Fourth in a series.
Quentin Jones stood in Fauquier's gym shortly after being hired as track coach six years ago and eyed the long red banners that hung on the far wall. They were in recognition of the school's district and regional championships. Found there too is a list of the Falcons' state playoff appearances.
Jones was not surprised no state titles were displayed for any Falcons team -- he already knew that. But there, studying the banners, he was taken aback by just how many had gotten close.
"When I came here, my wife, who grew up in this area, quickly put the bug in my ear that no team in the school had ever won a state championship," Jones said. "But standing there looking at those banners was the first time I realized how close people like Diana Story [and the volleyball team she coaches] had gotten. And that thought never left me."
It practically broadsided him at the 2003 outdoor track meet. Only this time, it was one of his teams perched on the doorstep.
"I was standing there with the guys, looking at the point breakdowns and our third-place finish and thinking, 'Next year these other teams better watch out,' " Jones said. "That is the moment when I really knew we could do it."
Sure enough, the Falcons boys' track team delivered the first Virginia AA title in the school's 50-year history one year later. It took one more year to double that total, as the girls' track team followed with a state championship this spring.
Together, the track teams have set a new standard at Fauquier.
"Everybody wants to do track now," said junior sprinter Dania Moore, laughing. "I tell them all just to come on out. It might be hard at first, but they'll get used to it."
Certainly, defending that title next season would have been difficult enough with the graduation of Sarah Bowman, an eight-time All-Met who ran the nation's fastest time this past high school season in the 800 meters (2 minutes 5.41 seconds) and 3,200 (10:16.03) and the nation's second-fastest time in the 1,600 (4:44.09). Bowman accounted for 36 of Fauquier's state championship points.
The Falcons will not even get the chance to defend, as the school moves out of the AA Northwestern District and into the AAA Cedar Run District. The jump will mean new opponents, stiffer competition and a new set of challenges for all of the Falcons' teams.
"We're one of those schools that gets bumped up and down, so we're used to it a little," said Athletic Director Allen Creasy, whose school was last in the AAA Commonwealth District in 2000-01. "The biggest challenge used to be the alignment of season, especially for the girls' sports, but they've got that straightened out. So now it'll be that we'll be playing schools so much larger than us. Stonewall Jackson and Osbourn Park are some of the biggest schools in Prince William County with about 2,800 kids.
"But we're excited and looking forward to that challenge. And we're in a district where I think we can be competitive."
The new Cedar Run assignment will push Fauquier into a district with Brentsville, Culpeper, Osbourn, Osbourn Park and Stonewall Jackson but will not end the Falcons' intra-county rivalry with Liberty, which will remain in the AA Northwestern District. The Falcons and Eagles will continue to meet in every sport, including opening the 2005 football season against one another on Sept. 2 at Fauquier.
"It's such a quality rivalry there was no thought of not playing each other anymore," Creasy said. "It's the one game on the schedule everyone looks most forward to. And nothing can change that."