Solana Hamlett didn’t win the 200 dash at the Class 3 state championships Saturday. Instead, the senior finished fifth.

But that was just enough to put the 2019 outdoor state title firmly into the hands of the Heritage girls.

“That’s all that matters,” Hamlett said after finishing the race with a time of 26.12, right behind teammate Alaysia Oakes, who clocked a 26.08 for fourth.

Heritage captured the Class 3 state title at Liberty University, the same place where, nearly six months ago, the HHS football team won its state championship.

Oakes did her part, too. The Heritage freshman showcased her talents during the indoor season, but also felt knew to the scene.

But during outdoor, Oakes quickly became the Seminole District’s newest star. She was named the district’s athlete of the year last month and helped HHS to the Region 3C title last weekend.

On Saturday, she let athletes across all of Class 3 know she’s the next big thing. Oakes won the long jump state title, going 18 feet, 6 inches. Right behind her was Pioneers sophomore Tya Blake (17-06¾), then junior Victoria Johnson (17-02½).

Heritage didn’t dazzle the competition. Oakes, in fact, was the school’s only individual champ. But the Pioneers nickel-and-dimed the field with 12 top-five finishes.

Oakes set a personal best by six inches in the long jump and also posted a runner-up finish in Friday’s triple jump, an event Blake took third in.

“It’s been a really long season, so it felt good to know that all my hard work was worth it,” she said. “We were really confident coming in. We were doing a lot of praying and working hard in practice. So we’re really happy.”

Oakes was also fourth in both the 200 and 400 dashes. The HHS 4x100 relay finished fourth, and the 4x400 relay was even better, taking third. And sophomore Alexis Hastings placed third in the 300 hurdles and fifth in the 100 hurdles.

“It was kind of like pressure off our shoulders,” Oakes said of the moment when Hamlett crossed the finish line in the 200. “We could just go out there and not worry about anybody else.”

Hamlett talked about the work the spring season required and then paused, tears hanging in her eyes.

“It means everything in the world to me,” she said of the points she contributed. “I couldn’t be happier. Speechless. … We want to see each other succeed, so we all put in.”

On the boys side of the Class 3 meet, Rustburg’s Ryan Fore won his second straight hurdles championship, rumbling over the seven-person field for the 110-meter hurdles title.

Fore turned in a 15.28. After clearing the final hurdle, he raised his hand in victory as he neared the end of the straightaway.

“I got another ring, it’s, like, a good feeling,” Fore said with a smile. “It means a lot, because I’ve worked hard over the years. And if I lost, it wouldn’t have been good.”

In the discus championship, Heritage’s Jabari Blake entered looking to break the state record of 167-00, set in 2016 by Staunton River’s Jordan Patti.

Blake had eclipsed that mark numerous times this spring, PR’ing at a massive 191 feet, 8 inches. But the senior managed only a 155-10 and was the state runner-up.

“I did feel like I was strong, but I didn’t get the job done,” he said. “. … I let all the outside noise get into my head, and I didn’t really get to focus on what I love to do today.”

After his runner-up finish in the triple jump on Saturday, Heritage’s Chris Megginson was fifth in the long jump.

The Pioneer boys were led by a runner-up finish by Kofi Johnson in the 400 dash [49.36) and a third-place posting in the 4x100 relay.

The Heritage girls claimed an outdoor state title for the first time since 2003. The Pioneers won the Group AA championship that year as part of a five-year stranglehold area schools had over the AA girls title.

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Ben Cates covers high school sports for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5527.

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