Boys' track & field preview: Area distance scene looking strong again

Area distance runners have left their mark at some major track & field competitions over the past few years, and this spring will likely feature similar success.

On Saturday, Handley seniors Garrett Stickley and Will Pardue placed second and fifth, respectively, in the two-mile run at the indoor adidas Track Nationals at the Virginia Beach Sports Center. It’s a sign that they’re both ready to go out with a bang in outdoor track after both have struggled with injuries this year.

The reigning Winchester Star Boys’ Track & Field Athlete of the Year, Stickley placed second in Class 2 in the 3,200 last year and had the area’s fastest mark in the event at 9:08.23. Stickley was also No. 3 in the area in the 1,600 last year and placed 10th in Class 4. Due to a stress fracture, Stickley — who will run for NCAA Division I Florida State next year — did not compete in the postseason in cross country or during the Virginia High School League indoor track season this year.

Pardue had two All-State finishes at last year’s state outdoor track meet, taking fourth in the 3,200 (he had the area’s No. 2 time for the season at 9:09.11) and eighth in the 1,600 (Pardue was the area’s fastest at 4:16.63). Heading to NCAA Division I New Mexico, Pardue was unable to run in the cross country postseason, but in indoor track this year he placed second in Class 4 in the 3,200.

Nick Hayden — The Star’s Track Athlete of the Year in 2022 — is no longer a part of the area distance scene, having graduated from Millbrook and now at NCAA Division I Columbia. But there are four other area Class 4 distance runners who scored points at this year’s state indoor track meet who will look to excel as well.

In the 3,200, James Wood senior Ethan Pratt-Perez (area’s No. 3 runner in the 3,200 last year, 9:15.20) took third and Handley sophomore Will Thomas placed eighth. In the 1,600, Sherando senior Dylan McGraw (signed with NCAA Division III Lynchburg) placed sixth and James Wood junior Eli Clark took seventh.

Pratt-Perez and Clark will lead the James Wood boys, who took ninth in Region 4C last year and had the best local finish of any team at this year’s Region 4D indoor meet (eighth), the new region for Winchester-Frederick County schools.

Handley (eighth in Region 4C outdoor last year) not only has a strong distance crew, but two of Class 4’s premier field athletes.

Junior Jaishaun Offutt is the only area boy to win an indoor state title this year, taking the shot put with a school-record mark of 56 feet, 1 inches. Offutt has improved significantly since last year, when he posted the area’s best mark in the shot with a 50-3 and won the Region 4C title.

The Judges also feature junior Hassan Akanbi, the state runner-up in the outdoor high jump last year and the indoor high jump this year, when he equaled his personal record with a mark of 6-6. Akanbi was also the area’s No. 2 performer in the 100 hurdles last year with a top time of 16.14.

Handley also brings back senior Manno Lusca, who was a state qualifier in the 100 last year and had a top time of 11.28.

Sherando (sixth in Region 4C) performed better than the Judges at both the district and region meets last year, and the Warriors should be formidable again with plenty of strong athletes beyond its distance crew. McGraw was part of a 4x800 team that placed sixth in Class 4 in indoor track.

Junior Micah Carlson might be the most versatile athlete in area track & field. He placed fifth in Class 4 in the discus last year and had a top mark of 150-8. He tied Akanbi for the area’s best mark in the high jump (6-6) and had the No. 3 marks in the long jump (20-9) and triple jump (42-2.5). Carlson also ran on Sherando’s 4x100 team last year and can contribute in the hurdles.

Junior Noah Harris was an All-State high jumper last year in outdoor (third; he had the area’s No. 3 mark at 6-5) and tied for 11th at this year’s indoor meet.

Senior Brady Hamilton was the area’s fastest runner in the 400 last year (49.54) and won the Region 4C title. He was the area’s No. 2 runner in the 200 (22.77) and tied for second in the area in the 100 (11.20). Hamilton competed at the state meet in the 400 and 100.

Millbrook — which had the area’s best Region 4C finish last year (fifth) — was hit hard by graduation. The Pioneers will be led by Elijah McGee, a senior who placed fifth in the 500 at the Class 4 indoor meet and will compete for NCAA Division I Longwood next year.

Clarke County (fourth in Region 2B last year) returns an All-State individual performer in junior Jackson Ellis, who placed eighth in the 800 in Class 2 last year. The Eagles will also benefit from the return of senior Will Booker after a one-year absence. The football and basketball standout had a top mark of 6-0 in the high jump as a sophomore.

The following is a glance at each area team:


Coach: Brad Symons, second season.

Last year: Second in Class 4 Northwestern District; sixth in Region 4C; tied for 20th in Class 4 state.

Key losses: AJ Santiago, Jayden Patten, Ben Frielich, Josh Metz.

Key returnees: Jed Bell, Jr., distance; Micah Carlson, Jr., throws/jumps/hurdles; Ethan Gonzalez, Sr., throws (area’s No. 2 in shot put, 49-2.75); Brady Hamilton, Sr., sprints;, Noah Harris, Jr., jumps; Dylan McGraw, Sr., distance; Harrison Satterly, Jr., sprints; Brock Smith, Sr., distance.

