4A State Track Meet - Day 1

LYNCHBURG — Ella Carlson might not have been at her best on Friday, but she left no doubt that’s she’s peerless among Virginia’s Class 4 discus throwers at Liberty University.

The Sherando senior won her second straight state title in the event by a whopping 20 feet, recording a mark of 133 feet, 5 inches on her second attempt to smash the 15-girl field on the first of two days of competition at the Virginia High School League Class 4 state track & field meet. Action resumes at 9 a.m. Saturday.

Carlson’s second throw wound up being one of just two that counted, as she couldn’t stay in the circle on four of her first five attempts (she had a 119-3 on her final throw). Carlson didn’t feel too bad about those fouls, though.

Bound for NCAA Division I William & Mary, Carlson had already proven to herself how far she had come this year nine days earlier when she broke her previous personal record of 138-5 four times at the Region 4C meet, headlined by a 144-8 that ranked second among all Virginia discus throwers heading into the weekend. And the fact is, she’s never been thrilled with how she’s thrown at Liberty, whose Osborne Stadium discus configuration has always thrown her off.

All that mattered is that she’s never had a better throw at Liberty than the 133-5 she had on Friday, and that she ended her discus career on top again. She won last year’s title by nine inches with a top mark of 129-11.

“The goal of my second throw was to get a mark so that I could go to finals and just relax from there,” said Carlson, whose 133-5 was more than 12 feet farther than Fauquier’s Madison Bayliff — who wound up taking second with a 113-5 on Friday — had thrown all year. “But that ended up being the winning throw. And you know what, I’m OK with that, because that’s a personal state meet record for me, which I’m happy with.”

Carlson was bit frustrated with her performance at the Class 4 Northwestern District meet because the reverse technique that she had been working on, which involves changing the positioning of her feet after she releases the discus, didn’t result in the day she was hoping for. Her work did pay off with her performance at the region meet, so she felt good coming into Friday.

“That was the first time I had a personal best since regionals last year,” Carlson said. “It was mentally relieving.”

Carlson said throwing at Liberty has always been tough for her mentally. The discus area is in the middle of the field, and Carlson says the diagonal setup of the discus throwing area in relation to the track always makes depth perception difficult for her.

Carlson got emotional as she hugged both her parents — her father Cory is her coach — as she thought about Friday being her last discus competition for Sherando.

“It was happy emotions and happy tears,” said Carlson, who will try for a state title in the shot put Saturday as the fourth seed.

Carlson also got to experience a long hug with James Wood senior Aubrey Grove before Carlson’s last throw. The duo has been competing together and enjoying their time together going back to when they were seventh-graders as Aylor Middle School (Carlson) and James Wood Middle School (Grove).

On Friday, Grove also got to enjoy another All-State performance. After placing fifth last year with a 110-11, Grove placed third with a mark of 112-4.

Grove had her season PR of 119-6 back in April at the Apple Blossom Invitational. Though she wasn’t able to surpass that mark Friday, she couldn’t have been more pleased with how she ended her high school career after she felt she lost her focus for a while.

“I’m so excited,” Grove said. “I started off with a scratch because their net here is crooked to the circle, so I was angled wrong. Each throw after that, I improved every time, so I was really proud of how I didn’t let that get in my head.

“I figured out at regionals I had been performing bad the past few meets because I was worried about what everyone else was doing and not what I was doing. Today I just focused on myself and how to improve every throw, and it ended up working out in my favor.”

Grove will compete in the shot put Saturday, but discus has always meant more to her.

“I’m sad to see it end, but I’m proud I got to end this way,” Grove said. “I think [the event] has taught me a lot about maturity, and it’s given me confidence in a lot of things.”

Based on seedings, Carlson was projected to be the only Warrior to get an All-State medal Friday. But fellow senior Victoria Corbit — seeded 12th out of 18 girls and not grouped in the top flight with a seed mark of 34-7.75 — turned in the best day of her career in the triple jump. She recorded a 35-2.5 in prelims to make the nine-girl finals, then broke her PR again with a 35-5 to place fifth.

Corbit only tried the triple jump for the first time two days before last year’s district meet. She didn’t qualify for regionals in 2021, but this year she’s shown a knack for it all year.

“I started getting in the gym a little more, and my coach was telling me I should try triple jump, because you’re pretty explosive and powerful,” Corbit said. “I tried it, and each meet this year I’ve PR’ed.

“This season, before every meet, I would always tell my coach, ‘I forgot how to triple jump,” Corbit added with a laugh. “It’s kind of crazy that I’m here now [and I got All-State].”

Handley senior Stephen Daley came into Friday as the top seed in the shot put with a mark of 53-8, but he simply ran up against an exceptional performer in Deigo Turner of Pulaski County. Turner’s father mentioned the indoor state shot put champ was finally healthy after dealing with an injury, and Turner recorded marks of 54-9 and 54-10 on back-to-back throws to improve on his PR of 53-4. Daley took third with a 53-4.

Daley would have liked to have won, but he’s improved remarkably in the shot put after not qualifying for states in the event last year. He placed fourth in the indoor state meet with a 49-2.5, then set a PR at the region meet before taking third on Friday. Daley credits Handley Hall of Fame throwers Damie Malone, the team’s throws coach, and Alicia Wheeling for helping him improve this year.

“Throwing 53 after throwing 49 in indoor, I’m just proud of where I ended up with the work I’ve put in,” Daley said.

Also on Friday, Daley qualified for the eight-boy 100-meter finals on Saturday with a time of 11.05, the No. 6 time of the day on Friday.

Other local All-State performances were achieved in the 4x800 relays by the James Wood girls and the Millbrook boys. The Colonels team of senior Lauren Beatty, junior Lillian Lovelace, freshman Ruby Ostrander and junior Quetzali Angel-Perez placed sixth with a season-best 9:55.54 and the Pioneers team of senior Matthew Topham, senior Carter Johnson, junior Kai Johnson and junior Nick Hayden, which won the slower heat, placed eighth overall in a season-best 8:11.83.

Girls who competed in Friday’s preliminaries and qualified for Saturday’s finals were Millbrook freshman Jada Arrington in the 100 (PR of 12.41, No. 6 time overall) and 200 (PR of 25.64, No. 5 time overall) and Handley junior Elizabeth Imoh in the 100 hurdles (season PR of 15.35, No. 5 time overall).

Saturday’s schedule features championship competition in 14 of 18 events for both genders. After Day 1, Western Albemarle leads the girls’ competition with 21 points, Jefferson Forest is second with 17 and Sherando and Kettle Run are tied for third with 14. James Wood is tied for ninth with nine points. Pulaski County leads the boys’ competition with 25 points and Heritage (Leesburg) is second with 15. Handley is tied for 11th with 6 and Millbrook is 20th with 1.

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