ABI track repeats: Wood girls win third straight title

WINCHESTER — A year ago, an excellent all-around performance carried the James Wood girls’ track & field team to its second consecutive H. Brian Landes Apple Blossom Invitational title, even though the Colonels didn’t win any of the 17 events.

James Wood’s depth and versatility put it in control again in the 54th edition of its own meet at Kelican Stadium on Saturday. But this time the Colonels put a pretty big exclamation point on their championship.

Seeded second in the meet-concluding 4x400-meter relay, the Colonels blew away top-seeded and Class 4 Northwestern District rival Kettle Run by 7.18 seconds for their only win of the day.

James Wood was in first place heading into the event — six points ahead of the third-place Cougars — and the victory gave the Colonels 86 total points for their third straight ABI title. James Wood improved on its season-best time by 6.56 seconds with a time of 4 minutes, 13.48 seconds to give the team points in 14 of the 16 events it entered, only missing out in the discus and shot put.

The Cougars took second in the 4x400 (4:20.66) and finished second out of 17 schools in the meet with 78 points. Strasburg (second in the team standings going into the 4x400) placed third in the 4x400 and third in the team standings with 76.6 points.

Led by senior Most Valuable Performer Elizabeth Imoh and sophomore Emeryce Worrell (five combined wins and both runners on Handley’s second-place 4x100 team), Handley placed fourth with 64.6 points.

Sophomore Jada Arrington won the 400 and took second in the 200 to lead Millbrook to eighth place (32 points). Clarke County tied for 10th with 27 points and Sherando — which annually has to make adjustments at the ABI because of people leaving for the school’s prom — took 12th with 25.

Kettle Run led the 4x400 by a few meters after the first leg. But after James Wood senior Quetzali Angel-Perez got the baton from junior leadoff leg Ella Kiesewalter, she caught up with the Cougars halfway through the second leg. By the time she handed off to freshman third leg Mallory Juvinall after a split of 1:03.2, the Colonels led by several meters. Juvinall and sophomore anchor leg Omaie Aarami continued to dust the field from there.

“I was just focused on the girl in front of me,” Angel-Perez said. “I was thinking if I didn’t catch her, we wouldn’t place good. I felt pretty good once I passed her and I was trying to get further and further from her.”

Even if she didn’t, Quetzali-Perez always has faith in her relay teammates to get the job done.

“If one of us doesn’t do too good, that’s OK, because someone else will pick it up and make up for the time,” she said.

The Colonels’ overall belief in their teammates and support for their teammates plays a big role in their success. Quetzali-Perez ran the area’s fastest time this year in taking third in the 800 (2:26.80), but she seemed more excited that freshman teammate Lauren Thompson also set a personal record by taking fifth in the 800 (2:29.80).

“It was a great job by the girls’ team,” James Wood coach Abeeb Badmus said. “They’ve been working very, very hard as a team. This year we’ve very young and we’re trying to be good in all areas. That’s always the plan.

“Today we were able to get a lot of points from different areas, just like last year [in the ABI]. All that’s due to competition in practice. The competition in practice is very, very high in every single event. Every year we’re improving competition-wise.”

The Colonels were also led by sophomore Olivia Boyce (second in the triple jump, 32 feet, 4 inches, third in the long jump, 15-8.75, sixth in the 200, 27.60, seventh in the 100, 13.69); freshman Tenley Mattison (third in the high jump with a PR of 4-10 after a scoring adjustment; fourth in the triple jump, 31-6); freshman Alina Kieffer (third in the 3,200, 12:17.57); freshman Isabelle French (fourth in the 300 hurdles, 50.59, sixth in the 100 hurdles, 18.06), and the 4x100 team (fourth in 52.15).

Imoh earned MVP honors at the ABI for the second straight year by winning the same three events. She dominated both hurdles events, taking the 100 hurdles by 1.89 seconds in 15.74 and the 300 hurdles by 1.01 in 47.88. Imoh also captured the high jump by two inches with a mark of 5-0 at a time when the jumping apron was still slick as a result of Friday’s rain and some light rain early Saturday.

Imoh didn’t set any PRs on Saturday, but it was a solid performance in the hurdles overall for the athlete who will compete for NCAA Division I University of Virginia as a preferred walk-on next year.

“I’m working on my arms [movement],” Imoh said. “That’s a big thing. And also just attacking. I think in the 300 hurdles I struggled with that today. A lot of stuttering [to the hurdles]. I need to make sure I attack all the way through.”

The fact that Imoh has already surpassed her PRs in both hurdles events from last year, when she took second in the 300 hurdles and seventh in the 100 hurdles at the Class 4 state meet, is a positive sign for her, though.

“I’m definitely really excited,” Imoh said. “I know I’ll cut time in both the hurdle events. I’m just looking forward to more meets.”

Imoh is still looking to clear 5-2 in the high jump, her best mark from last year. But Handley coach Mike McKiernan said Imoh is on the right track. Imoh placed fourth in Class 4 last year.

“She had been struggling a little bit with her approach,” McKiernan said. “But we worked on some things this week that I think helped that out today. I know five feet is not her best, but it was slick down there and everybody was a little cautious. I thought she did a really nice job there.”

Imoh also anchored the 4x100 team to a time of 50.60, with the Judges soccer trio of senior Alivia Ricci, Worrell and junior Madison Hobson running the first three legs. Handley is still tinkering with its lineup but the Judges recorded a season-best time and only finished 0.12 behind Musselman (W.Va.).

Worrell also continued her spectacular individual season in the individual sprints. She opened the day by capturing the 100 meters in 12.46, defeating Musselman’s Ciara Puller by 0.45. Arrington did not compete in the 100, but she and Worrell each closed their day setting the track on fire in the 200. Worrell set a PR of 24.94 in the 200 (an improvement of 0.59) and Arrington bettered her school record by 0.26 to take second in 25.38.

Earlier in the day, Arrington also shattered her school record in the 400 by almost a full second, recording a time of 57.74 seconds to win by 1.42 seconds. The Pioneers were also led by sophomore Savannah Florek (fourth in the 400, 1:02.81).

Clarke County was led by sophomore Teya Starley (fourth in the 800, 2:28.34, fifth in the 1,600, 5:22.34) and Emmalene Morris (fourth in the high jump with a 4-10 after a scoring adjustment).

Eagles senior Leah Kreeb — the top seed in the high jump as a result of her school-record mark of 5-2.25 set on April 19 — had been dealing with an illness most of the week and finished fifth with a mark of 4-8. Bailey Beard was not feeling well and did not compete in the 100, where she was seeded sixth.

Sherando was led by its 4x800 team (fourth in 10:26.34) which included senior Eva Winston, who also took fourth in the 1,600. Her time of 5:21.68 is the fastest time in the area this season. Junior Sarah Starling took fifth in the shot put (31-2).

The Warriors did not have freshman sprinter Aliza Murray. Tied for the No. 5 seed in the 100 and the No. 5 seed outright in the 200, Murray was unable to compete on Saturday due to a recent injury.

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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