By Special to the Register & Bee
Galileo Magnet High School girls indoor track team hurdled its way to a Region 2B runner-up title Wednesday at the Arthur Ashe Center in Richmond.The Falcons cleared several metaphorical hurdles en route to sending nine individuals and four relay teams to the state championship at Roanoke College on Feb. 28 and 29.
During the season, sprints coach Vaughn Popeney moved from Danville to Arizona. That resulted in several athletes deciding not to return the team and left the coaching staff scrambling for help.
“I was nervous about switching over to coach the sprints and throws because my strength as a coach is working with the distance group, but coach Rebecca Richardson has stepped in and done an amazing job leading our distance attack” said long-time coach Mark Bryant.
In addition to the loss of a coach and several athletes, Galileo also had two dynamic runners suffer season ending injuries.
“When it rains it pours” Bryant said.
While the number of athletes on the team decreased, the quality of each athlete on the team increased. Despite finishing the season with only 10 girls and 11 boys, the team rallied around one another and placed more runners into the state championship than any prior year.
“I am not sure any other school had 21 different athletes score points for the team like we did,” Bryant said. “Everyone worked hard to improve the team.”
In only his second ever attempt in the 500 meter dash, Galileo senior Owen Wood hoped to upset the veteran runners of the field with a late surge, but instead exploded from third to first in the final 100 meters to win by nearly two seconds.
“Owen’s finish was the biggest ‘wow’ moment of the meet” Bryant said. Wood is currently ranked third in the state in the boys 1,000 meter run and hopes to bring home the school’s first state championship win by a male athlete at Galileo.
Junior distance standout Sydney Stone was crowned a regional champion behind her dominant performance in the 3200 in which she nearly lapped the entire field. Stone, who had finished second in the 1600 earlier in the day, “didn’t even look tired” claimed one fan.
“Sydney is running exceptionally well right now and getting stronger every week,” Bryant said. “She works very hard in practice and is a real treasure to coach.”
Along with Wood and Stone, the Falcon’s boys and girls 4x800 meter relay teams also brought home gold medals and will compete at the state championship where the boys are currently ranked second and the girls sixth among the state finalists.To qualify for the state championship runners may either meet a qualifying standard calculated by the finishing times of past medalist or place among the top three finishers in any event at the regional championship. Other Galileo boys joining Wood (1000, 4x800 and 4x400) at the state meet include Cole Harbodin (1600, 3200 and 4x800), Jamison Mantooth (1600 and 4x800), Kinkade Huggins (1000, 4x800 and 4x400), and relay members Jackson Wiles and Brendan deAristizabal. Joining Stone (1600 and 3200) on the girls side include Morgan Whitley (1600, 1000 and 4x800), Khyra Smith (55), Christa Zakhary (1000, 4x800 and 4x400), Angel Lin (1600, 3200, 4x800), and relay members Jada Pridgen, Adrian Eldridge and Caroline Woods.