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Distance runners lead Watauga’s opening performance in indoor track and field at Turkey Invitational

By David Rogers. WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Led by senior Gwen Anderson, Watauga’s women’s indoor track team dominated the distance events on Nov. 22, in the Turkey Invitational at the JDL Fast Track indoor track and field arena. Overall, it was a good showing by both Watauga squads, the women capturing 2nd and the men 5th out of 14 teams entered in the meet.

In addition to Watauga, the schools competing included Albemarle, Ashe County, Atkins, Ben L. Smith, Davie, Dudley, Glenn, Hibriten, Millennium, North Rowan, Parkland, Patrick County (Va.), Reagan, South Garner, and West Stokes.

In the Women’s 3200 Meters at the Turkey Invitational on Nov. 22, right to left (1st place to 4th place) are Watauga distance runners Sydney Cate Townsend, Gwen Anderson, Janie Beach-Verhay, and Bailey Collins. All but Anderson, a senior, are freshman. Photographic image courtesy of Scott Townsend.

In the Women’s Division, the Pioneers took three of the top five places in the 1600 meters, with Anderson taking the title and followed by freshman Jane Beach-Verhay in 3rd and sophomore Mia Llibre.

Anderson also won the Women’s 3200 meters event, but Beach-Verhay (3rd) was among a trio of Pioneer freshman who also took 2nd (Sydney Townsend) and 4th (Bailey Collins).

Townsend anchored Watauga’s first place entry in the 4×800 relay, led off by Caroline-Beach Verhay, Anderson, and Jane Beach-Verhay.

Out of 29 athletes competing in the Women’s 500 Meters, Pioneer freshman Hannah Graham finished a respectable tenth.

In the Women’s 1000 Meter Run, Watauga senior Caroline Beach-Verhay, freshman Anna Norris, and sophomore Hadley Carpenter finished No. 6, No. 7, and No. 8 to pick up valuable team points, with 21 athletes competing.

Pioneer junior Olivia Burroughs brought home the pole vault title, while Northwestern Conference rival Myra Capula of Hibriten finished second.

Women’s Team Scores

  • 1. Dudley (110)
  • T2. Watauga (88)
  • T2. Parkland (88)
  • 4. Reagan (58)
  • 5. Ashe County (41)
  • 6. Atkins (37)
  • 7. North Rowan (29)
  • 8. Albemarle (20)
  • 9. Ben L. Smith (19)
  • 10. Hibriten (13)
  • 11. Davie (10)
  • T12. Patrick County (5)
  • T12. West Stokes (5)
  • 14. South Garner (4)

Hamilton, Sibaja lead Pioneer men

In the Men’s Division, Watauga senior Joshua Hamilton finished just five seconds behind first place winner Justin Powell of Parkland to earn a fourth place finish in the Men’s 500 Meters, with 43 entries competing. Meanwhile the Pioneers finished with two athletes in the top 10 of the 1000 Meter Run, junior Roman Sibaja (5th) and sophomore Jonah Norris (8th), out of 33 athletes in the race. Sibaja also secured a 7th place finish in the 1600 Meter Run.

The Watauga men also showed up well in the 3200 Meters, getting three Pioneers in the top 7, including Elijah Healy (No. 5), Sebastian Afanador (No. 6), and Elias Holland.

Clayo Kulczyk contributed a third place finish in the Pole Vault for to the Pioneer men’s team total.

Men’s Team Scores

  1. Parkland (106.5)
  2. Reagan (93)
  3. Dudley (88)
  4. Davie (56)
  5. Watauga (48.5)
  6. West Stokes (39)
  7. Atkins (31)
  8. South Garner (25)
  9. Glenn (20)
  10. Hibriten (17)
  11. Patrick County (14)
  12. Albemarle (12)
  13. Ashe County (10)
  14. North Rowan (3)




The Nov. 22 event was the Watauga Indoor team’s first event of the winter season. The team’s coaches include:

  •  Head Coach/Jumps: Michael Neff (1st Year)
  • Sprints Coach: Kim Kop
  • Sprints Asst.: Matt Anderson
  • Throws Coach: Adam Gilbert
  • Hurdles/Pole Vault Coach: Thomas McDonough
  • Distance Coach: Scott Townsend

Distance coach Scott Townsend pointed to Watauga’s youth as representing a lot of promise as the season progresses.

“The season is still very young. We just started training two weeks ago and the Turkey Invitation was our first meet,” said Townsend. “What makes this first meet’s performance particularly interesting is how young so many of our team members are. Two-thirds of the student-athletes competing on our team are underclassmen. And look at all the freshmen. Our top two female sprinters, Leah Gaydon and Ava Doty, are freshmen. Some of our top middle distance runners, Jane Beach-Verhay, Hannah Graham and Anna Norris are freshmen. After senior Gwen Anderson in the 3200, the next three distance runners in the 3200 are freshmen. Anna Koontz is a freshman up and comer in the hurdles. All three of our long jumpers in this meet, Graham, Rylee Mitchell and Lilly Stough are freshmen. Our top triple jump and shot put competitor, Emma Pastusic, is a freshman and she is just making the transition from volleyball. And that is just our Women’s team.

“On the Men’s side, Kees Greene and Evan Burroughs are freshmen showing promise in the sprints. triple jump and the long jump. Greene As he grows into the event, Mason Harris — also a freshman — may become a factor in the longer sprints. For his first 1600 and 3200 meter races as a high school freshman, Elijah Healy did quite well,” added Townsend. “And that youth movement is not even considering our sophomores.”

All of the Watauga Indoor Track and Field team events this winter are on different days at the JDL Fast Dash facility in Winston-Salem. Their next event is Thursday, Dec. 1, the Titan 1 Indoor Meet, 5 p.m. That will be followed by the Dec. 9 (5 p.m.) HOT Santa event, then the Dec. 12 Millennium Charter Invitational and the Dec. 15 DD Holiday Invitational. The team will take almost a month off for the holidays, starting the new year on Jan. 10 with the Spartan Classi.


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