Veteran Culpeper track and field coach Mark Dennis has seen a lot in his time coaching the sport, so it takes a lot to inspire shock and awe in him.
In Wednesday afternoon’s Region 3B track meet at Broman Field, Dennis’ Blue Devils did just that, however.
“The boys were projected to lose to John Marshall [today], and the girls were projected to barely beat James Monroe,” Dennis said. “I really tried to focus on telling them to just do what they were here to do. Needless to say, they really gave it their all.”
The Blue Devils gave it their all and then some, riding balanced contributions across the board to first-place finishes in both meets.
Culpeper’s James Hinton competed in five different events, including the high jump, long jump, 200-meter dash, 100-meter dash and the 4x100-meter relay. His 36 total points in those events helped the Blue Devils outpace John Marshall 120-96 for the boys title.
Hinton earned a first-place finish in the 200 (22.5 seconds), came in second in the 100 (11.25), third in both the long jump (21-01.50) and 4x100 and fourth in the high jump (5-10).
“James is the heart and soul of the boys team,” Dennis said. “He calls people out and says all the things people need to hear but don’t want to hear. He backs all of it up by showing up when the lights are the brightest; he put up 36 points by himself today.”
Hinton had a personal best in three events: the high jump, 100 and 200. He also qualified for the state meet in all five of his events.
“It feels rewarding to finally have everything click because usually I only perform well in one event per meet,” Hinton said. “Today, I put it all together and had a complete meet. It also feels good to qualify in five events because four of those are solo events. It’s a good feeling to be able to prove to myself I’m good enough to go to [states] by myself.”
Justin Aggrey, Capone Hoffman and Hunter Bowers joined Hinton on the Blue Devils’ 4x100 team.
Aggrey also had a third-place finish in the 100 (11.41) and finished sixth in the 200 (23.62).
Hoffman competed in five other events as well. He finished second in the 110-meter hurdles (16.00), third in the high jump (6-2), sixth in both the long jump (19-04.50) and 300-meter hurdles (43.67) and seventh in the triple jump (40-01).
Bowers was a member of Culpeper’s 4x400-meter relay team, along with Andrew Rogers, Austin Rogers and Jonah Woodward. They finished second with a time of 3:40.05.
Andrew and Austin Rogers also competed in the 400-meter dash, with Andrew finishing third (53.03) and Austin sixth (53.66).
Osmund Reindorf earned a third-place finish in the 300 hurdles (42.96) and was sixth in the 110 hurdles (18.22). Donald Beaver was fifth in the triple jump (40-03).
Finally, the Blue Devils’ 4x800-meter relay team (Woodward, Houston, Brent Bowler and Jesus Ramos) finished in third place with a time of 8:40.15.
In the girls meet, Culpeper’s Alyssa Robson competed in six different events and earned a top-three finish in each of them as the Blue Devils ran away from their next closest competitor, James Monroe, by a score of 175-128.
Robson finished first in the 100 hurdles (15.80) and 300 hurdles (49.08), second in the long jump (16-03), pole vault (8-6) and 4x400 (4:25.02) and third in the triple jump (33-09).
“Alyssa is just a silent assassin,” Dennis said. “She doesn’t talk and doesn’t get rattled. Honestly, if she wasn’t winning you wouldn’t even realize she was on the team. When it comes to training, she is a beast. She works her butt off every day, and, as you can see, her future can be whatever she wants it to be in track and field.”
Megan Heidebrect, Katherina Wilkins and Grace Damewood made up the rest of the Blue Devils’ 4x400 relay team.
Heidebrect also had a third-place finish in the 400 (1:02.74) and was sixth in the high jump (4-08).
The 4x100 relay team of Paris Beaver, Sidnee Addo, Masen Armel and Kaitlyn Snuffer finished fourth (52.83).
Beaver also competed in three field events. She finished first in the triple jump (34-11.50), third in the long jump (16-02.50) and fourth in the high jump (5-0).
Armel was in three other events as well. She finished first in the discus throw (100-0), third in the 300 hurdles (50.49) and fifth in the shot put (28-09.00).
Brianna Hoffman finished on top in the pole vault (8-06) and was fourth in the 100 hurdles (18.29).
Stephanie Robson finished second in the high jump (5-2) and fourth in the long jump (16-02) after returning from an ankle injury she suffered during Culpeper’s volleyball season.
“[Robson] has been out for months, but really came back strong for us today,” Dennis said. “I was nervous for her, but she really came through.”
The Blue Devils’ 4x800 relay team (Damewood, Lauren Light, Valentina Lemus and Savannah Sprouse finished with a third-place time of 10:42.90.
Light also competed in the 800, finishing third (2:34.12).
Zoe Carder finished third in the discus (84-06) and Kassandra Morales finished third in the pole vault (8-0).
The Blue Devils now turn their attention to the Class 3 state meet, which will be held at Liberty University on May 31 and June 1.
“I only expect them to do the best they can at what they have been trained to do,’ Dennis said of his athletes. “The rest of it takes care of itself. As far as placing highly at the state meet, a lot of luck and great timing is involved unless one team is just head-and-shoulders above the rest.”
Still, Dennis couldn’t help but revel in his team’s performance on Wednesday.
“Days like this make every rough day, every disappointment, every late night and early morning as a coach worth doing it all over again," he said. “Collectively, this ended up being one of my best days as a coach. What a day.”