"They Truly Brought Their Best"

Competitive excellence is a lofty ideal and, indeed, the athlete’s ultimate goal.
It’s preparing for every eventuality and making spontaneous adjustments when situations shift.
 
It’s laser focus. It’s blocking out distractions. It’s disregarding irrelevant factors that can adversely affect concentration.
 
It’s drawing on the energy provided by your teammates, coaches, and the crowd in the arena.
 
It’s trusting your training and leaving heart and soul on the field of endeavor.
 
It’s putting “we” before “me” and performing not for personal glory but for your team.
 
It’s embracing pain, overcoming doubt, and finding that extra, final burst when there’s nothing left to give.
 
It’s paying the price for achievement with sweat equity.
 
It’s summoning your best when your best is needed.
 
All that’s left is to deliver.
 
This past Saturday, Collegiate’s boys track and field team delivered.
 
Man, did they deliver.
 
In competition among 24 squads staged at the Bolling Fieldhouse on the St. Christopher’s School campus, the Cougars scored in 13 of 15 events, won three of them handily, and secured their first-ever VISAA indoor track and field title in the 14 years that the winter championship meet has been contested.
 
Collegiate amassed 106 points to finish just ahead of the host Saints (98). Woodberry Forest (61), Fork Union (58), and Virginia Episcopal (40) finished third through fifth.
 
“It starts with our four senior captains: Donald Adams, Liam Bellamy, Johnny White, and Gilbert Deglau,” said head coach Brent Miller of the team culture of excellence. “They brought focus each day. Coaches can talk about preparation until we’re blue in the face. When athletes see their peers leading the way, that’s what sets the tone.”
 
Adams, ranked first in the long jump, won with a 22-5 performance.
 
“Coming in as top seed was comforting,” he said. “You also feel more pressure when you’re expected to win. All week, I worked on technique. With long jump, it’s about not fouling. Sometimes when I do foul, I get frazzled and frustrated.
 
“When I’m getting ready to jump, I take a deep breath, I run, I jump. All I had to do was breathe in and breathe out, and then I was ready to go. This time, I didn’t have any nerves. I wasn’t antsy. I felt really good and thought I could win, but my biggest goal was scoring points for my team.”
 
Adams also placed fourth in the 55 (6.61), ran the leadoff leg of the fourth place 4x200 relay, then finished second in the 300, an event in which he was seeded ninth, in a lifetime best 36.25.
 
“Going in, I felt positive I could score,” he said of the 300. “I didn’t necessarily know I’d be second. My whole thing was just go out and run the fastest time I could to get points for my team.”
 
Bellamy, who won the 1600 and 1000 and anchored the victorious 4x400 relay team in the Prep League meet a week earlier, completed a monster triple at states.
 
He placed second in the 1600 (4:30.26), won the 500 (1:06.70) an hour later, then, after a 30-minute breather, finished third in the 1000 (2:35.96). His performances garnered 24 points.
 
“This (the 1600/500/1000 triple) was something I’d never done before,” he said. “My focus was not letting the short recovery time be a mental block. I just believed in mind over matter. If I went into it with a negative mentality, things wouldn’t go the way I hoped.
 
“I knew I was running for something bigger than myself. You’re running for place, not time. In the end, what’s more valuable, the state championship for the school or a fast time? That was a no-brainer.”
 
The Cougars led the Saints by eight points entering the penultimate event, the 3200, where White was seeded seventh and Clay Ryan 11th.
 
An outperform-the-performance-list effort and strong finishes relative to the three talented St. Christopher’s competitors could ensure the team victory. Well aware of the stakes, they delivered big-time to the cheers of the Collegiate faithful lining the track.
 
White finished third in 9:48.40, an indoor personal best by 12 seconds. His 1600 splits were 4:54/4:54.
        
“I knew I had to place pretty high in both the 16 and 32,” said White, who earlier had run the 1600 in 4:31.48, good for fourth. “My goal in the two-mile was to stay on the back of the St. Christopher’s runner and make a move in the last few laps.
        
“It went exactly as planned. Right from the gun, I sat right on his back. With three laps (of the 16) to go, I made a move around the pack and held a pretty fast pace. Once I did made the move, I knew I could sustain the pace.”
 
Ryan, running 4:54/5:06, finished seventh in 10:01.84, a 24-second lifetime best.
 
“There was a pretty good amount of pressure,” he said. “If Johnny and I had scored based on our seeds, we wouldn’t have put the state title out of reach. I pretty much decided that I had to beat two or three SC guys, so I went into the race with a chip on my shoulder.
 
“When I started seeing the lap count go down to five, I kept telling myself, ‘One more. One more.’ I had to do it for the team, for the people I’d worked with all season.”
        
The efforts by White and Ryan netted the Cougars five points and a 13-point lead with only the 4x400 remaining. They could not be caught.
 
There were other stellar efforts, of course.
 
Alfred Stratford won the high jump with a 6-5 performance. J.P. Mintz (14-0), Trey Thompson (13-6), and Hayden Luckert (12-6) picked up 19 team points with a 2-3-4 showing in the pole vault.
 
The Cougars’ 4x800 (Sam Hart, Hugh Williams, Jonathan Yackel, Ryan), 4x200 (Adams, Andrew Bullock, Thomas Lucy, Jack Smithson), and 4x400 (Hayden Johnson, Henry Mountcastle, Lucy, Bullock) teams placed third (8:35.08), fourth (1:34.11), and sixth (3:38.03), respectively.
 
As the competition came to a close, there were many hugs and high fives, much joy, a myriad photo ops, and a palpable feeling of accomplishment amongst athletes and coaches.
 
“Everybody understood what was at stake,” Miller said. “There was that anticipation. They were ready to go. No one was naïve about how every single point mattered. Everybody knew the importance of staying and cheering on their teammates. Everybody was invested. They wanted to do it for everybody else. They truly brought their best.”
      -- Weldon Bradshaw
 
Collegiate’s girls track team placed second among 22 entries in the VISAA championship meet Saturday. The Cougars recorded 71.5 points. St. Catherine’s won with 162.5. Norfolk Academy (52), Episcopal High School (40), and St. Stephen’s-St. Agnes (37.5) finished third through fifth, respectively. The Cougars’ Ashley D’Ambrosia won the state title in the pole vault (10-6).
 
Please click here for complete VISAA championship results.
 
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