Apple Blossom Invitational - Boys'

WINCHESTER — Area basketball fans got used to seeing Millbrook senior Javell Holmes soar to tremendous heights on his numerous slam dunks this winter.

For the first time, Holmes is now displaying his leaping ability outdoors. He might not be touching the clouds, but it sure feels like it when watching him in action.

A rookie member of the Pioneers track & field team, Holmes set personal records in each of the three jumping events — winning two of them — to capture the boys’ Most Valuable Performer award on Saturday at the 54th H. Brian Landes Apple Blossom Invitational at James Wood’s Kelican Stadium.

Holmes won both the high jump and long jump by three inches. He recorded a mark of 6 feet, 3 inches (previous best, 6-2) in the high jump and a top of mark of 20-9.50 in the long jump (previous best, 20-7.5). Holmes also took third in the triple jump with a 43-3 to surpass his previous best of 42-7.5.

Holmes’ reasoning for joining Millbrook’s track team this year is pretty straightforward.

“I just had free time on my hands, and I knew I had good jumping ability,” Holmes said. “I decided to take my talents and put it towards track.”

The Pioneers are certainly benefiting.

Millbrook didn’t enter its strongest possible lineup on Saturday. For example, defending Class 4 800-meter state champion Nick Hayden only ran the 3,200, and the Pioneers did not enter the 4x400, an event they took second in at the Class 4 indoor meet.

But Millbrook still took third on Saturday out of 17 teams with 65 points. Woodgrove won with 106 points. Led by a school-record, championship performance in the 400 by junior Brady Hamilton, Sherando took second with 90 points.

James Wood — which received wins from senior Andrew Link in the 110 hurdles as well as the 4x400 relay team — placed fifth with 54 points. Handley’s championship 4x800 team led the Judges to sixth with 53.5 points. Clarke County was last with 2 points.

Holmes beat a strong field to win the high jump.

Handley sophomore Hassan Akanbi came in as the top seed with a mark of 6-6, but after he cleared 5-10 he stopped jumping due to a knee injury (Akanbi tied for fourth). Sherando sophomore Noah Harris (top mark of 6-5 this season) and Mountain View junior Stuart Pirtle (top mark of 6-2) each cleared 6-0, but only Holmes cleared 6-2. With Holmes jumping by himself, he then cleared 6-3 to set a PR. Harris finished second as a result of Pirtle needing more attempts to clear 6-0.

Holmes took the lead for good on his second long jump attempt of the competition, beating another first-year track member in Sherando senior AJ Santiago (second with a 20-6.5). Only Liberty senior Ryan Wilson-McCoy (45-0.25) and Santiago (43-6) finished ahead of Holmes in the triple jump.

“My coach [assistant] Lydia [Laws] always tells me to think ahead, and I thought about that this meet,” Holmes said. “I knew I had to get PRs in all three of my events, and I did that.

“[For the rest of the year, my goal] is just to stay locked in and be able to do what I have to do for me and for this team.”

Another Millbrook assistant coach, Jamie McCarty, expects Holmes to keep improving.

“I think better days are ahead of him,” McCarty said. “Every week he’s been kind of picking up some things that’s he’s been doing wrong and he’s been trying to work on them in practice every week. He had a good day today, and once again he’s put himself on a really good path that if he can continue to do that over the next four or five weeks, he’ll put himself in a pretty good position as we work towards the postseason.”

It was a banner day for first-year track athletes. The top seed in the 400, Hamilton recorded a time of 50.55 seconds to blow away the field by 1.3 seconds. Hamilton improved on his seed time of 50.93 in breaking the school record of 50.63 set in 2006.

Hamilton could be overheard asking fellow 400 runners about their strategy for the event prior to the race. Hamilton likely makes a few people change their approach on the fly when he runs. On Saturday, he quickly made up the stagger with his fast start and never gave anyone a chance to catch him.

“I just go,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said he decided to run track because, “I know I have speed. I just want to use it somewhere.”

