By Jim McGrath - MileStat
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As afternoon faded into evening in Virginia Beach on Saturday, a contingent of the country's top high school athletes arrived for The VA Showcase's invitational events.
And even with fewer spectators -- it's been nearly a year since COVID-19 has permeated life in a way that's never been seen before -- there was a sense of normalcy to the proceedings on the Virginia Beach Sports Center track.
Because yet again, familiar faces doted the oval, among them both athletes and coaches.
The quartet of Ally Talley, Ricky Fetterolf, Scarlet Fetterolf and Ava Gordon, of the Nova Track Club and Loudoun Valley High School, won the 4x1600m relay in 21:03.19. Admiring from afar was the club team's coaches, Joan and Marc Hunter.
But running fast wasn't new to this group.
While the Hunters have opted to take this indoor season off with Loudoun Valley, they still remained with the NOVA club team. The team structure has kept them close to their distance runners until the couple resumes working with their Viking crew for the cross country season, which, in Virginia, will begin in early March.
On Saturday, the Hunters were given a pleasing eyeful from their charges.
With the team's winning time of 21:03.19, the Nova quartet almost nipped the MileSplit.com era national record, set by Blacksburg, also of Virginia, in 2008.
All-Time 4x1600 Girls Rankings
NJ Ridgewood HS
The Blacksburg squad ran 21:03.22, but each runner covered a full mile, thus negating the opportunity. The MVP group would have had to beat the Blacksburg split at the 6,400 mark, which it did not accomplish.
Talley, at leadoff, aimed "to get us in a good position," and accomplished her goal, putting MVP Track in a comfortable second spot behind the Crozet Crew, also from Virginia.
Waiting for her in the straightaway was veteran Ricky Fetterolf, who first helped her Crozet counterpart set position within the exchange zone before receiving the baton 15 meters behind the Crew runner.
It was only the matter of 180 meters before the Air Force Academy hopeful took the lead on the same straightaway.
Asked why she didn't wait until longer in her leg to make a move, the senior took the simple approach. "I saw the opportunity to pass."
The second exchange went Fetterolf-to-Fetterolf, with Ricky handing off to her younger sister, Scarlet. Scarlet, who only started running last year, after focusing on dancing through her youth and pre-teen years, was in front of the pack, but bundled with nerves.
"This was my first relay ever," confessed the younger sister, a sophomore. "I just wanted to support the team and not mess up the handoff."
She held the lead for MVP, and executed a solid handoff to anchor Ava Gordon. Gordon, the Viking ace last year, unofficially matched her best 1600 indoor time with a split of 5:01 to bring the MVP squad home with the win and the near national record.
In spite of the inconsistency of this athletic school year, the MVP/Loudoun Valley runners remain undaunted with the pursuit of their goals.
In response to the future of their relay, the older Fetterolf answered, "if someone has a national championship, or a national meet somewhere, we would like to take a chance at running 20 minutes."
Or at least one more shot at the Blacksburg national mark.