Girls' track & field preview

There’s just one more season left in Handley senior Taylor Beard’s illustrious track & field career.

Based on how the indoor season went, it could be her most spectacular season yet.

The University of Cincinnati signee set a personal record with a mark of 5 feet, 10.75 inches to place fourth at the New Balance Indoor Nationals in New York on March 8. Only one person jumped higher at the event, with Beard placing behind two other athletes on a tiebreaker.

Beard’s performance took place two weeks after she won the sixth high jump state title of her career at the Class 4 indoor meet. Beard won the indoor state title every year of her high school career. She’s also won two outdoor state championships, which came in her sophomore and junior years.

“When they raised it [6 feet and three-quarters of an inch], she just took off [the bar] with her calfs,” said McKiernan as he recalled just how close Beard came to getting over the bar at the national meet. “On the film, you can see it ... she’s got her hips, her thighs, everything’s over [the bar] except her calfs. The coaches who were around, their initial thought was that she made it. But that’s the way it goes.”

McKiernan couldn’t have been prouder of that performance, especially since Beard spends the majority of her winters focusing on basketball. He doesn’t know if 6-0 is a possibility for Beard in the spring. But as long as she keeps improving with her technique and her consistency, he’ll consider it a successful spring.

McKiernan said he’d like to take Beard back to the Penn Relays and she will also compete at the Lake Braddock Invitational, where she jumped 5-10 for the first time in her career last spring. Beard may also participate in the Dogwood Classic in Charlottesville again this year.

It will also be interesting to see how Beard continues to develop in her other events. Beard did not compete in as many events as she originally intended at last year’s state meet because of inclement weather, but she still placed third in the triple jump and fifth in the 300 hurdles. Last year, Beard had the area’s best mark in the triple jump (38-6) and 200 (26.28) and she had the area’s second-best marks in the 100 hurdles (15.64), 300 hurdles (46.39) and long jump (17-3.25).

Another top athlete that the Judges (third in the Class 4 Northwestern District in 2018) will look to this year is Mary McKay. The sophomore earned all-state honors in outdoor track last year by taking third in the pole vault (she had a top mark of 11-6) and she also earned all-state honors in that event in indoor track this year by placing fifth. McKay was the area’s fastest runner in the 100 meters last year (12.76) and won the Region 4C meet in that event.

Sophomore Sofia Posadas also returns after ranking third in the area in the 100 (13.24) and tying for third in the 200 (27.39). Senior Chloe Putnam (34-5.25) ranked second in the area in the shot put to teammate Casey Nelson. Now at NCAA Division I George Mason University, Nelson was the state champion in the discus and the state runner-up in the shot put last year.

Fauquier and James Wood tied for the district meet title last year. As far as this year’s district race, McKiernan believes Millbrook is definitely a team to watch. The Pioneers (fourth in the outdoor district meet last year) finished just 11 points behind Fauquier to finish as the runner-up at the indoor district meet.

Millbrook is led by senior Kaycee Cox-Philyaw, who placed fourth in the state last year in outdoor and posted the area’s fastest time in the event (5:14.24). In indoor track, Cox-Philyaw was even better, placing third at the state meet and recording a top time of 5:07.

The Pioneers also feature an all-state triple jumper in senior Ava Derrick (seventh in the outdoor Class 4 meet, No. 3 in the area with a mark of 35-8.25 inches). Derrick was 10th in the state in indoors.

Junior Sarah Purdy barely missed earning all-state honors in the high jump last year by tying for ninth. She was also 11th at the outdoor meet in the 300 hurdles (she ranked third in the area with a time of 48.14 seconds). Purdy is also coming off a strong indoor season that saw her place ninth in the high jump with a mark of 5-0.

Other returning Millbrook athletes who ranked among the area’s top three in individual events last year are senior Emily Muldowney (third in the 3,200, 11:54.29), senior Jalyn Abernathy (tied for third in the high jump, 5-2), and senior Hope Hawthorne (third in the shot put, 34-2).

“Our goal is to win the district meet,” Shirk said. “We came close during indoor. We have more depth in outdoor than an indoor, especially with the addition of several girls who did basketball in the winter, and we hope to close that gap. We expect Fauquier to be a challenge again, as they always field a very competitive team.”

For the first time in five years, James Wood will not have the all-around brilliance of Rene Rosso. The Winchester Star Girls’ Track & Field Athlete of the Year earned all-state honors in five events last year and won state titles in the 100 hurdles and long jump. Last month, Rosso helped NCAA Division I Mount St. Mary’s to its first Northeast Conference title in 22 years by placing fourth in the high jump at the conference meet, and she also earned All-East Region honors for her performance in the heptathlon.

