Gannon Willcutts just didn’t think he would catch Brentsville’s Jacob Willis, and with 50 meters to go in a 1600-meter race, that was a pretty understandable feeling. It’s also why Willcutts let out a scream, a barbaric yawp of sorts, as he crossed the line for his fifth state track and field title and his first outdoor 1600 championship at the 2016 Group 3A/4A Championships at Harrisonburg High Saturday.
“That was a scream of just victory, I didn’t know I’d catch him,” Willcutts said. “With 200 left I didn’t think I was going to get him, I just shut my eyes and I went for it. I was hoping when I opened them up he’d be a little bit closer than he was and he was. I guess that gave me a little bit of a jolt.”
Willis passed Willcutts early in the final lap of the race just before the second turn. Willcutts hung with him though, and in the final stretch was right on his heels, appearing to ready himself for a couple of passes that didn’t send him past Willis. He finally passed him just after the 50-meter mark as Willis fell just after the finish line.
“He definitely went by me faster than I thought he was, I guess I wasn’t going all that fast,” said Willcutts, who won in 4:17.56 to Willis’ 4:18.40. “I was trying to put it under 4:20.”
Grabbing his second outdoor championship a year after he won the 3200 for his his first title was an impressive feat made possible largely because with New Balance Nationals on the horizon, Willcutts and his coaches wanted him doing shorter, faster races at states.
“It means a lot to take that outdoor title,” Willcutts said. “Indoor titles are great, but some people might say outdoor is where it’s at. To come out and win the 1600 is just a blessing.”
Willcutts didn’t get a chance to compete in his second race of the day because of the lightning delay that led to the VHSL canceling the final few events including most of the 800-meter races (Willcutts’ other event), the 200 and the 4×800.
The decision created a lot of angst on social media and reportedly on site and milestat.com’s Twitter account reported Saturday night that there was some movement in the works to reverse the decision and somehow get the events in.
But before that delay hit, a number of Central Virginia athletes had strong outings including another event title for a Western athlete as Madison Masloff won the pole vault championship with a jump of 10 feet, nine inches. Masloff was one of five Western vaulters to score points in the event, with Sarah Tolman taking second, Katrina Barredo taking third and Mia Donelson tying for fifth place with two other competitors.
The Warriors’ Zoe Clay also had a strong day, winning the 3200-meter race while also taking fourth in the 800. Clay is just a sophomore and she pointed to the Warriors’ training methods as a big reason why she could handle running both events in the same day.
“It’s really difficult during the meet when you feel like you’ve just give it your all but it kind of feels like ‘I don’t know how I’m going to do anything else’,” Clay said. “But we practice this a lot in practice, we do a lot of intervals to recreate this scenario so we can practice this, I think that’s really helpful.”
On Friday, Clay teamed up with Faith Reid, Grace Rainey and Caroline McGahren to take fourth place in the 4×800 meter relay.
Averi Witt took fifth place for the Warriors in the girls 1600 meters and Western’s Nichole Heon placed seventh in the girls long jump. When the delay hit, Western’s girls were in fourth place in the team competition.
Trevor Stutzman finished three spots behind Willcutts in the 1600 to take fourth place and the Western senior also took fifth in the 3200-meters on a busy day. Willcutts and Stutzman also combined with Davis Greene and Jack Ehlenberger to finish fourth in the 4×800 on Friday. Jackson Smith tied for fourth in the boys pole vault. The Western boys were in seventh place as a team.
Fluvanna had a pack of athletes perform well at the event and the Fluvanna girls were at ninth in the state when the delay hit.
Fluvanna County’s Matasha Martin finished eighth in the girls 100-meters while the Flucos’ Kristen Cabrera took sixth in the girls 800. A pair of Fluvanna hurdlers Autumn Shepherd and LaMaya Lacy, finished seventh and eighth respectively in the 100 hurdles. The Flucos’ 4×800 squad of Saige Haney, Jackie Rodriguez, Kristin Cabrera, and Camryn Frederick took eighth on Friday night. Alexandria Daniels tied for eighth in the high jump while Martin took 11th in that event.
Fluvanna’s Avery Haislip took fourth in the pole vault.
Monticello High’s Gena Lewis took eighth place in the 800-meters just four spots behind Clay.