4A State Track Meet - Day 2

LYNCHBURG — Halfway through Saturday’s 800-meter race, Millbrook junior Nick Hayden was at the rear of a lead pack of six boys, five of whom weren’t on pace to beat the time recorded by the winner of the first heat a few minutes earlier, and one who was just barely on pace to beat that 1 minute, 56.83-second time.

Those five runners ahead of Hayden didn’t know it yet, but they were in trouble.

“We came out slower than I thought,” Hayden said. “I knew I was going to have something left. It was just a matter of who had more.”

Over the next 400 meters, Hayden showed his tank was full. And as he pumped his arms and legs over the final 100 meters while his competitors strained and failed to keep up, he looked strong enough to run through a wall.

Hayden captured Millbrook’s first outdoor track & field state title in five years in a race that combined a perfect blend of strategy and speed. The fourth-seeded Hayden recorded a time of 1:53.79 to beat top-seeded senior Jonathan Kumer of Western Albermarle by 0.19 and break the school record of 1:54.36 set in 2014 by Tyler Cox-Philyaw.

Hayden has had numerous brilliant performances this year in distances ranging from the 400 (he capped his Saturday with a 49.5-second anchor leg in the 4x400 relay to help the Pioneers take the eighth and final All-State spot) to the 3,200.

But he’s also had to fight through a reoccurring tendon problem that caused swelling in one of his feet. It kept him from competing in any individual events during the indoor track postseason and sidelined him from running for 10 days at the end of April during the outdoor season.

“It feels really good [to win],” said Hayden, who started his state meet on Friday by anchoring the 4x800 team to an eighth-place finish. “When I was out with that foot injury, I was just trying to get healthy so I could get to state. Coming here to win was definitely really big.”

The area’s only boys’ state champion this year highlighted 11 All-State performances by local schools in Saturday’s action.

Handley had a difficult day that included third-seeded senior Stephen Daley fouling on all three of his discus throws and the Judges dropping the baton on the first exchange in the boys’ 4x100 relay, where Handley was seeded sixth. Led by senior Nico Schianchi’s sixth-place finish in the boys’ 3,200, the Judges still had four All-State performances Saturday and led all local teams by tying for 17th out of 37 scoring teams with 14 points.

Led by another record-breaking performance from senior Nathaniel Woshner (third in the 3,200), James Wood tied for 20th with 13 points. Millbrook was 24th with 12 points and Sherando tied for 31st with with 5. Pulaski County won the title with 63 points and Deep Creek was second with 60.

At the Class 4 Northwestern District meet on May 18, Hayden starred in winning both the 800 (1:57.70) and the 1,600 (4:18.60). That 1,600 time would have been good for the No. 5 seed on Saturday, and heading into the Region 4C meet Hayden was planning on running the 1,600 at the state meet in addition to the 4x800 and 4x400 relays.

That plan changed when Hayden blitzed his personal record in the 800 by nearly three seconds with a a time of 1:54.82 in winning the Region 4C meet.

“I haven’t necessarily focused heavy [on the 800],” Hayden said. “[After regionals], I thought I’d take the next 10 days and focus on it. I’m pretty glad I did that.”

Hayden’s recent 800 training paid off for him in the last 100 meters on Saturday. But before he could get to that point, Hayden had to maneuver his way into position to make a late charge, and Millbrook distance coach Jamie McCarty couldn’t have been more impressed with how Hayden did that.

With 300 meters left, Hayden picked up the pace and methodically started passing his fellow members of the lead group. With 150 meters left, he was in third place, just a couple strides off the two lead runners and in position to pounce.

“We talked about how there’s going to be a lot of good guys, and it’s going to be tight,” McCarty said. “And you just have to make sure you don’t get caught on the rail, you don’t get behind somebody that’s going back and they’re fading, so you have to make a big move.

“From the [midway point] to the middle of the back straightaway, he did a good job of picking his way through, and he was right on those two guys with 200 to go. He was smart enough to put himself in a position to be able to execute coming home.”

Earlier in the week, Millbrook did a few things to prepare Hayden to run fast in the final straightaway, and Hayden suggested to McCarty that he should run several 100-meter sprints. Hayden said the sprints “definitely helped,” as it allowed him to not only go past Loudoun Valley’s Jake Rimmel as he hit the final 100 — a repeat situation of the Region 4C meet — but also Kumer. Hayden got a step on Kumer within the first 30 meters on the final straightaway and never let the lead go. Among the numerous people who congratulated Hayden was Cox-Philyaw, now the distance coach for the James Wood track team.

