Boys' Apple Blossom Track & Field

WINCHESTER — As Handley track & field coach Mike McKiernan watched 6-foot-2, 250-pound senior Stephen Daley run on the track as the final leg of the boys’ 4x100-meter relay, he hopped in the air off James Wood’s Kelican Stadium grass briefly as it became clear that Daley was going to make up a deficit of five-plus meters and catch first-place Loudoun County.

“When he gets rolling, he’s like a steam train,” said McKiernan to the few members of the Handley team that surrounded him in the infield after Daley crossed the finish line first.

Daley steamrolled the opposition on the track, and the Judges steamrolled the 17 other schools to win their third straight H. Brian Landes Apple Blossom Track & Field Invitational.

Led by Daley — who repeated as ABI Most Outstanding Performer by winning the 100 and shot put and taking second in the discus in addition to keying Handley’s 4x100 win — the Judges scored 118 points, 24 more than runner-up Loudoun County’s 94.

James Wood had three individual champions and placed third with 63 points. Sherando was sixth with 44.5 points, Millbrook was 10th with 34 and Clarke County tied for 11th with 19.

Daley was the star, but McKiernan enjoyed rattling off as many highlights he could think of on Saturday, and noted that there are spots where the Judges did but thinks they can do even better.

“We had excellent performances in a lot of places,” said McKiernan, whose team scored points in 12 events and earned a total of 13 gold, silver and bronze medals.

The anchor leg of the 4x100 is a new place for Daley. The Judges previously used last year’s Class 4 bronze medalist on the second leg, because that was a good spot to take advantage of two exchange zones and give him several extra meters more to run than his teammates.

But McKiernan said Handley decided the best thing to do going forward was to take advantage of Daley’s competitiveness and see what he can do when the pressure is on as the anchor leg. Daley’s ability to run down Loudoun County showed that the Judges will have a chance to win every race they enter.

“It’s fun to watch him run,” McKiernan said.

Daley said he has fun doing it. He took the baton following legs from junior Aaron Lee and sophomores Christian Metzger and Manno Lusca.

“In middle school, I ran anchor,” Daley said. “Doing it here in an event like this against great teams, I liked it. Aaron did well, Christian was able to stay with [Loudoun County’s] Jimmy [Kibble], who runs pretty fast, and Manno ran a great curve. I just told them that if they give it to me close enough to the person in first, I’ll be able to make it up.

“I think it gives [my teammates] confidence that they don’t have to technically win their part of the 4x100 if they can give [the baton] to me close enough to first.”

Daley opened his day with his win in the shot put, recording a mark of 49 feet, 1.25 inches to beat Loudoun County’s Daniel Young by three-quarters of an inch. The mark is an outdoor personal record for Daley and just short of his overall PR of 49-2.5 at the Class 4 indoor meet, where he placed fourth.

“That’s someone I’m going to have to battle at regions, so it was good to get out here and compete against him and see where he’s at,” Daley said.

Daley then followed up with a win in the 100 in 11.34 seconds to win by 0.19 over Jimmy Kibble.

Though Daley took second in the discus to Loudoun County’s Chase Kibble (142-9), his mark of 140-1 was a step in the right direction given his struggles in the event this season. Saturday marked the first time Daley cleared 140 feet, this after placing fifth in Class 4 with a mark of 147-10 last year.

“I’m working on my hand release now,” Daley said. “[The discus] is not coming out flat. It’s kind of curving. I feel like once I fix that, I can get back to what I did last year.”

Handley senior William McKay was also an ABI champion, capturing Friday’s pole vault at Handley with a mark of 12-6. Sophomore teammate Peter Kim was second with an 11-0.

Other top performers for the Judges were Lee in the 200 (second in 23.06), senior Ryan Stickley in the 400 (second in 51.37), senior Nico Schianchi in the 1,600 (second in 4:29.03), sophomore Garrett Stickley in the 3,200 (second in 9:48.06), the 4x800 team of Stickley, junior Max Ware, junior Pierce Francis and sophomore Will Pardue (second in 8:18.67), Ware in the 800 (third in 2:06.17), Pardue in the 1,600 (third in 4:29.56) and sophomore Elliott Redcay in the 800 (fourth in 2:06.21).

James Wood received wins from No. 1 seeds Nathaniel Woshner, a senior, in the 3,200 (9:43.36 to win by 4.7 seconds) and junior Andrew Link in the 300 hurdles (a state-qualifying 40.48 to win by 1.14 seconds).

The third winner was Colonels senior Brendan Cassidy. He’s probably best known for his prowess in the hurdles, but he continued to show that he can excel in practically any event James Wood puts him in on Saturday.

Cassidy came in as the fourth seed in the open 400 — an event he is competing in for the first time this year — with a time of 51.88, and he won the event on Saturday with a strong final 100 to set a PR and beat the top-seeded Stickley by 0.13.

“I just try to start hard for the first 100 and end hard for the last 100,” said Cassidy of his strategy. “It feels good to win this. I’ve never done the 400 before this year, so I’m surprising myself. Last year I got put in the 4x4 the last meet of the year, and I ran a 55. So they started putting me in it again this year for indoor. I did pretty good, and I just got better.”

One of his teammates commented after the race, “It’s got be the socks.” Cassidy was wearing his “Reese’s Pieces Monster” socks that featured several colors on Saturday. Cassidy said he’s been wearing unique pairs of socks since indoor season, including Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day and flamingo-themed socks.

“I just thought I’d start a tradition,” Cassidy said. “Something to talk about.”

Cassidy gives James Wood a lot to talk about when deciding on what lineup to field. Cassidy had another strong day in the 110 hurdles (second in 15.92 behind Broad Run’s Matt Zurbach in 15.66) on Saturday, and he also ranks among the area’s top three athletes in the high jump (top mark, 5-10) and 300 hurdles (41.76).

“I’m happy with what I’m doing [in the hurdles],” Cassidy said. “It’s nice having someone like Andrew Link to compete with on a daily basis. I definitely get a lot better because of that.”

Link didn’t get to compete at all in the 110 hurdles on Saturday because of a false start, but the 300 hurdles provided a welcome highlight.

“It felt good,” Link said.

“Link was very disappointed after the false start, and I just told him he has more races to come, so put your energy into that,” James Wood coach Abeeb Badmus said. “He had a great performance in the 300 hurdles.

“We had a couple of things go wrong with the false start and the dropped baton in the 4x1, but the boys did well.”

James Wood was also led by senior Liam McDonald (second in the 800, 2:04.84, fourth in the 1,600, 4:30.61) and sophomore Ethan Pratt-Perez (third in the 3,200, 9:51.89).

Sherando was led by junior Jayden Patten (second in the long jump, 19-2.75), sophomore Jhabari Jackson (third in the 100, 11.72) and sophomore Ethan Gonzalez (third in the shot put, 44-0.25).

Millbrook was paced by junior Kai Johnson, who made up a deficit of about 15 meters with 200 meters left to catch Schianchi and win the 1,600 by 0.42 in a time of 4:28.61.

Clarke County also had an individual winner in sophomore Will Booker, who set a PR by clearing 6-0 on his second attempt to win the high jump. Two other athletes also cleared 6-0, but Booker won based on being the only one to clear the bar on his first attempt at each of the lower standards.

For more meet coverage, see Tuesday’s edition of The Winchester Star.

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