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Eagles place 2nd at state meet

The 2016-17 Prince Edward County High School varsity boys indoor track and field team elevated itself at states over the weekend to join the ranks of the best teams in school history that have been guided by Head Coach James Baker.

The Eagles placed second out of 34 point-scoring teams at the Virginia High School League Group 1A/2A indoor track and field state championships in Salem.

Auburn High School won the state team title with 74 points, Prince Edward had 69 and Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School placed third with 59.

Baker said he coached a Prince Edward team in 1979 that placed second at states, falling 58-56.

“The difference is that was an outdoor meet,” he said. “And I think that if we can go to the state meet in outdoor and score 60 some points, we could probably win it because it gets more spread out come outdoor season.”

If the Eagles manage to do that, it will be in large part thanks to the strength of senior Rajai Walton, who swept the jump events over the weekend, winning the high, long and triple jumps, while also helping the boys 4×200-meter relay team break the state record and bring home the title.

Prince Edward senior Bryan Moses won an individual state championship while breaking the state record in the boys 55-meter dash with a 6.42-second finish.

Baker said he figured coming into the meet that his boys team had a good chance to finish in the top two.

“We were figuring that Maggie Walker was going to be the one we’d have to beat, and we did accomplish that, but Auburn had some overall strength,” he said.

He noted that Prince Edward does not have anyone competing in the 1,000-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs, the 4×800-meter relay and the pole vault, but it still had a good chance to win the meet against Auburn.

“We had to go into the mile relay and try to out-point them, and we improved our time in the mile relay by 14 seconds, and we did manage a sixth-place (finish), but they improved their time going in by 11 seconds — they got (third),” Baker said.

That third-place finish gave Auburn six more points, while the Eagles gained only three, cementing the teams’ final placements.

“Considering what we were up against, they did a tremendous job,” Baker said of his boys. “We came out of the field events in pretty good shape, and we knew we had to do it in the field events and in the sprints.”

In the long jump, Walton won with a 22-foot-7 1/4-inch leap. In the triple jump, he earned first with a 45-6 1/2 mark, and in the high jump, a 6-5 leap brought the win.

“In the high jump, after he won it, he tried it at 6-7, but he also realized he needed to save himself because they were getting ready to run the 4×200,” Baker said.

Prince Edward’s 4×200 team included Walton, Moses, junior Zion Lewis and senior Brandon Scott.

“We set Bryan first and (Rajai) second, and as expected, when we came out of those two legs, we were well ahead,” Baker said, “because we came in running 1:38 something, and we ended up running 1:33.9, so that was a big drop in time.”

Their time broke the previous state record of one minute, 36.41 seconds set by Appomattox County High School on March 3, 2015.

“Then, (Rajai) managed a fourth-place finish in the 300(-meter dash), and then he ran a leg of the 4×400(-meter relay, which helped to drop our time down to the point where we could get a sixth-place finish,” Baker said. “So, he had a busy day all around.”

The Eagles 4×400 team, which came in running a 3:59 time and ended up finishing in 3:46.20, featured Walton, Lewis, junior Ira Walker and sophomore J’Sean Dupuy.

Reacting to Moses’ state championship win in the 55, Baker said, “I knew he was capable of it. He had been nursing a little bit of pain in his leg, so I was a little worried about that, but he ran a new personal best in trials on Wednesday and then came back on Thursday and equaled it, which was a new state record.”

Baker noted that the previous school and state record in the 55 had been held by DeAngelo Wilson, a Prince Edward and Virginia Commonwealth University graduate.

“We’ve been blessed with a little bit of speed every now and again,” Baker said, “but (in terms of) overall strength, this is the strongest we’ve been overall, although, truthfully, we had a pretty good group last year. We knew they were coming back.”

The young Prince Edward varsity girls team placed ninth out of 26 point-scoring teams.

Baker praised the Lady Eagles relay teams for their high finishes despite their youth.

The girls 4×200-meter relay team that placed second with a time of 1:54.30 featured sophomores Jordan Booker and Salma Muhammad and freshmen Makayla Morris and Mia Seay.

The girls 4×400-meter relay team that placed third with a 4:23.14 time included junior Montiera Wynn, Booker, Seay and freshman Naomi Jones.