The Colonels still boast a strong group of talented athletes, though. Sophomore Brooke Sandy earned all-state honors by placing eighth in the high jump last spring (she tied for the area’s third-best mark of 5-2 in 2018) and she followed that up with a third-place finish at the state indoor meet this year (5-2). James Wood also features junior Kenzie Konyar, who posted the area’s second-best time last year in the 3,200 (11:33.79) and No. 3 time in the 1,600 (5:21.90).

The roster for Sherando (sixth in the district last year) includes two of the area’s best sprinters in Haley Mack (second in the 100, 13.01) and Kaitlyn Roberts (tied for third in the 200, 27.39). Senior Megan Grose ranked third among area discus throwers last year (103-0).

Clarke County senior Madison Webster is the only returning area girl besides Beard who won a state title last year. Webster (signed with NCAA Division II Queens University in Charlotte) and senior teammate Skylar Bragg (signed with NCAA Division II Minnesota State University, Mankato) placed first and second, respectively, at last year’s Class 2 state meet in the 800. Webster posted the area’s fastest times in the 800 (2:20.60) and 3,200 (11:32.31) and the No. 2 time in the 1,600 (5:16.97) last year, while Bragg posted the area’s No. 3 time in the 800 (2:23.74).

The Eagles will also be led by this year by sophomore Sara Murray. She placed third in Class 2 in the discus to earn all-state honors and posted the area’s No. 2 mark in the discus (114-10). Murray is also a standout sprinter who took second in the Bull Run District in the 100. Junior Elizabeth Wallace is also back after taking fourth in the state in the 300 hurdles.

Clarke County took third in the Bull Run District meet behind George Mason and Strasburg last year.

The following is a glance at each area team:

James Wood

Head coach: Mike Onda, second year.

Last season: Tied for 1st in Class 4 Northwestern District meet; 5th in Region 4C meet; 6th in Class 4 state meet.

Key losses: Rene Rosso, Mazie Clark, Eliana Creech, Kiara Gilkerson, Alina Hackney, Jenny Kerns (injured during basketball), Lindsay Nesmith (injury).

Top returning athletes: Rhiannon Bradford, Sr., sprints; Faith Gansor, So., sprints; Mia Johnson, Jr., sprints; Kenzie Konyar, Jr., distance; Riley Rose, So., sprints; Audrey Sandy, So., distance/jumps; Brooke Sandy, So., jumps/hurdles/sprints; Stephanie Smith, Jr., throws; Lauren Taylor, Sr., sprints; Haley Witt, Sr., distance.

Top newcomers: Makayla Barrett, Fr., sprints; Lauren Beatty, Fr., distance; Jalyn Clapper, Fr., sprints; Aubrey Grove, Fr., throws; Abigail Hendershot, Fr., throws; Isabella Newman, Fr., distance; Kaitlyn Poppo, Sr., jumps/sprints.

Onda’s outlook: “We’ve definitely got a challenge trying to get back to where we were last year. Rene was obviously a definite asset to the team, and we could always count on her to pull points in a number of different events. Losing her is obviously a huge hole. On top of that, one of our other good jumpers, Jenny Kerns, had her hand broken in basketball and is not allowed to do anything right now. Everybody’s working hard, so we’ll just have to see how things go. We’ll count on Brooke Sandy because she high jumps and is our main hurdler. We’ve got some other folks that we’re working into the hurdles now, but they don’t have the experience that she does. We’re hoping that they’ll be able to perform the way we need them to to get back to the top of the district again. I think Kenzie’s going to do well, and I think Lauren Beatty is going to do well in distance. Stephanie Smith is doing well in the throws. Kaitlyn Poppo is a volleyball player and is showing some aptitude in the hurdles and the jumps in her first season.”

First meet: Today at Battlefield Relays, 9 a.m.

Head coach: Mike McKiernan, eighth year.

Last season: 3rd in Class 4 Northwestern District meet; 2nd in Region 4C meet; 5th in Class 4 state meet.

Key losses: Casey Nelson, Kristin Blake.

Top returning athletes: Chloe Putnam, Sr., throws; Taylor Beard, Sr., sprints/jumps; Kenzi Fergus, Sr., distance; Riley Fisher, Sr., distance; Alexis Grady, Jr., vault/jumps; Ashlae McConnell, So., throws; Amyra Newman, So., throws; Mary McKay, So., sprints/vaults; Sofia Posadas, So., sprints/jumps; Brittnay Turner, So., sprints/jumps.

Top newcomers: Sierra Jones, Jr., sprints; Julia Ingram, Fr., hurdles/vault.

McKiernan’s outlook: “Mary McKay had a really strong freshmen year, and we think she’s going to do really well again in the pole vault this year. We’re excited with the progress Brittnay [Turner] has made. She’s really grown a lot from last year. She’s worked hard all year. And Sofia Posades is running well. We’re looking at her in the 200, 400, 4x400. Millbrook might be a little ahead of everybody, but I think the district is pretty wide open.”

First meet: March 30 at Wildcat Invitational at Mountain View High School, 9 a.m.


