It was a solid year last year for the area’s Valley District boys track teams.
From the conference and region meets to the Group 3A meet at Harrisonburg, Robert E. Lee, Waynesboro and Fort Defiance brought home a nice collection of medals from those meets and some of those “collectors” are back this season.
Here’s a season outlook for the Leemen, Little Giants and Indians.
Robert E. Lee
The Leemen enjoyed a good postseason last year, and that gives head coach David Marino reason to be optimistic this season.
“We have a good crew back,” Marino said. “We had a good start at Harrisonburg (the CO-ED Relays on March 23) and I think we’ll be better as the season goes.”
A big chunk of that postseason success was produced by sprinter Iyon Oravitz, who is back for his senior season. At the Group 2A meet in Radford, Oravitz capped his season with a first in the 400, a second in the 100 and a third in the 200.
The senior, who was a first-team AllCity/County football selection in the fall, showed he’s ready for another good outdoor season after he won the state crown in the 300 at the Group 2A indoor meet in February.
Also back is Greg Woodard, who finished sixth in the Conference 29 400 as a freshman last year. Joining him on the sprint crew are Devin Williams and Miguel Bryant.
The distances are in good shape for Lee again, despite the graduation of Alex Kearney.
Last year, sophomore Jacob Warner finished sixth in the 1600 at the state meet, and finished second and fifth, respectively, at the Conference 36 and Region 2A East meets. Warner made a big splash this past fall with a third at the Group 2A cross country meet.
Joining him are seniors Dylan Wimer and Collin Yurish, and freshman Oliver Wilson-Cook. Wimer placed eighth in the 1600 and Yurish was sixth in the 3200 at the Conference 36 meet.
In the jumps, it will be Bryant, Tre Simmons and Tenelle Fleshman. Simmons placed sixth in the high jump and eighth in the long jump at Conference 36.
The two areas in which the Leemen are short-handed are in the throws and the hurdles.
“We’re a little unsure about the hurdles because have some new runners there,” Marino said, “but I think we’ll get better there.”
Little Giants head coach Michael Freemen lost some talent from last year’s team, but that doesn’t mean the cupboard is bare this year.
“We’re rebuilding, but we have some young and promising talent,” Freeman said. “They’re working hard and they’re enthusiastic, so we should be all right.”
One runner Freeman does have back is DeVante Robinson.
The senior was a workhorse in the sprints last year in the 100 and 200, as well as the 4×100 relay. Robinson was the Conference 29 champ in the 100, finished fifth in the 200 at the 3A West meet and ran a leg on Waynesboro’s 4×100 team that finished fifth at the Group 3A meet.
Joining Robinson as a sprinter is sophomore Phillip Monterozzo, whom Freeman describes as one of his “up and comers” this season.
Running in the 400 will be a pair of sophomores — Jahleel Tucker and Charles Showalter.
Senior thrower Jaylen Simmons is another returning point-scorer. Simmons had a solid 2015 campaign, qualifying for the 3A West meet in both the shot put and discus, then qualified for the Group 3A meet in both events.
There’s a mix of youth and experience in the distances. Junior Justice Allen and freshman Stuart Vailes were both big reasons for the Little Giants’ trip to the Group 3A cross country meet in the fall. Patrick Maneval, a freshman who also ran cross country, will also run distances.
In the jumps, The Little Giants will have another pair of sophomores in Daviante Weems and Savion Jackson
Right now, Indians head coach Bill Converse has more questions than answers when assessing his team.
“It’s hard to see where everyone is individually,” he said. “We’ve had relays, but no individual meets, so it’s kind of hard to see where everyone is. We sometimes have to wait until mid-April for that.”
However, Converse does know where some of the pieces to his puzzle fit.
The best place to start is with Converse’s throwers — junior Dakota Morris and sophomore Zach Boyers, both of whom had outstanding postseasons in 2015.
Boyers was second in the shot and third in the discus at Conference 29. He placed in both events at the 3A West meet to move on to the state meet, where he finished in the top 10 in the discus, and in the recently completed indoor season, he finished in the shot at the Group 3A meet.
Morris won the Conference 29 discus title, then placed at the region meet to gain states. He made that chance count as he placed fifth in 3A in the discus.
Converse said both are talented athletes, but one things sets them apart from others.
“They are incredibly hard workers,” Converse said. “They’ll do their football workout three days a week, then come to the track and work hard there. They’re good throwers because they work hard at it.”
Bailey Harlow, a senior, is another hard worker at his craft — the hurdles. He medaled in both the 110 and 300 hurdles at the conference meet, qualifying him for regions in both.
“Bailey isn’t a natural hurdler, but he’s dedicated and he works very hard,” Converse said. “Sometimes he’s tougher on himself than the coaches are, but that’s why he’s doing well.”
Converse also knows that he has a lot of young athletes this year, and some upperclass first-timers as well.
Seniors Josh Clifton and Jordan Stracener are two of the newcomers. They will be working in the sprints, along with senior Hunter Simmons and freshmen Jacob Jones and Cole Sligh.
“We have a lot eighth- and ninth-graders this year,” Converse said. “But they are all working hard and have a great attitude.”