STAUNTON – At first glance, track and field doesn’t look like a team sport.
But talk with athletes like Robert E. Lee’s Iyon Oravitz and Jacob Warner and you’ll get a different feeling about that.
That feeling was quite evident Wednesday as the Leemen hosted Fort Defiance, Fishburne Military School and Broadway in a meet at Robert E. Lee High School.
Oravitz, a senior sprinter, and Warner, a junior distance specialist, both have had plenty of individual glory over the past year. Both are in line for more this spring, but they also are finding ways to help their teammates improve in the process.
With Oravitz, the Group 2A indoor 300-meter champ this past winter, it’s by returning to an old event — the long jump — and by running more in the 4×100 relay and less in one of his specialties, the 400.
“I thought our 4×100 had a chance to get to states,” Oravitz said. “I wanted more of our guys to get a chance to experience states because I liked it so much, and I thought the 4×100 would be the best way to do that.”
So, Oravitz has teamed up with Tavian Brown, Devin Williams and Gregory Woodard, and the quartet has steadily improved throughout the season — so much so that they surpassed the Group 2A state qualifying time of 45.77 with a 45.05 las week at Spotswood.
“Right now, we’re so far ahead of where we started from,” Oravitz said. “We’re consistently running 45s, so we’re really close to qualifying.”
Because of that, he waited until Wednesday to run his first 400, the event he won at the Group 2A outdoor championships last spring. He won the race, one of four first on the day for him.
He returned to the long jump pit for the first time since his sophomore year on Wednesday purely to help the team score more points. He won the event Wednesday, hitting a leap of 20 feet, 51/4 inches on his first attempt, equaling the state qualifying distance of 25-51/4.
“[Lee Athletic Director David Tibbs] always told me I could be a good long jumper if I tried hard, but I didn’t listen to him,” Oravitz said. “Everybody told me before the year that I should try it, so I decided to do it. I really didn’t expect to go 20 feet today. I was surprised.”
“I never thought I would be in this position,” said Warner, who won both the 1,600 and 3,200 Wednesday, with Wilson-Cook placing second in both. “I’m glad to help the next generation. Oliver has turned into a great runner and I hope he keeps it up.”Warner, who finished third in the Group 2A cross country championship in the fall and fourth in the 3,200 indoors, is contributing by mentoring freshman teammate Oliver Wilson-Cook, much in the same way he was mentored by 2015 Lee graduate Alex Kearney.
When Wilson-Cook first started running with Warner, he was a little unsure.
“I said, ‘Well, I’ll try it,'” he said. “But running with him has helped me to meet my goals and now I wanted to try and beat him when I run with him. He’s given me great motivation.”
Both meets were close affairs. In the boys meet, the Leemen topped Fort Defiance 90-77, while the Lee Ladies got past the Indians 63-48.
The Indians got a big boost late in the boys meet with a 1-2-3 sweep of the 200 and a win in the 4×400 relay. Cole Sligh, Jordan Stracener and Hunter Simmons swept the 200, with Sligh winning in 24.1.
Zach Boyers and Dakota Morris went 1-2 in both the shot and discus, while Jacob Jones won the 800 and Bailey Harlow took the 300 hurdles.
Tenelle Fleshman got a win for the Leemen in the 110 hurdles, while Lee’s 4×800 relay team won its race.
Fishburne had a double winner in Boubacar Sallah-Mohammad, who won the high jump and triple jump.
In the girls meet, the Lee Ladies were led by Deja Pepper, who won both the 200 and 400, and Shelby Lawson, who took the long jump and triple jump. Makayla Hackett won the 100, while Lee also got firsts in the 4×100 and 4×800 relays.
The Indians’ girls team picked up big points in the field events.
Tiffany Taylor and Angelica Martinez went 1-2 in the high jump. Payton Hansen and Kelci Redifer did the same in the shot put, while Redifer won the discus as well.