By Tessa Jones and Erin Walker
The James River Knights traveled to Liberty University on Saturday, January 5 to compete in the Bulldog Invitational. This meet hosted 80 teams and upwards of 1,500 athletes, ensuring fierce competition throughout the day. The meet started at 9:30 a.m. and lasted well into the evening, with the last event beginning at 9:10 p.m. Stepping off the bus into the crowded entrance would have made anyone nervous, especially knowing that you’ll be competing against some of the top runners in the country. Despite the numbers, James River really made some noise at this meet.
The meet started with a strong performance from the girls’ 4x800 meter relay. Tessa Jones started off the knights as the first leg of the relay, handing the baton off to Catherine Amos, who handed off to Kayla Myers, who handed it off to the last leg, Abbagail Link. The girls finished 14th with a time of 11:39 minutes.
Next up was the 55 meter dash. Erin Walker was the only girl entry in this event, but made sure Liberty knew that James River was there! She ran 7.7 seconds, running a blazing personal best that qualifies her for the state meet. Walker placed 13th out of 135 runners.
As the 55 meter dash was being run, the girls’ 1600 meter run lined up on the outside of the track; there were 149 entries in the 1600, making sure there was intense competition in every heat. Lily Snow of Deep Run High School ran a winning time of 5:03, the fifth fastest time in the nation so far this year. The Knights entered in Kayla Myers and Abbagail Link to run the mile. Myers ran 6:34 minutes, placing 101st, and Link ran 6:18 minutes, earning her 72nd place.
The 55 meter hurdles was run next on the track with Reagan Hester as the only girl entry. She ran 10.4 seconds and placed 34th overall.
After hurdles, the 4x200 meter relay took to the track. This race kept everyone in the facility on the edge of their seats as the girls sprinted around the track, running at top speed. Two teams, Mills Godwin and Highland Springs, ran times that qualified them for the New Balance National Indoor Track Meet, running only .01 seconds apart from each other in a nail biting finish. The James River girls team ran 2:00 minutes even with runs from Rachael Hix, Reagan Hester, Morgan Marshall, and Erin Walker; they placed 15th overall.
The Knights had two entries in the 300 meter run: Erin Walker and Morgan Marshall. Walker ran 45.9 seconds, which won her heat, and placed 35th. Marshall ran 46.9 seconds and placed 72nd overall.
Throughout the day, long and triple jump took place on the inside of the track. Morgan Marshall and Rachael Hix jumped for the Knights in both events. Marshall long jumped 13 feet 1 inch, earning her 66th place and a personal best! She also triple jumped 28 feet 5 inches, placing 32nd. Hix long jumped 11 feet 2 inches, placing 97th and triple jumped 27 feet 2 inches, which placed 42st.
The James River boys also gave incredible performances last weekend, with Evan Akers kicking off the boy’s events in the 55 meter hurdles. This was Aker’s first time running the 55 meter hurdles at a meet, and what a meet to start with! He ran an 11.5, a season’s best.
Next was the boy’s 55 meter dash. Gabe Sabastino was the only boy’s entry and ran a speedy time of 7.6, his personal best, and earned 130th place.
While Aker’s and Sabastino were running their races, the boy’s 4x800 relay team, consisting of Anthony Etzler, Cole Miller, Daniel Holter and Camden Powell, ran a time of 9 minutes and 11 seconds. Not only did this time win them 17th place overall, but also solidified their seed at the state meet later on this winter.
When asked about the state qualifying 4x800 meter relay performance, Daniel Holter feels pretty good about it. “I think we did as good as we have so far” he says, “and we hope to continue to improve.” Their 9:11 minute time not only qualified them for the state meet, but ranks them third in the state. The boys’ plan from now until then is simply “To get faster.”
The 300 meter dash was a close race for the River boys, with Akers and Sabastino both running for the Knights. Sabastino ran a 42.5 and Akers ran a 42.58, taking 129th and 130th place.
In the boy’s 500 meter dash, Owen Krisnitski placed 88th overall. This was his first time running the 500 meter ever, having switched from long distance to sprints this season. He showed that he is an all around athlete with a blazing time of 1:21.
To finish if off for the runners, Daniel Holter ran in the boy’s 1000m, placing 88th overall with a time of 3:03, this season’s personal best.
The James River throwers also had a successful weekend, with Logan Williamson throwing 44 ft in the boys shot put, earning him in 6th place. Deacon Paivanas threw 40 feet 8 inches, winning him 18th place. Jeremiah Albert threw 39 feet 10 inches and placed 21st overall.
River’s jumpers also gave phenomenal performances, despite our small numbers, Sabastino and Krisnitski both shook the table. In long jump, Sabastino jumped 14 feet 6 inches, while Krisnitski jumped 15 feet flat. Sabastino was our only boy triple jumper and jumped 30 feet 10 inches.
Coach Vincent Wyatt, the hurdling and mid-distance coach, said of the meet, “The Bulldog Invitational was an amazing meet and a great opportunity to our student athletes to compete against some of the best in the state. We work very hard in practice to prepare ourselves for meets and I’m very happy with the approach our student athletes had in every race.”