Boy' Track and Field - Apple Blossom Invitational


Posted: April 27, 2015
The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Two weeks ago, Handley track and field coach Mike McKiernan didn’t go in thinking his boys’ team was going to automatically win the Judges’ 20-team track invitational, because he was still in the experimentation phase with the team. The Judges wound up winning anyway.

Given the circumstances surrounding Handley on Saturday, there was even less reason to think they’d be taking home a championship trophy at James Wood’s Kelican Stadium. But with each passing week it’s becoming more and more clear that there isn’t a limit to what the Judges can do.

Handley didn’t have four of its best athletes for various reasons, the Judges’ best athlete did not clear the bar once in the high jump, and the Judges didn’t enter 4x100-meter or 4x400-meter relay teams. Yet Handley emerged victorious out of the 21-team field in the 47th annual H. Brian Landes Apple Blossom Track & Field Invitational.

Led by senior Dontae Mauck — who shook off his no-height performance in the high jump to win the Jim Casey Most Outstanding Performer award — the Judges scored 59 points to edge runner-up Millbrook’s 58. Sherando tied for fifth with 37 points, Clarke County was 14th with 10.4, and James Wood tied for 17th with 8.

“Considering the circumstances, to come out on top in a meet like this speaks well of the athletes we’ve got,” McKiernan said. “I think these young men can do something exceptional if we have that kind of day where everything comes together.”

Four athletes scored all of Handley’s 59 points through individual competition. (Points were awarded for the top placers on a 10-8-6-4-2-1 basis.)

Despite an unusually cool temperature for late April, Mauck nearly set personal bests in each of the three events he won. He won the triple jump with a mark of 43 feet, 6 inches (a best of 44-1 coming in) and the 100 in a time of 11.08 (11.03) and he finished his day with a victory in the 200 in 22.43 (22.32) that essentially clinched the meet for the Judges with two events left.

Mauck’s win in that event gave Handley 59 points, four more than Loudoun County - which was not projected to score points in either the 3,200 or 4x400 and wound up not scoring in either — and 11 more than Millbrook. After sleet began to fall just after the 3,200, the Pioneers won the 4x400 out of the second of three heats to put Millbrook in second as a team.

Handley also received outstanding performances from junior Aaron Arslan (first in the 1,600 in 4:24.37, nearly 10 seconds better than his personal-best, and fourth in the 800 in 2:02.82), senior Zach Foote (first in the 300 hurdles in a season-best 42.61 and sixth in the 110 hurdles), and senior Marquaye Jackson, who recorded a season-best 46-0 in the shot put to take fourth.

All of that was just enough to offset the absences of athletes like Jarett Cestaro (the area’s No. 2 400 runner and high jumper was at DECA Nationals in Florida) and D.J. Frisby (the area’s No. 3 100 runner was at the spring football game for Marshall University, where he will be a preferred walk-on next year as a running back).

The MVP award Mauck received was his third in as many weeks — he also earned that honor at the Handley Invitational and the Wolverine Classic at Woodgrove. But those things aren’t what drives him.

“I feel like I did good for the weather, but I still need to do better,” said Mauck, who really wasn’t challenged in winning the 100 by 0.28, the 200 by 0.45, and the triple jump by 2-10. “I don’t think I’m doing nearly as good as I should be right now.”

Mauck’s one blemish Saturday was the high jump. He came in as the co-No. 1 seed at 6-4, and he waited until the bar reached 6-0 before he started competing, just like he always does. But he simply couldn’t get his steps right Saturday, and he was unable to clear it. As it turned out, only one person in the whole competition cleared 6-0.

To Mauck’s credit though, he didn’t let the high jump affect his other events.

“The great thing about Dontae is that he responds and steps up,” McKiernan said. “He really had very good performances considering the weather.”

As good as Mauck was, the performances of some of his teammates were just as impressive.