Head coach: Kevin Shirk, eighth year.

Last season: 4th in Class 4 Northwestern District; 7th in Region 4C meet.

Key losses: Mellany Groll, Lindsay Greer, Piseth Nith.

Top returning athletes: Kaycee Cox-Philyaw, Sr., distance; Sarah Purdy, Jr., jumps/hurdles; Ava Derrick, Sr., jumps; Hope Hawthorne, Sr., throws; Keona Robinson, Sr., jumps; Maddie Lloyd, Sr., distance; Jalyn Abernathy, Sr. sprints/jumps; Emily Muldowney, Sr.; distance.

Top newcomers: Rebecca Edlich, Fr., distance; Ellie Flower, Fr., sprints; Lina Guerrero, Fr., distance; Madison Smith, Fr., distance; Kaylin Upson, Fr., sprints.

Shirk’s outlook: “Our girls’ distance group definitely has the most depth of any of our event areas and will benefit the team by allowing us to put together strong relays without compromising individual performances. Kaycee leads the way for our girls. She has worked very hard all year and started to see the work pay off during indoor. Her personal goals for outdoor track are to break five minutes in the 1,600 and to win a state title, and I think both goals will be achievable. She’s starting her season against great competition at the Raleigh Relays at N.C. State on March 29. Ava and Sarah both put in great indoor seasons and have set themselves up for similar success in outdoor. I would like to see Ava challenge for district and regional titles in the triple jump. Sarah, who competed at the state meet in the long jump, high jump, and 55 hurdles, becomes even more of an asset to the team in outdoor track because of the addition of the 300 hurdles, which makes her capable of scoring points in the postseason in four or five events.”

First meet: April 3 at Woodgrove


Head coach: T.J. Rohrbaugh, first year.

Last season: 6th in Class 4 Northwestern District meet; 9th in Region 4C meet.

Key losses: Donzailya Berg, Hannah Helsley, Rachel Burton.

Top returning athletes: Olivia Couillard, Sr., distance; Megan Grose, Sr., throws; Kaitlyn Roberts, Sr., sprints/jumps; Camryn Ubert, Sr., distance; Gracie Ridings, Jr., hurdles/jumps; Haley Mack, So., sprints/jumps; Molly Robinson, So., distance.

Top newcomers: Lindsay Davis, So., distance; Thais Agard, Fr., sprints/jumps; Lea Aufdenberg, Fr., middle distance; Ella Carlson, Fr., throws; Victoria Corbit, Fr., middle distance.

Rohrbaugh’s outlook: “I think we’re pretty balanced. I think we’re pretty fortunate in that aspect. In addition to Haley Mack, Kaitlyn Roberts has been working really hard for us and is doing a great job. For distance, people like Camryn Ubert and Molly Robinson have been doing an excellent job of working hard. A couple people who I think can break out are Thais Agard and Ella Carson. They’ve got a lot of potential.”

First meet: Today at Sprint into Spring Invitational at Eastern View High School, 9 a.m.

Clarke County

Head coach: Andre Kidrick, 13th year.

Last season: 3rd in Bull Run District meet; 4th in Region 2B meet; 7th in Class 2 state meet.

Key losses: Catherine Lewis, Madison McLean, Becky Roberts.

Top returning athletes: Madison Webster, Sr., distance; Liz Wallace, Jr., hurdles; Sara Murray, So., throws/sprints; Skylar Bragg, Sr., distance; Angel Crider, So., hurdles; Heather See, Sr., sprints.

Top newcomers: Ellie Brumback, Fr., jumps; Keagan Bragg, Sr., sprints.

Kidrick’s outlook: “With Skylar and Madison, we’ve got a strong duo to lead the team as a whole, not just in distance. They’re going to be awesome. I don’t see a reason why [they can’t place first and second in the state in the 800 again]. We got them down to state last year, and we scratched them from the mile because the weather was crazy at the state meet last year. I’m thinking this year they’re going to do at least one other event at the state meet. Keagan Bragg plays soccer, but she’ll help us out. She can run distance, but she’s got very good speed and I think she’s going to help our girls’ sprint team out a lot. We’ve got Elizabeth Wallace in the hurdles. She’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. If I can get her to be a mean athlete when she gets on that line and take no prisoners, she’d easily be a contender [for a state title]. We’re thinking our girls’ team is going to be pretty strong in the district and at the regional level, too. I believe our girls have good leadership, and we have some youth we can mix in there. We’ve got a team that can score multiple points in multiple events throughout the year.”

First meet: Thursday at Ram Country Track & field Invitational at Strasburg, 4 p.m.

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Follow on Twitter @WinStarSports1


smile ge logo light. CB441554320


$250 Annual Winner

 The winner of the 
$250 Annual Drawing was
Stephanie Ashby

Congratulations and thanks for supporting the JWAA!