Key newcomers: Donovan Blackwell, So., sprints/jumps; Pete Carter, Fr., sprints/jumps; Tristan Hantute-Abebe, Jr., sprints; Aiden Leatch, Jr., sprints/jumps.

Symons’ outlook: “The expectation for the boys is for them to compete at a high level. We will be competitive within our district. We have some good athletes returning and added some promising newcomers. We will be looking for Dylan McGraw, Micah Carlson, Brady Hamilton and Ethan Gonzalez to have a strong season in their events. We will be leaning on all four this year for their leadership and scoring points for the team. Harrison Satterly had a very good indoor season. Newcomers Pete Carter and Donovan Blackwell have really impressed the coaches with their hard work ethic.”

First meet: Tri competition with Fauquier on Wednesday at Warren County


Coach: Mike McKiernan, 12th season.

Last year: Third in Class 4 Northwestern District; eighth in Region 4C; 11th in Class 4 state.

Key losses: Pierce Francis, Rodd’ney Davenport.

Key returnees: Manno Lusca, Sr., sprints; Rylan Stribling, So., sprints; Will Thomas, So., distance; Will Pardue, Sr., distance; Garrett Stickley, Sr., distance; Hassan Akanbi, Jr., jumps/hurdles; Jordan Tobar, Jr., jumps; Brendan Campbell, Jr., hurdles (area’s No. 3 in 300 hurdles, 42.76); Jaishaun Offutt, Jr., throws.

Key newcomers: None mentioned.

McKiernan’s outlook: “Our first goal is to improve each day. If we are able to improve, we believe we will be competitive in large meets. Our top performers should place well in meets with many athletes. In addition, we have quality performers in many places. A huge improvement is Jaishaun’s shot put improvement by [almost six] feet from last spring to over 56 feet [in indoor track]. Our top performers have returned in good condition after some injuries during the winter. Our district and region will be very competitive due to the plethora of quality programs. James Wood, Sherando and Millbrook have excellent programs on the district level. In the region, Blacksburg, Charlottesville, E.C. Glass, Salem and G.W.-Danville have excellent teams.”

First meet: Host Millbrook, Liberty and Skyline on Thursday


Coach: Jamie McCarty, first season.

Last year: Fifth in Class 4 Northwestern District; fifth in Region 4C; tied for 24th in Class 4 state.

Key losses: Nick Hayden, Scott Montgomery, Landon Baker, Logan Downs, Raheem Rowe, Javell Holmes, Tyler Lam, Trevor Lloyd.

Key returnees: Elijah McGee, Sr., middle distance; Kyler Jackson, Jr, jumps/sprints; Tyson Mallory, Sr., jumps/sprints.

Key newcomers: Jaiden Nunez, Jr., sprints; Cole Purdy, Sr., throws.

McCarty’s outlook: “We are in a rebuilding year. Graduation hit us hard last year. We have a lot of newcomers, not just ninth-graders, but a lot of first-year 10th- and 11th-graders. We have changed how we are approaching things, and are hoping to develop the work ethic and a standard to become a championship-quality team. Elijah is coming off a great indoor season. Kyler and Tyson have been working hard and leading in practice every day. Region 4D is one of the strongest regions in the state. We are hoping to improve on our performance indoors and build a base for a competitive team in the future.”

First meet: Quad competition with Liberty and Skyline at Handley on Thursday

James Wood

Coach: Craig Woshner, first season (also coached Colonels from 1995-2002).

Last year: Fourth in Class 4 Northwestern District; ninth in Region 4C.

Key losses: Andrew Link, Ryen Knotts.

Key returnees: Ethan Pratt-Perez, Sr., distance; Eli Clark, Jr., distance; Gatlin Lockley, Jr., jumps; Chase Lockley, Jr., jumps; Ivan Andrews, So., sprints; Jorel Baltimore, So., hurdles.

Key newcomers: Zach Harrington, Fr., distance.

Woshner’s outlook: “I expect our top distance runners and 4x800 relay team to qualify for the state meet. Eli Clark had a difficult cross country season and that continued early during indoor track, but he really rebounded in the second half.”

First meet: Tri competition with Manassas Park on Wednesday at Brentsville

Clarke County

Coach: Andre Kidrick, 17th season.

Last year: Fourth in Bull Run District; fourth in Region 2B; 29th in Class 2 state.

Key losses: Spencer Blick, Josh Crawford, James Dalton, Artur Mnatsakanyan.

Key returnees: Will Booker, Sr., jumps; Jackson Ellis, Jr., distance; Matthew Stroot, Sr., distance; Carson Chinn, Jr., sprints; James Casey, Jr., distance; Aiden Kreeb, Jr., distance; Wyatt Palmer, Jr., sprints/jumps.

Key newcomers: Cal Beckett, Sr., distance; Lincoln Booker, Jr., sprints/jumps; Brody Ellis, Fr., distance; Landon Horton, Fr., distance; Chris Reid, Fr., sprints.

Kidrick’s outlook: “With so many new members, I am not sure what to expect because of inexperience. But we have added a lot of very athletic athletes and we are really excited to see what this season holds.”

First meet: April 6 at Strasburg’s Ram Country Invitational

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at
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