Girls Region 4C track meet: Day 1

 

WINCHESTER — After setting down the high jump standard she had been carrying, Handley senior Taylor Beard stated, “I’m truly blessed. And honestly, I’m just a little tired right now.”

That’s what happens when you work as hard as Beard did on a day that will forever be remembered at Handley.

Beard broke the state high jump record that had stood for 43 years and set personal records in the long jump before that and in the triple jump afterward at the Region 4C meet at Handley’s James R. Wilkins Jr. Stadium.

With a winning leap of 6 feet and 0.5 inches, Beard broke the state record of 6-0.25 set in 1976 by Gar-Field’s Paula Girven.

The six-time state high jump champion in indoor and outdoor then went on to win the triple jump with a mark of 39-5.25. Only the school-record performance of Haley Mack in the long jump (18-4.5 to Beard’s 18-3) prevented Beard from keeping her postseason record perfect. Beard has won eight of her nine events spanning the Class 4 Northwestern District meet and the Region 4C meet. The second day of the two-day region meet concludes at 10 a.m. today at Handley and will focus exclusively on running events (all but the 4x800, which took place on Friday).

Beard already had the region meet won when she cleared 5-4 on Friday. After clearing 5-10, she decided to go for the state record since she had already cleared the magic 6-0 mark earlier this season at the Lake Braddock Hall of Fame Invitational in April.

Beard needed just one attempt to do it. The bar wobbled slightly after she touched the bar on her descent, but when Beard hit the mat she was able to look up and see it still in its original place, prompting her to yell, jump off the mat and run to engulf Handley head coach Mike McKiernan with a hug that seemed to last forever.

“Making that jump was just amazing,” Beard said. “Words can’t really describe what that meant.”

Handley coach Mike McKiernan’s happiness for Beard was written all over his face as Beard ran to him.

“It’s very exciting to see her hard work pay off,” McKiernan said. “She really, really is very much a student of her event. She does the things she’s asked. She practices hard, and to see her go 6 feet, one-half inch is incredible. I don’t know if people realize just how high that is for a female.”

Beard got to celebrate the moment with her teammates, coaches, and family, and she also got to share it with a man who figures to be a big part of her future. University of Cincinnati associate head coach Chris Wineberg made the trip to Winchester to watch his future full scholarship athlete in action on Friday.

“Not to sound cheesy or anything, but having him here meant the world to me,” Beard said. “For him to travel all the way out here just to watch me compete shows the character that he has and how good of a program I chose. I know I made the right decision.”

Beard wasn’t done after her historic achievement. On her second to last jump on a hot and sunny day, this year’s indoor state champion in the triple jump showed she’s likely to add an outdoor state title to her resume by jumping nearly five inches better than her personal best to win by more than three feet over Millbrook’s Ava Derrick (second with a 36-3.75).

“I was struggling a lot today in the long and triple,” Beard said. “My feet were just kind of mixing up. I just kind of pulled it out. [In the long jump], I kept going off my left foot, and I’m a right-foot jumper. It kind of messed me up. But she had a good jump. She was good competition.”

Beard beat her previous best long jump this year by a foot right after Mack recorded her 18-4.5, showing that Beard is going to fight even if she’s not comfortable.

“It speaks to her ability to adapt,” McKiernan said. “She does not let things crush her or bring her down. She keeps fighting, she keeps working, and she’ll make adjustments.”

 

Beard’s performance led Handley to first place with 57.5 points after seven events (10 events are today). Fauquier is second with 36.5 points, Sherando is fourth with 22, Millbrook is eighth with 17 points and James Wood is ninth with 14.5 points.

Handley was also led by sophomore Mary McKay, who McKiernan said tied her personal record to win the pole vault with a mark of 11-6. Others who had state-qualifying performances by place (the top four in each event go to Liberty University in Lynchburg next Friday and Saturday) were Abby Bales (second, pole vault, 8-0) and Chloe Putnam (fourth, discus, 114-6).

Sherando’s Mack recorded a mark of 17-5 in her first meet of the year at Strasburg, just one inch behind former Warrior star Davina Lane’s mark of 17-6 set in 2017.

“I haven’t really been consistent, so this was a big surprise to me and made me really happy,” said the sophomore, who had four jumps of more than 17 feet on Friday. “[On my record jump], I felt like I was running faster, so I felt like I might go out farther.”

Sherando also received a victorious performance from freshman Ella Carlson in the discus. Carlson took second in the district meet and was in danger of not making the finals after fouling on her first two throws, but she hit 119 to on her third to give herself a chance. She wound up with a best of 120-8 to edge Fauquer’s Kayla Pavlock (120-2).

“Coming into today I knew I needed to step up,” Carlson said. “I had been having trouble staying in the circle and I’ve been scratching. so it meant a lot to get that third throw in and come back with a win.”

Also starring locally on Friday was James Wood sophomore Brooke Sandy, who took fourth in the high jump (5-0) and the Colonels’ 4x800 team of Lauren Beatty, Riley Rose, Haley Witt and Kenzie Konyar (third in 10:03.74).

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at
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