The victory gave the Spartans a sweep of the day’s distance relays at the Virginia Beach Sports Center; earlier in the day, West Springfield prevailed in a dramatic 4x800 girls’ final.
South Lakes didn’t crown a state champion but placed in eight events to edge Battlefield for the boys’ team title. Seahawks junior Tyler Bennett led the way, placing second in the long and triple jump and seventh in the 500, in addition to being part of the third-place 4x400 relay team. Battlefield had three champions: Brian DiBassinga (triple jump), Austin Gallant (shot put) and the 4x400 relay team.
For West Springfield’s relay runners, a triumphant finish seemed unlikely after the season was interrupted in February when exposure to the coronavirus triggered a two-week quarantine.
The quarantine extended beyond the district meet, which meant the Spartans’ distance runners couldn’t qualify for individual region or state events. But Region 6C rules allow each of its 13 teams to include relay teams regardless of district results. So if the Spartans could stay fit during quarantine, they had a chance.
Less than a week after returning to the team — and with just one practice — the Spartans won the region meet. On Monday, they were crowned state champions.
“At first it was demoralizing,” said West Springfield’s Alex Asady, the lone returner from last season’s 4x800 state title squad. “But all that time we couldn’t practice, we kept working out, kept training at home. That made the difference today.”
Confusion reigned in the girls’ 4x800. In fact, even West Springfield anchor Jane Bruenjes crossed the finish line wondering what was up until teammate Anastasiia Goi shouted the good news from the sideline.
“She was like, ‘Jane, we won!’ ” Bruenjes recalled. “And then I just started crying.”
The race featured heavy congestion in the exchange zones and a collision that sent the anchors for two of the Spartans’ chief challengers, Woodson and Ocean Lakes, tumbling to the track.
Somehow, Bruenjes got through unscathed — she said she didn’t even know a collision had occurred — and followed through on a lead that leadoff runner Chloe Miller kept in range, Ella Johnson seized and Aidan MacGrath maintained.
The drama continued post-race, though, as Woodson was awarded a solo time trial about an hour later. Had the Chiefs beaten West Springfield’s time, Woodson would have become the state champion. Instead, the Chiefs settled for second.
“The strangest thing I’ve seen in 20 years of coaching,” Spartans Coach Chris Pellegrini said.
In other events …
-- Hayfield also produced multiple champions with Christian Di Nicolantonio (pole) and Xavier Carmichael (55).
-- Finally free of a face covering during competition, Herndon sophomore Gillian Bushee regained form and blew away the girls’ 3,200 field. Bushee placed second in this event last season but came in seeded eighth this time after an uneven series of results she attributed in part to a Fairfax County Public Schools mandate that athletes remain masked at all times.
“I’m about 30 seconds slower in a mask,” said Bushee, who lapped about half of Monday’s field and finished more than 12 seconds ahead of runner-up Hailey Lentz of Patriot. “I could definitely feel the difference.”
-- Battlefield senior Brittany Fort took the shot put, although evidently she doesn’t know her own strength. “When it left my hand I went, ‘Ugh,’ ” Fort said. “Then they said ‘36-2’ and I went, ‘Oh!’ ”
-- Colgan’s Alencia Lentz vaulted a personal-best 12-7½ to win the pole, and Potomac’s Sydney Carr improved on last season’s seventh-place finish to capture the triple jump.
-- Thomas Dale (65.5 points) won the girls’ team competition, followed by Battlefield (34 points) and Patriot (33). The event was missing seven-time defending champion Western Branch, the most notable of the schools that couldn’t participate because of coronavirus protocols.