Osbourn Park seniors Anthony Arena and Brandice Flournoy finally tasted success at Monday's Cedar Run District indoor track championship, but they will have more to overcome than powerhouses Gar-Field and Colonial Forge if they hope to gain good state-qualifying times at Saturday's Northwestern Region meet.
Arena set meet records in the 1,600 meters (4 minutes 35.84 seconds) and 3,200 meters (9:59.35) as the boys beat Potomac by 101 points for their first district track championship. Flournoy captured the 500 (1:22.02) and triple jump (35 feet) to lead the girls' first indoor-track title performance, a 58-point win over runner-up Potomac on Fork Union Military Academy's outdoor track.
The teams will return to the site of their triumphs for the regional meet, but will be restricted to the 160-meter indoor track and will not be able to wear spikes -- a prospect that has area athletes and coaches worried about clocking competitive state-qualifying times.
"The turns are so tight that as fast as you're going, if you can't wear spikes, it takes energy to go around them," Arena said.
Virginia Military Institute, which has hosted the regional meet in past years, has closed its track for resurfacing, and Fork Union has banned spikes because the track encircles the basketball court.
Even if they already have run a state-qualifying time or place in the top six (top three for relays) this weekend, athletes' seeding times for the state championship are determined by their times in the district and regional meets. Area teams may be at a disadvantage compared with Northern Region or Eastern Region teams whose regional meets are at George Mason University and Christopher Newport University, respectively.
"VMI is not blazing either, but it's just kind of frustrating," Arena said. "Times will be slower. I was off [the state standard] by about two seconds [Monday], so I'm hoping to get a good time at regionals."
E.C. Glass Coach Rod Camden, the regional meet director, said he was disappointed by the prohibition on spikes, but said complaints about the short track are not a problem.
"Fork Union is not that bad a track," he said. "I think it's just as fast as the 200-meter track at VMI," he said.
Nevertheless, Forest Park Coach Dave Davis recently petitioned the Virginia High School League to consider athletes' regional qualifying standards for seeding purposes in the state meet, but was told it was too late to change the procedure. He said he will propose the change next year.
"It's not an equal playing field, that's all I'm saying," Davis said. "Did I do it for my kids? Probably. But at the same time, I'm doing it for the other kids, too."
While the state meet is on the line at the regional meet, area teams are also eager to run against each other.
As Osbourn Park was dominating the Cedar Run, Gar-Field's boys and girls continued their reign over the Cardinal District. Senior Afua Amponsah, a transfer from Annandale, won the 55 dash (7.34), the 55 hurdles (8.34) and the 300 dash (41.64) as the Indians and their superiority in field events edged Forest Park by 17 points; Darren Garrigan led the boys to a 70-point win over defending champion Woodbridge with victories in the 55 dash (6.44) and the long jump (22-0.5).
"I think it would have been interesting if we were still in the same district, I think we could have been up there with Gar-Field," Arena said. "It will be interesting to see how we do against some of the local teams at regionals, as well as Colonial Forge and a couple others."