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Powell, relay team earn state titles for King’s Fork

When COVID-19 wiped out spring sports last year, including track and field, the King’s Fork High School team still kept up their workouts for an uncertain time when they would be able to compete again at the school level.

They did so through the Phranchize Phamilee AAU program run by Alonza “Lowe” McGlone, who also helps coach the Bulldogs’ relay teams, practicing and staying ready, and for the Bulldogs’ girls team, the work paid off, as Asia Powell won the Class 4 title in the 100 and was part of the state champion 4×100 relay team, helping lead King’s Fork to a fourth-place finish, one point behind third.

“Even with COVID in the mix, we were able to leverage practices off-site at Planters Park in Suffolk and then sending our athletes different workouts until the COVID restrictions allowed us to come back to school,” said King’s Fork co-coach A.D. Young. “The catalyst for that, even with COVID, was us having the ability to do some type of workout via the AAU circuit, safely, of course, but then to work ourselves, ultimately, into Suffolk Public Schools allowing us to come back on-site.”

Though the boys finished 22nd overall, Young feels they will be poised for a breakout season in 2022.

And the Bulldogs’ girls appear even closer to pushing for a state title.

“Having five young ladies together accomplish a fourth-place finish, it’s tremendous,” Young said, “and I think any coach would be proud of that.”

Jaliyah Person, who ran the anchor leg of the 4×100, took second in the 400, while Deja Ward, also on the 4×100 relay team, took fourth in the long jump. Courtney Johnson was another who helped the 4×100 relay team to victory during the June 19 meet at the Liberty University Track in Lynchburg.

Powell’s time in the 100, 11.94 seconds, is a personal best, school and Class 4 state record. Ranked second among returning girls in the 100, she said she was anxious going into the race, but also hungry and humble to win. The result was one she hoped she’d get next season, so to do so this year was a surprise.

“I wasn’t expecting to get the time that I ran,” Powell said. “I think that was my adrenaline and also, I learned a lot of new things this year about performance stuff, so I think that played a part in it as well.”

Powell said continuing to run over the past year despite the uncertainty over when she and her teammates would get to return to the track was key.

“Although we didn’t have a season (last year), we practiced as if we were to have a season,” Powell said. “So it wasn’t like me trying to get back in shape or anything, because we were basically training for an entire year. I feel like that most definitely helped me to get to where I am today.”

The 4×100 relay time of 48.06 seconds is also a Class 4 state record, helped by the bond they said they have with each other.

“They’re like my sisters, so it felt good to win with them,” Powell said.

Ward said they had hoped to better their time, and did so with a record performance.

“I can say I expected to run a lower time,” Ward said. “All of us were eager to get our time lower than a 48.7, and we worked together to make it happen.”

Person felt comfortable in the final leg of the race, especially with the first three runners giving her a sizable lead.

“As the anchor, it was a bit nerve-wracking because I watched the entire race play out,” Person said. “From when Asia start(ed), I watched everybody else run, but as soon as I saw Asia go and then Deja, she created a really good gap between her and the other girls.

“And by the time I got the baton, we were already in first and we had a really, really good gap, so I felt very confident that we were going to get first place and I wasn’t really nervous, and I just ran.”

Person said she didn’t expect to win in the 400, especially with standout Madison Whyte from Heritage High School in Newport News running away from the field and winning by more than two seconds. Still, Person’s 57.29-second time was good for second and a personal best.

Coming into the meet, Young said the girls were focused.

“That’s a key element of our team, and our captains set the tone for us,” Young said. “These young ladies are extremely focused, they take the training given to them and they’re able to apply it meet after meet, so they were able to see systemic growth over the course of the season.”

It culminated in some of the team’s best performances at the state meet despite a year’s gap between seasons. Co-coach Shawn Warren said he was impressed with the team’s work ethic and buy-in to what the coaches were telling them.

“A lot of times you push buttons and hope all the buttons that you push work,” Warren said. “We were fortunate enough that all the buttons that we pushed this year worked, and we were able to come into the state meet primed and ready to go.”

And he believes that puts them in good standing and provides strong momentum going forward. It doesn’t hurt that all four girls from the 4×100 relay will return — with Person, Ward and Johnson being juniors and Powell a senior.

“Coach Young and I talked about this numerous times during the season, basically, anything that we got this year,” Warren said, “was setting the table for us next year.”

King’s Fork results

Class 4 State Championships

Girls – 4th place, 41 pts.

Boys – 22nd place, 8.5 pts.

Girls

100 – Asia Powell, 11.94, 1st

200 – Asia Powell, 25.23, 2nd

400 – Jaliyah Person, 57.29, 2nd

4×100 relay – Asia Powell, Deja Ward, Courtney Johnson, Jaliyah Person, 48.06, 1st

Long jump – Deja Ward, 17-1.75, 4th

Triple jump – Deja Ward, 31-10, 15th

Boys

4×100 relay – 43.46, 6th

High jump – George Beale, 6-0, 3rd

Long jump – Anthony Urbanski, 18-5.75, 16th