

It was difficult for a lot of athletes to perform their best because of the wind, particularly for those whose events took place in the morning.

But once again, Newman shined in the discus.

Newman had an excellent year in that event as a sophomore and took 10th at the Class 4 state meet, with a top mark of 147-9. This year, Newman is consistently throwing more than 150 feet, and coming into the weekend he led all Class 4 throwers with a mark of 159-1.

Newman said the tutelage of Sherando senior thrower Isaiah Allen has helped with his leap. Allen — who did not compete at all on Saturday after taking third in the shot put at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia on Friday — is also a standout in the discus with a top throw of 155-5.

“He showed me a couple of drills I can work on my technique with,” Newman said. “The long sweep with the right leg, and the quickness in the transitioning from the back of the circle to the middle of the circle has been big for me. The wind got to me a little bit today, but I just tried to tell myself to pull through and focus on what I needed to do to win the meet.”

Millbrook senior Noah Robinson (140-2) was the only other person to crack 140 feet on Saturday.

McKiernan and Newman were also pleased with how well Newman performed in the shot put on Saturday. Newman had a top mark of 49-7 last year and placed seventh in Class 4 to earn all-state honors. But Newman has been struggling with his technique this year, which included a performance at the Handley Invitational three weeks ago in which he fouled on all four of his attempts.

“There was a little stage where I was broken down, but Isaiah showed me my strengths and my weaknesses,” Newman said. “I’m getting back in a groove, and the weight room has really helped me with the finishing part, the explosion part.”

Imoh won the 200 despite stumbling out of the blocks.

“I picked it up on the curve,” Imoh said. “I just knew if I could get back to full speed at the end, I’d give myself a good chance to win.”

Sherando did well on the boys’ side considering it did not have Allen’s points to rely and on it had to deal with some early departures because of the prom.

Junior Eldon Agard led the way by taking second in the triple jump (42-2.75), third in the 110 hurdles (16.03), fourth in the 300 hurdles (42.50) and teaming with Darius Lane, Damien Gustaitis and Jabril Hayes to take third in the 4x100 in 44.85. The Warriors’ 4x800 team of Ty Waits, Lucas Williams, Jonathan Gates and Graham Schultz placed third in 8:32.18.

“My big thing is to just sitting down and looking at the numbers, and see where we’re improving and where we need to get better,” Sherando coach T.J. Rohrbaugh said.

Junior William Crowder was the only individual winner for the James Wood boys, taking first in the 100 in a time of 10.98 seconds to beat Imoh by 0.11.

Crowder said his “explosive start” made the difference.

“That was my first time winning at my home meet,” Crowder said. “It made me want to go out there and win some more.”

Crowder wasn’t able to pick up any more wins, but he helped James Wood achieve something that meant a lot more than a gold medal. The team of Drake Tews, Lavaughan Freeman, Jackson Clyburn, and Crowder finished almost a second behind Handley in the 4x100 relay, but its time bested the school record of 44.20 that Crowder was a part of as a freshman in 2017.

“We’ve been wanting that all year,” said Crowder of the team whose previous best time was 44.46 this season. “We were like, ‘We’ve got to come here and do it in our home meet.’ Even though we didn’t win — Handley gave us a heck of a race — I’m so proud of our team. We’ve been fighting for that record. Everyone was energetic.”

Crowder also took third in the 200 (23.30) and the long jump (20-10.75).

James Wood didn’t leave Kelican Stadium without some relay gold medals, as the 4x400 team of Clyburn, Owen Emerson, Gavin McDonald, and Freeman helped James Wood to a time of 3:34.84, 2.52 seconds faster than Woodgrove. James Wood coach Mike Onda said Freeman ran a 50-second anchor leg.

“We had a lot of good competition out here,” Onda said. “It was a good spread of things. It wasn’t just having to pick up a whole bunch of points from one person, or just one or two events.”

Also for James Wood, Tews placed third in the high jump (5-10).

In addition to Robinson, who qualified for states in the discus for the first time in his career, Millbrook got a strong performance from senior John Pullen in the 800. The senior came in as the top seed in the 800 with a time of 2:01.04, and he earned the first invitational win of his career with execution that Millbrook coach Kevin Shirk said couldn’t have been any better.

Pullen let other runners set the pace and was in third after one lap. He moved up to second with 250 meters to go, then burst past leader Subodh Julapallii of Freedom (South Riding) at the top of the final straightaway and pulled away to win in 2:02.90, 1.59 seconds ahead of the runner-up.

“I sat behind the field because it’s been windy all day,” Pullen said. “I ran the 4x8 earlier, and it was really bad with the wind. I was just hoping I had [enough to push] with 300 left, and I did, which was nice. I was kind of tired, but I was just like, ‘I’m not going to quit.’ I’ve been working all year on my finish.”

Clarke County was led by sophomore Ellis Nei, who placed fifth in the 110 hurdles (16.37) and fifth in the high jump (5-10) to qualify for the Class 2 state meet.

The Jim Casey Most Outstanding Performer Award went to Potomac Falls senior Tyler Pride. He won the 110 hurdles (14.57), 300 hurdles (39.73) and took third in the 100 (11.23).

— 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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