Alaysia Oakes wasn’t sure she could win the 55 dash Tuesday.
“But I always like to believe in myself,” she said with a smile.
Now the rest of the field believes, too.
Oakes, the Heritage sophomore who made noise with her first state title last spring as a freshman, crushed the competition at the VHSL’s Class 3 and 4 indoor state track and field championships at Liberty University.
She won the 55 dash. She won the 300 dash. She won the long jump. And she helped Heritage claim its second straight Class 3 team championship in dominating fashion Tuesday. The Pioneers gobbled up Maggie Walker, posting 108.50 points to Walker’s 70.
Heritage also won the Class 3 outdoor team title last June.
“I’m the most proud captain in the whole world,” said Heritage senior Victoria Johnson, who won the high jump with a 5-04 Monday and ran the second leg of her team’s runner-up finish in the 4x200 relay Tuesday.
Backed by strong performances by Oakes, Johnson, Tya Blake, Dekaila Dillard and Graysen Arnold, Heritage loaded sprint, relay and field events with strong competitors. The Pioneers, for instance, had 12 top 5 finishes.
It’s the first time the Heritage girls have gone back-to-back for outdoor/indoor state titles in school history.
Oakes capped what was a dominant indoor season. After winning four events at the Seminole District championships on Feb. 8, she was named Region 3C athlete of the year 11 days later, winning four regional events. Then came the state championships, and Oakes was once again masterful.
She entered Tuesday’s 55 dash seeded second to I.C. Norcom’s Shamauri Mayes after the preliminary race on Monday.
But Oakes rallied to post a 7.29 for first place. Later in the afternoon, she won the 300 with a 41.18. Rustburg’s Emily Coates was second.
“I’m just glad I was able to do it today,” Oakes said of her 55 victory. “I knew I just had to come off the blocks well. It’s all about block starts, and I had the speed. [Mayes] beat me yesterday, but I wasn’t thinking about that.”
After serving as runner- up to Oakes in the long jump, Blake won the triple jump with a 37-10.25. Oakes was second in that event. Arnold threw a 38-03.50 to place second in the shot put.
Also in Class 3, Liberty Christian’s Emory Pafford won her first career pole vault state title with a leap of 12-01. She said she’s shooting for 13-6 in the upcoming outdoor season.
“I wasn’t happy with my jump, but I was on a new pole, so I made progress today,” Pafford said. “I put in a lot of hard work this summer to get here, so I’m definitely grateful to God that he’s given me this talent.”
The Heritage girls weren’t the only ones making waves Tuesday. The Pioneer boys won the 4x200 relay with a speedy 1:31.99 from Joe Pinn, Zach Steele, Jahee Blake and Kenneth Crawford. Pinn, a senior, ran the opening leg and immediately took aim at the runners at the head of the pack.
“They gave me my first ring,” Pinn said of his teammates. “My lap was fun. When I saw [Phoebus’s Calvin Bunch] in front of me, I knew the race was over.”
The Heritage boys finished third overall behind champion Western Albemarle, which edged Fluvanna by six points.
The Pioneers were backed by runner-up finishes by Jaleal Hamlet in the triple jump and Jahee Blake in the 55 hurdles. Kyron Thomas was third in the high jump and Crawford was third in the 55 dash.
The LCA boys won one of the last races of the day, the 4x400, by nearly eight seconds over runner up Phoebus. The Bulldogs were backed by a senior squad consisting of Nate Dewey, Logan Webb, James Wilen and Bryce Becker.
On the Class 4 side, Jefferson Forest’s 4x200 quartet of Patrick McCray, Devon Watts, Addison Hilton and Danteas Braxton took home gold with a 1:30.74, flirting with the state record of 1:30.54 set by Amherst in 2017.
McCray was also runner -up in the 500 dash, while teammate Judah Praise was runner up in the high jump. The JF boys finished fifth overall. Loudoun Valley swept both sides of the Class 4 meet.
JF’s Hannah Pettyjohn took home second in the pole vault with an 11-09, while her teammate Kylie Litke was third in the 500.
The E.C. Glass girls (eighth in team standings) had three fourth-place finishes: Jette Davidson in the 1,600, Amanic Brown in the high jump and Jade Lane in the triple jump.
Ben Cates covers high school sports for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5527.