Tracksters are on track

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Bucketful of medals earned at LU's Mid-Area meet

By Mike Forster


Tolsma was tight.  And Bedford County athletes were all right.

This past Friday, 23 schools jammed Liberty University's Tolsma Indoor Track facility for LU's Mid-Area Meet.

While no team scores were maintained, plenty of Bedford tracksters performed in superior fashion.  In fact, Liberty, Staunton River and Jefferson Forest combined for 34 medals (eighth place or higher), as they ran, jumped and vaulted to their hearts' content.

"We are running good times in the meets, and it looks like we should do well in the post-season," said Liberty Head Coach Ben Wiese.  "If we can stay healthy a lot of our kids should go far and finish well."

Jefferson Forest's Erin Saunders was the only Bedfordite to come away with a first-place finish.  The jaunty junior smoked the field in the 3200, finishing 55/100th of a second above the 11-minute mark.

"I was pleased that everyone performed well even though we were only able to practice once last week with school being closed due to weather issues and the MLK holiday," said JF Head Coach Will Stratton.  "We have a very dedicated team this year and I was pleased that many ran personal records."

Saunders also teamed with Alyssa Shupe, Abby May and Elizabeth Ruhland to nab second place in the 4 X 800, with a time of 10:16.

Shupe went on to claim a pair of second-place honors.  In what may have been the most anticipated race of the day, a quartet of superb runners went at it in the 1,000 meters.  Cave Spring's Katie Fortner won the race (2:59), with Shupe,  E.C. Glass's Holly Carrington and Liberty's Kennedy Flynn close behind.

Shupe also took second place in the 1600, at 5:17, just behind Blacksburg's Claire Ewing-Nelson.  Flynn took sixth in that race.

Teammate Casey Davis earned second place in the pole vault, going 10 feet, but found herself edged out of first place on a tiebreaker with Cave Spring's Emily Fulton.

Liberty's Angelic Gee powered herself to a heavenly finish in the shot put.  Gee heaved the iron 32' 8"to establish herself as a favorite to win Seminole glory in a couple of weeks.

On the guys' side, the only Bedford County athlete to earn second-place honors was Liberty's Justin Haupt.  His time of 2:40.76 was a mere 0.35 seconds behind E.C. Glass standout Peter Seufer. These two shall meet again, no doubt.


Other medalists

There were also some notable third-place performances.  In the boys' 4 X 800 relay, Jefferson Forest's Ben Ottman turned on the burners during the last leg to earn bronze.  Ottman came on strong at the finish line, falling short by 0.03 seconds to Christiansburg.  Had he not trimmed his fingernails that morning, he might have nipped the Blue Devils.

Ottman was teamed with Eric Abowd, Cooper Tedford and Andrew Drap in a team that looks eminently strong.

Speaking of strong, Liberty's 4 X 400 team of Megan Beisser, RyAnn Ridley, Flynn, and Laura Garbarini looked just that, cruising to a third-place finish with a time of 4:25.

Liberty's Nate Willis made a statement, finishing third in the 1600 meters at 4:57.

Taylor Jones was Staunton River's top performer of the meet.  She took third in the high jump, going 4'10" during a busy day for the springy senior.

Jones also took fifth in the long jump (16'), sixth in the 55 meter hurdles (7.77) and eighth in the triple jump, tossing herself 32' 2".

JF's Ottman earned fourth in the 1,000, with a nifty time of 2:44.

Liberty's Oksana Kittrell landed fourth in the triple jump, just ahead of River's Jones at 33' 1.5".

Kitrell also took eighth in the long jump (15' 3") and ran the opening leg of the 4 X 200.  There, she was joined by Deysia Baldwin, Ridley and Garbarini, who joined to cruise home in 1:54, good for fifth place.

Other top-eight finishes by County athletes included:

-SR's Marcus Brown, who earned sixth in the long jump (19' 1.5") and eighth in the triple jump (40' 2").

-SR's 4 X 800 of Cole Barrett, Logan Hurt, Hunter Johnson and Matt Rice, sixth, (9:15).

-JF's Tedford, seventh in the 3200, 10:41.

-Liberty's Luke Bondurant, 55 hurdles, seventh, 8.67 seconds.

-JF's May, 1600 meters, seventh, 5:31.

-The JF boys 4 X 200 team of Gil Wright, Cam Miller, Trey Jones and David Aveson, eighth, 1:40.47.

-The Liberty boys 4 X 400 (Bondurant, Jake Tomlin, Winston Davis, and Haupt), eighth, 3:52.

-SR's Aaron Tuck, 500 meters, eighth, 1:14.55.

-SR's Markus Ballengee, high jump, eighth, 5' 4".

-Liberty's Garbarini, 500 meters, eighth, 1:26.65.

-River's 4 X 800 team of Julia Robertson, Savannah Cowan, Cecilia Carreon and Amanda Blake, eighth, 11:40.

"Friday was definitely a good gauge of how we look going into the postseason," said Coach Stratton.  "(It) gave us a good look at the entire core varsity group that will be competing in the postseason, on the track in which conference, region, and state will be held."