The fledgling track programs at Colonial Forge and Forest Park have taken the long road to quick success.
The Eagles’ and Bruins’ distance runners have developed into some of the state’s best, which in turn, has translated into tremendous team success. That talent was on display April 18 at the Stafford Relays.
Battling cold and damp weather, the schools’ respective 3,200-meter relay teams washed away the competition with relative ease. The Bruins foursome of Jessica Koch, Stefanie Slekis, Beth Fahey and Karen Richardson raced to a comfortable lead early and won the event in 9:43.74. Brothers Dan and Sean Leyh, along with Mike Porter and John Hoehne, fell behind early but quickly made up ground to win going away, running a 8:07.80.
Amazingly enough, neither team was technically at full-strength. All-state 1,000-meter runner Ecaterina Burton was on vacation and didn’t run. Neither did Ryan Wallis, who ran on the Eagles’ all-state 3,200 squad in the indoor season. Wallis is currently dealing with personal matters and may not return to the Eagles’ 3,200-meter relay team this spring.
“We came in just trying to run,” said Sean Leyh after running the 3,200 relay for the first time this spring. “It’s not like there was a ton of competition. [There was] Woodbridge and Stafford teams, and I know a lot of teams didn’t have their full [team] here. We’re just trying to come in and get a good time for what we had. We really had no clue what was going to happen.”
Sean Leyh, Hoehne and Porter were part of the all-state 3,200-meter squad last year in the outdoor season. They lost team member Brandon Swecker to graduation and Colonial Forge coach Tori Helmer has been looking for a replacement, especially with the loss of Wallis. Freshman Dan Leyh filled in admirably at Stafford in his first time running with the foursome. He clocked a 2:07 split, a time that Helmer was hoping to get from her fourth runner.
“I don’t know if we’ll have him [Wallis] back for the rest of the season or not, so we’re kind of playing right now on who we can put in that fourth spot,” Helmer said. “But I think Daniel [Leyh] has stepped and did what he needed to do and we got two others that can run 2:07 or faster, Ryan Connell and Tony Nowatarski.”
Koch, Fahey, Slekis and Richardson comprised the 3,200-meter squad that finished sixth in this year’s indoor state meet. Adding Burton to the mix gives the Bruins’ tremendous options. The junior won the Northwest Region title in the 1,000 and is running in her first outdoor season after giving up competitive soccer this spring.
The improvement of the Bruins’ distance runners –?all of them are juniors except for the freshman Slekis –?has Forest Park on the doorstep of wresting the Cardinal district title from powerhouse Gar-Field. In just the program’s third year, Forest Park tied for the Northwest Region indoor title with the Indians, who have won seven straight outdoor district titles under coach Jeff Custer.
“You look at Potomac, they don’t even have a foursome that can run the 4 by 8,” Fahey said. “I think we are extremely lucky to have a team like this.”
LOCALS HEADED TO PENN RELAYS
The Osbourn Park 1,600-meter and 400-meter relay teams will join Fahey, Burton, Richardson, and Slekis at the prestigious Penn Relays on Thursday. The Bruins foursome will also run in the distance medley relay event.
The Yellow Jackets competed at the Penn Relays last year and ran a school-record 4:10.53 in the 1,600 relay. For the Bruins, it will be the first time at the international event held at University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Koch is staying behind to catch up on her studies while teammate Christina Lindsay is nursing a sore hamstring and will not compete. Normally, Lindsay would be running the distance medley relay. Instead, Slekis will get her first opportunity to run the event.
“We are so excited,” Fahey said. “I can not wait, personally, because my coach says there’s going to be like 20,000 people. Oh my God! That is so awesome.”
Brandice Flournoy, Elizabeth Yates, Lindsay Simon, Devon Alston and alternate Beth Pacentrilli head up OP’s two relay squads. After running a season-best 4:07.04 at the Gojekian Relays on April 5, the Yellow Jackets’ 1,600 team will race for just the third time this season on Thursday.
OP coach Mike Feldman says his 1,600 team is already about 10 seconds ahead of where they were at this point last year and thinks his group could crack the 4:00 barrier this season. Their 2002 season-best of 4:03.13 was good for 16th in the Group AAA state meet at Richmond.
“We certainly want to go after it but so much is dependent on the weather,” Feldman said. “If it’s nasty, cold and horrible out, I don’t know how fast we can go. But if it’s a nice day, we’ll go after it. I’d like to say a sub-4 is in us this early, but I don’t know yet.”
Forest Park coach Dave Davis is hoping to qualify for the state meet in the 3,200. The Bruins would have to run 9:39 or under.
“Hopefully we’ll put it all together and run well,” Davis said.
BROWN FARING WELL AT MEETS
Potomac sophomore Kharya Brown is having a fine outdoor season, faring extremely well in her past two meets. At the Taco Bell Track & Field Classic at Columbia, S.C. on April 12, Brown was fourth in the 100 and 200-meter dashes, respectively, and also finished eighth in the long jump.
Her times of 12.11 and 24.84 in the 100 and 200 are the area’s best so far this season and her 200 time was a personal-best. Last Saturday, Brown won the 200 and 400-meter dashes at the Appomattox Invitational. Her 400 time of 59.62 is the best in the area.
Kipp Hanley covers track and field for the Potomac News & Manassas Journal Messenger. Reach him at (703) 878-8053 or e-mail him at [email protected].