Hamilton is using it to help Sherando in several ways. In addition to ranking first in the area in the 400, he also ranks in the area’s top three in the 100 (he placed fifth in 11.53 on Saturday) and 200, and he helped the Warriors set a school record in his favorite event on Saturday, the 4x100. Hamilton teamed with Santiago, senior Jayden Patten and sophomore Micah Carlson to place third in 44.03 (previous mark, 44.06 in 2010).

“It’s fun to run with your teammates,” Hamilton said.

Sherando first-year head coach Brad Symons has certainly been impressed with what he’s gotten from Hamilton this year.

“When he first came in, I was told he was going to be one of our hurdlers,” Symons said. “That kind of got thrown out the window.”

In addition to taking second in the long jump and triple jump, Santiago placed seventh in the 100 (11.66).

The Warriors also received an outstanding all-around performance from Carlson. In addition to running on the 4x100 team, the All-State discus thrower as a freshman placed second in the discus (146-6), third in the long jump (20-3) and sixth in the triple jump (42-2.5).

“[Carlson’s] very versatile,” Symons said. “[Hamilton, Carlson and Santiago] gave their all today. I’m real proud of them.”

Sherando was also led by its 4x800 team of senior Ben Freilich, Harris, junior Adrian Banks and sophomore Jed Bell, which placed third in 8:35.25.

“For today, especially since we had to move some people around because of prom, I thought we did well,” Symons said. “Everybody gave a great effort.”

Millbrook’s Hayden took second in the 3,200 in 9:43.87, 7.37 seconds behind Briar Woods senior Zach Mitchell (9:36.50). Pioneers junior Elijah McGee was the runner-up in the 800 in 2:02.93. Woodgrove’s Prescott Noll won in 2:00.77.

James Wood’s Link trailed Woodgrove’s Brayden Nester as they made their way toward the last hurdle, but Link rallied and won by 0.08 with a time of 41.05. Later, Link teamed with senior Ryen Knotts, junior Zach Smith and sophomore Trenton Manili to win the 4x400 by 2.19 seconds over Musselman (W.Va.) in 3:30.11.

Link also placed second in the 110 hurdles in 15.96 behind Pirtle (15.40). The Colonels were also led by their 4x800 team (sophomore Eli Clark and juniors Colton Staneart, Will Andrews and Ethan Pratt-Perez), which took second in 8:20.55, and Pratt-Perez, who placed third in the 1,600 in 4:27.94.

One day after they both competed in the Penn Relays in Philadelphia, Handley juniors Will Pardue (seventh in the 3,000 in 8:37.57 out of 25 finishers at the Penn Relays) and Garrett Stickley (10th in the 3,000 in 8:41.19) ran in just one event on Saturday, but they made it count. The duo teamed with senior Pierce Francis and freshman Will Thomas to win the 4x800 and accomplish their goal of getting a state-qualifying time, finishing in 8:12.87 to eclipse the standard of 8:15.78.

Handley coach Mike McKiernan was also pleased to see Francis get an individual state time of 9:46.89 in the 3,200, where Francis took third and ran a final lap of 69 seconds to eclipse the qualifying mark by two seconds. The Judges were also led by junior Peter Kim, who took second with a mark of 11-0 in the pole vault competition held Thursday at Handley.

Overall, though, the Judges did not do as well as they hoped. Akanbi didn’t run the 110 hurdles because of his injury (he was the No. 4 seed). He actually had a week off to rest before returning to practice this week, but could only manage four long jumps, one triple and one high jump. Senior Aaron Lee has been bothered by a hip flexor injury that flared up on Saturday, resulting in a sub-par day for him. Lee did not run at all in the 200, where he was the No. 2 seed.

Clarke County was led by eighth-place finishes from sophomores Jackson Ellis (400, 53.57) and Logan LaMaster (high jump, 5-8). Senior Spencer Blick was the No. 2 seed in the 300 hurdles and No. 5 seed in the 110 hurdles but did not compete due to 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.
Follow on Twitter @WinStarSports1


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