“We’ve seen throughout the season, whether it’s the 3,200, the 1,600, the 800, or the 4x4, wherever he put him, when he’s been healthy, he’s been as good as anybody out there,” McCarty said. “I think [Millbrook head coach] Joe [Hall] and I have been extremely pleased with what he’s given us these past couple of weeks.”

Hall had all sorts of emotions seeing Hayden win.

“I can’t promise you my eyes weren’t sweating a little bit to see it,” Hall said. “He’s had a lot of performances where he peaked — he had the big anchor leg on our 4x400 at our Last Chance meet where he ran down the field, and I wasn’t sure how many of those types of performances he still had in him. But he ran his race to perfection, and for him to take his training [with the 100s] to the actual competition was huge.”

Hayden was also pleased that he could help Millbrook’s 4x400 relay team of junior Landon Baker, senior Brian Washington and junior Scott Montgomery get All-State honors. The team set a season PR of 3:26.67 even though Loudoun Valley’s leadoff runner in lane 7 veered out of his lane on the final straightaway into Lane 6 and cut off Baker. The Viking runner made contact with Baker, who stumbled after running into the back of the Viking. Meet officials did not notice the contact.

Hayden said Millbrook did not earn All-State honors in indoor track because he was cited for an infraction that disqualified the team at the state meet.

“In indoor, the turns are super sharp, so I kind of cut off a guy and impeded his stride,” Hayden said. “It feels great to get All-State for the 4x400, because this was Brian’s final race, and for the 4x800, because it was Carter Johnson’s last race. Really, everything came together over the two days, and I’m truly lucky and grateful.”

Hall said he was glad the 4x400 relay finished strong.

“I’m really proud of that group of guys,” Hall said. “They’ve come together all year. They’ve had some adversity and some tough breaks, but they put their heart out on the track every week for us. I’m especially happy for Brian since he’s a senior. Going out All-State is pretty impressive.”

Handley also figured to have an All-State relay in the 4x100, but senior second leg Jacob Duffy couldn’t hold on to sophomore Christian Metger’s baton exchange. Judges coach Mike McKiernan said Duffy told him that when he tried to squeeze the baton, it popped out of his hand.

That was one of a few tough outcomes this weekend for the Judges. For example, Daley ran a strong 10.97-second 100, but that was only good for seventh place in a fast field.

The 3,200 was a major highlight, though. Schianchi (9:23.41) was seeded 10th and beat his PR by two seconds to finish sixth, sophomore William Pardue (9:27.47) beat his PR by seven seconds and improved on his seed to finish seventh and sophomore Garrett Stickley beat his PR by seven seconds to finish 14th in 9:41.37.

“Three PRs in the same meet, that usually doesn’t happen. With Nico, my only regret is that we didn’t have him all four years, and I didn’t get to know him earlier,” said McKiernan of the transfer from Iowa. “He’s a great young man. I really like him a lot.”

McKiernan was also proud of senior Ryan Stickley, who earned All-State honors in the 400 for a second straight year and set a PR of 50.21 to do it. Stickley won the second heat to beat out one of the runners in the fastest heat.

“He wanted 49-something, but I still thought he ran a great race,” McKiernan said. ‘He did what he always does. He hits that top of the turn, and starts digging. He’s willing to suffer to finish strong. I was tickled for him.”

For James Wood, Woshner started the final lap of the 3,200 in seventh place, but moved up to third with a final lap of 1:02.45, according to blueridgetiming.com. Woshner — who broke the school record set in 1978 with a time of 9:17.95 — finished in 9:14.69. Woshner was fifth in Class 4 last year. The Colonels’ distance crew also got an outstanding performance from senior Liam McDonald, who was seeded 18th for the 1,600 but finished sixth in a PR of 4:22.92.

James Wood junior Andrew Link also set a PR to earn All-State honors on Saturday. He placed fifth in the 300 hurdles in 39.84 to beat his previous best of 40.32 and improve on his sixth-place finish in the event at last year’s state meet.

“I’m really thankful to be here,” Link said. “I thank God, our best coaches and my hard-working teammates that made that possible. Me and my other hurdle teammates just push hard every day, and we got better pretty much every meet.”

Senior Brendan Cassidy had an unfortunate finish in the 300 hurdles. He was seeded sixth in the event, right behind Link at 40.43, but he hit a hurdle and got tripped up early in the race.

“Andrew’s worked hard all year to get to this moment,” James Wood coach Abeeb Badmus said. “I’m so proud of him. He always focused mentally and physically and always trying to do the best he can do, and that showed today.

“I’m kind of sad what happened to Brendan since it was his last race, but he had a great year.”

Sherando had a pair of throwers earn All-State honors in the discus. Senior Avery Dodson placed fifth (136-10) and freshman Micah Carlson took eighth (132-10).

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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