Colonels’ Thorne wins high jump

By Robert Niedzwiecki
The Winchester Star

Winchester — If anyone deserved a few hours of sleep Saturday afternoon, it was James Wood High School senior James Thorne.

Thorne was the only local athlete to win an individual event at the at the 69th Handley Track & Field Invitational Meet Saturday at the Bill Higgs Track & Field Facility, winning the high jump with a mark of 6 feet, 2 inches to defeat four other jumpers by two inches.

Thorne, who also took second in the long jump before retiring to a car for a nap, led James Wood to a fourth-place finish. The Colonels finished with 52 points, 36.5 behind champion Fauquier (88) and 17 behind second-place Loudoun Valley. Team results beyond the top five for the 25-team meet were not available for the first major competition held on Handley’s new track. Handley did not print out post-race results and only listed combined team scores on the results stapled to its bulletin board. The results posted on did not have team scores.

After getting 6-2 on his first attempt and watching everyone else fail to get it, Thorne, the top seed, was disappointed he couldn’t keep it and get to 6-4, but he’ll take the win.

“Six-two’s not a bad jump,” he said.

Thorne was excited about his long jump, though. He recorded a personal-best mark of 21-33/4, more than six inches farther than his previous best.

“We’ve been waiting for me to get 21 feet,” Thorne said. “Sometimes you can get out [far] and sometimes you just can’t, but on my last jump I just decided I was going to try and get out there.”

If not for some problems with the wind, Thorne might have placed high in the triple jump too, seeing a couple of big jumps go for naught because of scratches.

Overall, James Wood coach Matt Stegmaier said it was a meet that should only help Thorne, who had already qualified for the state meet in the high jump.

“The kid’s a sponge when it comes to jumps,” he said. “He’s listening and learning every day in practice, and it shows in the meets. He really wants to put all three [jumps] together, and that’s tough to do, but I think it will happen eventually for him.”

Stegmaier said Thorne likely would have placed in the top three, if not taken first, had he not scratched in the triple jump. But considering how frustrating that event was for him, Stegmaier said Thorne showed a lot of resolve by coming back to take the high jump.

“I’m really impressed with the way he handled himself,” he said. “He went over to the high jump and took care of business.”

With teammate Mason Smith around to push him, staying focused is the only option. The two get along well — Thorne used Smith’s car to sleep in — and their workouts are productive and enjoyable for each other.

“It’s fun to have someone else on the team to push you instead of someone else you don’t know,” Thorne said. “We’re good friends.”

Thorne (tied for sixth in the high jump at 5-8, eighth in the triple jump at 40-23/4) and Smith were two of the five James Wood individuals who placed in at least two individual events. The others were John Simms (fifth in the 400 meters in 52.24 seconds, tied for fifth in the 100 in 11.74, sixth in the 200 in 23.74), Jamel Johnson (tied for fifth in the 300 hurdles in 42.84, sixth in the 110 hurdles in 16.44) and Aaron Shiffler (seventh in the 300 hurdles in 43.04 and eighth in the 110 hurdles in 17.04).

“It was nice to see the boy hurdlers place, because we were a little shaky the past couple of weeks,” Stegmaier said. “At Smithsburg, we didn’t perform as well as we wanted to. They came to compete today. They both pr’d in the 300s today, and you can’t be upset with their best.”

As for the other area schools, Handley was led by Tom Delaney (second in the 1,600 in 4:30.14), Clarke County was led by Hilton Morgan (third in the shot put, 47-9 ½), Sherando was led by Berham McDowell (third in the 800 in 2:00.84) and Chris Smith (third in the high jump at 6-0), and Millbrook was led by Ryan Farnan (fourth in the 1,600 in 4:33.10).

Though local schools were without many local athletes because of various types of commitments, they were eagerly anticipating returning to compete on Handley’s new track.

“It’s about as fast a surface as you can get,” said Sherando coach Tim Grim, whose team will return for a tri with Martinsburg (W.Va) and Handley as well as the Region II meet. “We’re looking forward to coming up here again. Hopefully it will be a little warmer, a little less wind, and we’ll be able to crank it up a little bit.”

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