Earlier this month, athletes from both the Culpeper and Eastern View track teams had the rare opportunity to compete at the 2019 New Balance National Outdoor Track and Field Meet held at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, N.C.
Paris Beaver (high jump), Alyssa Robson (triple jump and 100-meter hurdles), and Isabella Hardaway (3,200) competed on the Culpeper side, while Eastern View’s 4x100 relay team of Thomas Yates, Ashton King, DaShaun Presley and Josh Logan took part in their respective event as well.
Hardaway is a rising freshman who already competed nationally for the Blue Devils in the 3,200. She placed 23rd in the Junior High Division and had a personal-best time of 12:29.20.
“[Hardaway] PR’d by 14 seconds even after getting tripped and falling on the sixth lap,” Culpeper head coach Mark Dennis said. “She has a ridiculous work ethic and upside. She trains on her own in addition to our regular practices, so she’s one of those athletes you don’t have to worry about over breaks and weekends because you know they will continue to train and stay in shape. She will definitely be someone to watch out for over the next four years.”
A freshman, Robson was a dominant competitor for the Blue Devils all season long. She competed in several different events this past spring, including the triple jump, long jump and hurdles.
Earlier in the season, Dennis described Robson as one of Culpeper’s “silent assassins.”
At nationals, Robson finished 16th overall in the triple jump and 24th in the 100 hurdles. She jumped a personal-best 34 feet, 9 ½ inches—two inches further then her previous highwater mark.
“Alyssa had a great freshman year,” Dennis said. “She had been around track previously, but hadn’t really hurdled or jumped until this year. Some of the kids she competed against at [nationals] have been doing this for years.”
Dennis went on to talk about Robson’s potential as an athlete.
“She is very coachable,” he said. “There are just a few things with quickness and foot speed she needs to work on and I’m sure she’ll be a D-I scholarship athlete. I believe her best jumping event could actually be the high jump, but we just didn’t have the time to work that in with everything else she did this [season].”
The final competitor at nationals for Culpeper was one of their senior leaders, Paris Beaver. Beaver has been on the track team for the last five years and will be continuing her career at James Madison University next season.
Beaver said that being part of the Culpeper track team was a great experience and helped her learn a lot.
“Over these past few years, my coaches have taught me more than I could ever have learned on my own in a lifetime,” she said. “They not only pushed me to succeed athletically, but they truly helped to shape me into the person I am today. They believed in me from the start, and throughout the ups and downs I wouldn’t change anything during my time at [Culpeper].”
Beaver spoke candidly about two of her coaches in particular.
“I owe everything to Coach Dennis,” she proclaimed. “He sacrificed many weekends and extra practice hours to help me achieve my dream of competing at a D-I level. As for Coach Ouellette, she’s been one of my biggest supporters both on the track and the field hockey team. Even during the heat of competition, I could always look over and count on her to help put things in perspective.”
Beaver didn’t do as well as she’d hoped to at nationals, coming in 33rd in the high jump at 5 feet, 1 ½ inches—well short of her personal best of 5 feet, 5 inches.
“She had some nice-looking jumps, but her ankle hit on the way down twice,” Dennis said. “But watching Paris grow from a five-foot-nothing, 80-pound distance runner into a state champion and D-I scholarship athlete has been amazing. She has put so much time and effort into this sport, and I really think being in a college program where your life is mapped out for you will push her to become even better. It has been a pleasure coaching her for the past five years—she’s irreplaceable.”
Despite falling short at nationals, Beaver was able to put things in perspective.
“The end result at nationals was not what I had hoped for, but I’m lucky to be able to say I got there multiple times during my high school career,” she said. “I am going to JMU knowing that I will have to work hard to improve on all my events and even learn a few new ones in order to be competitive in the heptathlon. It’s these coaches and teammates who made me stop and think how lucky I am to have had something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
For Eastern View, the boys 4x100 relay team was strong all season long. During the Class 4 state meet in late-May, the quartet set a school-record time to qualify for nationals.
When the Cyclones finally hit the track at nationals, they posted their third-best time of the season and finished 25th in the event.
“I think the boys performed well, but maybe not as well as we wanted,” Eastern View head coach Raymond Gee said. “Walking out of the stadium with three sophomores, you know that we will be back and even better than this year. And that’s our goal: to return here for the 4x100 and sprint medley relay next year.”
Yates was the only senior on the team.
“Thomas will be hard to replace,” Gee said. “I’ve coached him for five years now and it felt weird knowing this was the last time he’d run for me. He started at [Eastern View] during indoor track season his eighth-grade year. He also ran on my youth team as well—the Mustangs Track Club. His first love was actually football, but it was an easy switch to track for him after he qualified for states during his sophomore year.”
Yates admitted track was the highlight of his high school career.
“We did very well throughout the season to earn a spot at nationals,” he said. “With our starters in, we hadn’t lost in our heat in the regular season. We all knew we had the potential to go further than just [states], and that’s what we ended up doing. Track will always be an unforgettable experience for me because of my coaches and teammates pushing me to do events I never thought I would do. Running track was definitely my best experience in high school.”