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Liberty’s Morant, Fauquier’s Holmes place 2nd at state track meet

Sunday, Feb. 24 | By Jeff Malmgren
At the AA state track meet Friday and Saturday, Melvina Brown placed third in the long jump, fifth in the triple jump, sixth in the 55 hurdles, 12th in the high jump and 21st in the 55 dash. --Times-Democrat Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
When quality finally mattered more than quantity, the Liberty Eagles proved to be the best girls track and field team from the Evergreen District.

The Eagles placed 16th in the girls standings of the Group AA state meet Saturday at Liberty University with 15 points, while Kettle Run finished 17th with 13 points, Fauquier took 19th with 12 points and Brentsville failed to score. Tabb won with 56 points.

Earlier this season, the Liberty girls finished last at the Evergreen District meet thanks to a roster much smaller than their opponents.

The Eagles also finished well behind Kettle Run and Fauquier at the Region II meet, but the state meet finally leveled the playing field because depth had less importance.

“I think it’s the heart of the team. Those girls are dynamic together,” Eagles coach M.J. Carter said of his girls’ strong finish. “Yeah, during regionals [Fauquier and Kettle Run] could beat us. There might be more [athletes] at those schools … but we’re still rising over here at Liberty.”

The Eagles made the most of only five state entries with three top-six finishes.

“It was a good meet; perfect meet,” Carter said. “These ladies are good athletes.”

Erin Morant led the Liberty girls by placing second in the triple jump and sixth in the high jump. She didn’t even participate in indoor track last season.

“She surprised herself in both events,” Carter said. “She wasn’t expecting to get second place in the state.”

Morant entered the triple jump as the No. 18 seed, but obliterated her seed distance by leaping 36 feet, 3.25 inches. Her seed was only 33-1.

“Anything’s possible when you put your mind to it,” Carter said. “She’s been practicing [the triple jump] this year and has been putting more effort in it. It’s impressive because high jump is really her favorite.”

In the high jump, Morant cleared 5-2 to improve on her seed height by two inches. She made the finals despite completing only one of three attempts in the preliminaries.

Morant received automatic scratches on her first two high jump attempts because she didn’t hear name called and spent that time competing in the triple jump, Carter said. She eventually took a break from the triple jump, though, and made it to the high jump area for her third attempt.

“And she popped it,” Carter said. “This girl really works well under pressure.”

Elsewhere, Taylor Brown added a fifth-place finish for Liberty in the 500 dash by cutting nearly two seconds off her seed time. She finished in 1:19.89, which broke her own school-record time in that event.

“She wanted to beat a couple people from Kettle Run and Fauquier,” Carter said.

Brown, for example, edged Fauquier’s Claire Burke by less than a second at state after Burke won the Region II race the week before.

Also for Liberty, Jaquela Smith finished 18th in the 55 hurdles (7.74) and Mackenzie Earl placed 10th in the 500 (1:22.16).

Last season, Liberty didn’t have any girls qualify for the state meet, so Carter was impressed with their progression.

“Keep an eye on these ladies, and these guys,” he said. “I guarantee some more state athletes next year.”
Meanwhile, medaling for the Kettle Run girls, Melvina Brown placed third in the long jump (17-2.75), fifth in the triple jump (35-4.5) and sixth in the 55 hurdles (8.92).

Brown also finished 12th in the high jump (4-10) and 21st in the 55 dash (7.85), while Lauren Schlenker placed 18th in the 1,000 (3:17.55) and Geneva Doores took 20th in the shot put. The Kettle Run girls 800 relay team was disqualified at the first exchange zone.

Medaling for the Fauquier girls, the 1,600 relay team of Sarah Thornton, Ryan Morgan, Claire Burke and Briana Hill placed fourth (4:11.83), Hill finished fifth in the 300 (41.64) and Burke took sixth in the 500 (1:20.24). Hill also finished ninth in the 55 dash (7.53), while Marissa McGinty placed 10th in the pole vault (9-6)


The hope of earning a college scholarship motivates many athletes.

For Grant Holmes, getting one did the trick.

About one month after receiving a partial track and field scholarship offer from Virginia Military Institute, Holmes placed second in the boys pole vault of the Group AA state meet at Liberty University. His runner-up finish helped the Fauquier Falcons place 13th in the boys team standings with 16 points, the best finish of any team from the Evergreen District.

“My motivation’s a lot different now. I’m vaulting for VMI,” Holmes said. “That is a huge deal to me. … I’m just trying to get better and better for that.”

The Blacksburg boys won state with 58 points while, from the Evergreen, Brentsville placed 23rd with six points, Kettle Run finished 26th with five points and Liberty failed to score. Previously, at the district and Region II meets, the Falcons finished behind Kettle Run, so Saturday provided a bit of revenge.

“That’s big for us, I guess, because they beat before,” Holmes said. “I thought it was cool.”

Holmes scored eight points for Fauquier by vaulting 14 feet, which actually left him unsatisfied. The senior had cleared a career-best 14 feet, 7 inches earlier this season.

“Don’t get me wrong, a second [place] medal is great, but I was really disappointed that I didn’t win,” Holmes said. “I trained really hard. I worked my butt off not to get second, to get first.

“I was expecting a 15-foot jump,” he said. "I was ready for it.”

Nonetheless, Holmes has improved greatly since last season. He finished third at outdoor state in 2012 with a vault of 13-6 after clearing only 13-0 to place third at indoor state.

Holmes credited an increase in strength and the improvement of Ryan Enos, his pole-vaulting teammate. Enos finished fourth in the pole vault (13-6) Saturday.

“He’s a lot better this year,” Homes said. “It helps to have somebody to compare myself to.”

Also for the Fauquier boys, the 1,600 relay team of Frank Delavergne, Raul Chavez, Tyler Benson and Ed Delavergne took sixth (3:33.13), while Chavez finished ninth in the 500 (1:09.49), Curtis Grady placed 10th in the 1,000 (2:39.55), Tyler Benson took 13th in the 300 (37.01) and Ed Delavergne placed 21st in the 500 (1:12.27).

Matt Eggers medaled for the Kettle Run boys by finishing fifth in the shot put (46-1), while Carlos Vegerano placed eighth in the high jump (6-0) and 11th in the long jump (20-6.25).

Other top Cougars included Austin Lewis, who was ninth in the 55 dash (6.73), the 800 relay team of Lewis, Austin Rodgers, Vegerano and Josh Tapscott, who took ninth (1:35.49).

Tapscott placed 13th in the 55 dash (6.76), Connery Ryon took 14th in the 500 (1:10.16), R.J. Johnson finished 15th in the 55 hurdles (8.36), Rollin Buffington finished 19th in the triple jump (39-5.25) and 21st in the long jump (19-8.5), Riley Perrin placed 19th in the 55 hurdles and Rodgers took 20th in the 300 (37.96).

For the Liberty boys, Eric Stiggle took 18th in the 55 hurdles (8.45).

Holmes, meanwhile, will attend VMI next fall despite an uneasy past with military schools. He attended Fork Union Military Academy in sixth and seventh grade and got his start in pole vaulting there. He then switched to Marine Military Academy in Harlingen, Texas for one year before beginning at Fauquier High as a freshman.

“I hated it and never wanted anything to do with it again,” Holmes said of military school. “But VMI, it’s just a little bit different, the atmosphere. I just like it better. It’s like a family, and it’ll have me set for my future when I graduate.”

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