Boys' Class 4 Northwestern District Track Meet

WINCHESTER — At the end of Wednesday’s Class 4 Northwestern District track & field meet, Handley coach Mike McKiernan was trying to verify with his coaching staff the exact number of event wins his boys’ team had.

When you perform as well as the Judges did Wednesday at Millbrook High School, it does take a while to recall the multitude of impressive performances.

Handley won its third consecutive district title with 162 points, 52 more than runner-up Fauquier (110) in the eight-team meet. The Judges won seven events, had 16 top-three finishes and scored points in 15 of 17 events by having at least one person place in the top eight.

“It really was an overall team effort,” McKiernan said. “Even though we didn’t get as many points as we thought we would in some places, the kids responded with more points than we thought we’d get in other places.”

James Wood placed fourth with 91 points, Millbrook was fifth with 63 and Sherando placed sixth with 48.

Leading the way again for Handley was junior Stephen Daley. He captured the discus with a personal record of 147 feet, 10 inches to win by 17 feet, 6 inches; won the shot by 2 feet, 2.5 inches with a mark of 44-10.5; captured the 100 by 0.33 in a time of 11.13 seconds, and ran on the 4x100 team that dusted the field by nearly two full seconds in 43.69.

Daley nearly completed a complete sweep of his events, but in his final race of the day Kettle Run’s Alden Williams caught Daley with a late surge to beat him by 0.03 in the 200. McKiernan gives Daley all the credit in the world for what he does in the 200, though. The muscular 240 pounds Daley carries on his 6-foot-2 frame makes life miserable for people on the football field, but McKiernan said it also makes it harder for him to round the turn as well as his thinner and lighter competitors.

“Holy cow, is he impressive?” McKiernan said.

Daley had a lot of excellent performances to choose from, but the discus was the one that jumped to his mind first. This is his first year doing it, and he topped his PR by more than four feet.

Daley said he’s been working a lot on his technique since his victory in the May 14-15 Apple Blossom Invitational. That meet was also notable because Daley found out he’d have some stern competition in the 100 from Kettle Run senior Ahmal Williams, who won that day with a time of 10.91 while Daley ran an 11.33.

On Wednesday, Williams pulled up early in the 100 with a leg injury, which means that rivalry is finished. With no state or regional qualifying times this year, only the top six individuals and top three relays from each event at Wednesday’s district meet advanced to next Wednesday’s Region 4C meet at Fauquier High School.

“I knew coming in he was going to be the guy to beat,” Daley said. “I knew I was going to have to push it and give it my all to beat him.”

Earlier, Daley also blazed through the backstretch during the 4x100 relay after taking the baton from sophomore Aaron Lee and handing it off to senior Matthew Peete.

Anchor leg Jayden Vardaro finished off the win, but it was a painful finish. Vardaro told McKiernan that he felt his hamstring pull in that race and could “pop” at any moment, ending the day for Handley’s versatile senior star.

Earlier on Wednesday, Vardaro placed third in the long jump (19-11.5), triple jump (40-6.25) and 110 hurdles (16.23), which McKiernan had Vardaro do instead of the 100 because he thought the hurdles would be Vardaro’s best bet for success in the postseason. McKiernan said it was Vardaro’s decision to stop competing after his injury.

The injury prevented Vardaro from running in the 300 hurdles on Wednesday. At the Apple Blossom Invitational, Vardaro said he thought that event was his best shot at a state championship. McKiernan said as of a few days ago, Vardaro’s top time of 40.49 was the best in the state for Class 4.

“I feel for him, because he’s a good young man and he’s a good, hard worker,” said McKiernan, who was unsure on Wednesday of just how serious Vardaro’s injury is. “I really like him a lot, because he’s just a super kid.”

Peete also had an exceptional meet for the Judges. He took second in the pole vault on Tuesday at Handley with a mark of 12 feet; he competed with Lee, junior Nico Schianchi and junior Ryan Stickley on the 4x400 team that placed second in 3:33.21; and he captured the 110 hurdles in 16.18 with a lean at the line to edge runner-up Andrew Link (16.20), a sophomore at James Wood, and Vardaro.

“When I started the season, my form really wasn’t the best,” said Peete, whose previous best time this year was 16.66. “But over the past couple of weeks, [Handley assistant coach Allie] Darling taught me better form and a better start, and told me to just keep pushing through the whole race.”

Handley’s other winning performances came from junior William McKay in the pole vault (13-0) and Stickley in the 400 (52.18), who won by 1.18 seconds over James Wood senior Owen Emerson (53.36).

A cross country runner for the Judges and mainly a 3,200 meter runner as a freshman, Stickley has demonstrated exceptional speed this year. He came into Wednesday as not only the area’s top 400 runner, but also the No. 3 200 runner (23.87). Stickley also anchored the 4x400 team with split of 51.5.

McKiernan told Stickley that taking on shorter distances this year would require him to be self-directed and self-motivated, and he’s done that.

“He’s a tough kid, and he takes instruction very well,” McKiernan said.

Other top performances from the Judges came from Lee in the 400 (53.50), sophomore Emerson Fusco (third in the high jump, 5-10) and freshman Garrett Stickley (third in the 3,200, 10:12.92).

For James Wood, Link placed first in the 300 hurdles in 41.50, winning by nearly a second. The Colonels were also led by junior Nathaniel Woshner (first in the 3,200, 10:02.81); freshman Ethan Pratt-Perez (second in the 3,200, 10:05.49); senior Chris White (second in the 1,600, 4:33.45); the 4x800 team of White, senior Jimmy Burdock, Woshner and junior Liam McDonald (second in 8:20.01); and junior Brendan Cassidy (third in the 300 hurdles, 43.93).

Woshner was most pleased about his 4x800 performance. He gave the Colonels a strong lead by recording a 2:01 on his third leg, but Liberty star Sam Rodman was able to make up the deficit on the anchor leg as the Eagles won in 8:16.90. The Colonels weren’t expected to qualify for regionals based on seed time, but they improved by 22 seconds.

“When I heard that I cut a 2:01, I almost passed out,” Woshner said. “I was so happy I could have cried, but I was way too tired for that. Basically, my 800 time was 2:06 for three meets straight. Hitting a 2:01 was huge for me and the team.”

Millbrook was led by sophomore Nick Hayden, who won the 1,600 by 0.8 in 4:32.65 and took second in the 800 in 2:03.82. The Pioneers were also led by senior Josh Mihill, who placed third in the 100 in 11.71 and helped the 4x100 team of Tyson Mallory, Troy Abrell and Tyler Lam place third in 46.03.

Throwers paced Sherando. In the discus, junior Brett Shockey placed second (130-4) and junior Avery Dodson took third (118-10). Senior William Fletcher placed second in the shot put (42-8).

For full results, go to va.milesplit.com/meets/423928-4a-northwestern-district-championship-2021/results#.YLkVPI7YrmW.

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at
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