Take the boys and girls track teams from 15 high schools, add in dozens of coaches and officials, scores of volunteers, and hundreds of parents, friends and fans, and you get a very big event indeed.
You also get the 15th annual Caroline Invitational Track and Field Meet, which took place Friday night at Caroline High School. It was an opportunity for athletes from high schools across eastern Virginia and Maryland to pit their talents as runners, jumpers and throwers against foes they might not face again in regular Virginia High School League Conference and District meets.
Putting this all together for the past 15 years has been veteran coach Sansberry Harvey, who came to Caroline High School when it opened in 1977 and has served as track coach since 1979. Although Harvey retired as guidance counselor several years ago, he continues to coach track and field.
“I’m still going at it because of the kids,” he said, adding that he gets a great deal of satisfaction in helping student-athletes achieve the best performance they are capable of and seeing a few of them parlay their skills into a college education.
Three of Harvey’s athletes are currently on scholarship at West Point, VMI, and VCU, and he cannot count the number of young men and women he has helped better their lives and futures over nearly four decades at CHS.
Harvey said he emphasizes his young charges hitting the books as well as honing their athletic prowess. “But they have got to want it,” he said about competing for college scholarships.
“I’ve had various kids go off to major schools,” he said modestly. One of them, Kisha Garrick, attended the University of Virginia. She now teaches elementary school locally and is one of Harvey’s assistant coaches at CHS.
Friday night, Harvey’s Cavaliers took on the best from Chancellor, Cumberland, Freedom (Woodbridge), Courtland, J. R. Tucker (Richmond), James Monroe, King George, Massaponax, Mountain View, Oscar Smith (Chesapeake), Riverbend, Tabb (Yorktown), Spotsylvania, and St. Mary’s Ryken (Leonardtown, Maryland).
With each of the 15 schools allowed to field three competitors in both the boys and girls divisions in 17 different events, even a Top 10 finish was something to brag about. After nearly six grueling hours of elimination rounds and finals, there was plenty of glory to pass around, and the Cavs came away with a nice portion of it.
Although he was grieving the loss of his beloved grandfather last week and attended the funeral just hours before Friday’s meet, CHS senior Aason Pankey took first place in the 200-Meter Dash, 400-Meter Dash, and Triple Jump. (Because of his family obligations, Pankey was not able to compete in the high jump, long jump, and 100-Meter Dash.)
Caroline’s Freddie Romero-Baker easily won the boys pole vault, clearing 12 feet, nearly a foot higher than the next competitor.
CHS hurdler Christopher Jackson dominated his specialties, winning the 110-Meter Hurdles outright and taking second in the 300-Meter Hurdles. Caroline had a strong team performance in the hurdles, with Jacob Flaherty finishing ninth and Shareef Gardner 12th in the 110. In the 300, Gardner was seventh and Alex Jones 14th.
Another strong team performance was in the Triple Jump, which Aason Pankey won. The Cavs’ Shawn Myers placed fourth in this event, and Chris Jackson was fifth. Jackson also posted a fine fifth place finish in the Long Jump, which was won by Nicholas Smith of Spotsylvania.
Caroline’s Michael Williams posted a fine sixth in the Boys’ 1600-Meter Run, and Darius Young was eighth place in the High Jump.
Coach Harvey’s teams always excel in the relays. In the Boys’ 4×800 event, the Cavaliers were fourth, behind Mountain View, Oscar Smith, and Colonial Forge. In the 4×400, which was won by Oscar Smith, CHS finished sixth.
Caroline’s Aaron Smith finished ninth in the 3200-Meter Run and his teammate Jacob Knicely was 13th. Caroline’s Ryan Green had a fine ninth in the Shot Put. In the 800-Meter Run, the Cavs’ Reggie Twisdale was 13th and Wade Reynolds 16th.
The competition was fierce in the girls’ events as well. Six National Silver Standards were set Friday night.
Highlights for CHS came in the 4×400 Relay, where the Cavalier gals finished seventh, and in the 100-Meter Dash, where Alantra Mines was ninth and Malia Herndon 16th.
Although Track and Field encompasses many outstanding individual performances and personal bests, the emphasis is still on good sportsmanship and teamwork.
Oscar Smith High School from Chesapeake won the Boys Team Trophy with 128 points, but Caroline High School was strong second with 85 points, followed by King George (75) and Tabb (62).
The Girls Trophy went to King George with 132 points, followed by Colonial Forge (101), Tabb (90) and Oscar Smith (71). The Caroline Girls finished ninth.
The annual Caroline Invitational has grown into a major event on the Track and Field calendar and represents a big investment in volunteer manpower.
“It’s a big deal,” Coach Harvey said. “We start planning six months ahead.”
Many of the CHS athletes and local volunteers also pitched in to place and adjust hurdles, rake the jump sand pits, and collate results. Among the busiest people Friday night were the volunteers running a very popular concession stand. Harvey made special mention of Richard Williams and his Booster Club guys and gals for this effort.