Arslan was only seeded fourth with a time of 4:34.00 for the 1,600. But he wisely surged to the front at the race’s outset. Arslan lost the lead 200 meters in, but he was always within a couple of strides of the lead and was never boxed in before taking the lead for good on the final straightaway heading in the last 800 meters.

On the final lap, the top four runners were all lined up together, each just a stride in front of the other, with Arslan and Millbrook sophomore Alec Schrank first and second. Eventually, those two pulled away, and in the final 100 meters, the top-seeded Schrank pushed Arslan hard. But Arslan refused to yield, and he lifted his arms in celebration after he crossed the finish line in 4:24.37, 0.20 in front of Schrank.

“I felt great today,” Arslan said. “I told my coach I would win, because I was feeling confident today, and he said it was probably the smartest race he’d seen me run.

“I started kicking it at the start of the last lap, because I knew Alec was there [behind me], and I know he has a good kick. I knew I had to create as much space as I could from him before the last 100 meters, because I knew he would be right on my tail, and I got it done.

“This definitely boosts my confidence. This is a definitely a good time of year to have a race like this.”

In addition to praising Arslan for the way he ran his race, McKiernan gave credit to Foote for way he attacked his first few hurdles in the 300 hurdles, which set him up for the win.

Schrank’s performance (he also took second in the 800 in 2:01.54 and ran a leg on the 4x400 team that won in 3:38.76) was a big part of an impressive day for the Pioneers. One day after competing in the Penn Relays, Cox-Philyaw won the 800 in 1:56.85 and teamed with Schrank, Trey Bridgemohan and Josh Davis in the 4x400). Other top performances came from Nazeeh Johnson (second in the long jump with a mark of 20-5 ¼) and Cameron Faint (second in the 300 hurdles in 43.06).

“We’re shaping up a little bit as a team,” Millbrook coach Kevin Shirk said. “Looking forward to the conference [meet], we have guys who can score in the long jump, both hurdles races, all distance races, and Nazeeh could easily run the 100 as well. I’m looking forward to the postseason as it gets closer.”

Saturday was another impressive day for Cox-Philyaw, but it wasn’t quite what he experienced Friday. Cox-Philyaw ran in the boys’ high school mile at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia, where he took ninth in 4:17.42 in a 15-boy event that featured runners from Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Connecticut, Maryland and Delaware.

“I loved it,” said Cox-Philyaw about the Penn Relays after the 800. “It was breathtaking how big the stadium was [at Franklin Field], and even though I didn’t PR, it was a very, very fun experience.

“It was the most competition I’ve ever faced in a race. It’s something I will always remember, and something that will help me for the future.”

Shirk said it was great to see Cox-Philyaw be part of Friday’s event, which was attended by almost 40,000 people.

“I heard some people say it was one of the best high school mile fields they’ve ever put together there,” Shirk said. “There were five guys who had run under 4:10 before, and he finished where he was seeded, so that was good. I think that’s the best performance he’s ever had in a high-caliber race like that.”

Sherando won two events on Saturday. Trent McCarty won the discus with a mark of 148-6, and the boys’ 4x800 team of Thomas Shea, Jahlil Northover, Jonah Pearson and Trevor Whiteside won with a time of 8:18.32 to beat the field by seven seconds.

“Trent did really well, and I think once we get a break in the weather, we’ll see Trent really launch one and get one out there,” Sherando coach Tom Grim said. “The distance guys are really pushing each other and feeding off each other, and they’re doing a great job.”

Whiteside also took third in the 1,600 with a personal-best of 4:25.62, and Jacquari Hayes took third in the triple jump (39-7 ¼).

Clarke County was led by Vincent Nappi (third in the discus, 138-0) and Justin Dulaney (fourth in the triple jump, 38-11 ¼), and James Wood was led by Andrew Shade, who took fourth in the 3,200 (9:59.48) and ran a leg on the 4x800 team that took fourth in 8:47.36.

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

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