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Regional champs look forward to state meet

NEWPORT NEWS – Nansemond River’s James Taylor sprinted to regional championships in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and King’s Fork Allen Kelly defended his pole vaulting title in the Eastern Region Saturday during the final day of the Eastern Region Track and Field Championships at Newport News’s Todd Stadium.

Both Taylor and Kelly move on to add to their state championship collections next weekend as the state championships will be held Friday and Saturday at the same venue. Taylor will be attempting to add three titles, in the 100, 200 and 400, to his four state titles from the indoor track season.

Kelly will be going, counting indoor and outdoor seasons, for his third straight state pole vault championship.

On Saturday, both seniors displayed dominant performances. Kelly topped the rest of the region by better than a foot in the pole vault, clearing 15-feet-7. In the 200, Taylor’s second race of the day, his winning time of 21.40 seconds was 0.91 seconds better than the field. Taylor won the 100-meter dash in 10.64 seconds.

Kelly’s top challenger was Gloucester’s Zak Sisak. Sisak didn’t miss a vault through clearing 14-feet-6. Both Sisak and Kelly missed their first attempts at 15-feet-0.

“If they’re doing well, it pushes me to do better, to get my jumps more on point,” said Kelly about stepping up to how Sisak was doing.

Kelly cleared his second attempt at 15-feet-0 and that turned out to be enough to claim the regional title. Kelly, who has committed to Virginia Military, cleared 15-feet-7, but couldn’t get over 16-feet-0, a goal that’s been on his radar for much of this indoor and outdoor season.

“It’s another barrier to break. It’s another school record, and a self-accomplishment. It would also improve my national ranking,” said Kelly, who said a 16-foot vault would put him in the top 10-15 high school vaulters in the country.

With the right conditions and right execution, Kelly believes 16-feet is within his reach at the state championships.

“I believe I can with the right week of practice,” said Kelly. Practice has been a big hurdle to itself this spring for Kelly.

All the rain took its toll on baseball, softball and other spring sports teams around the region, but wind and rain makes practicing vaulting out of the question.

Taylor probably didn’t need more of an advantage after already claiming the region’s 100 title early in the afternoon, but he got an added spark nonetheless prior to the 200.

“I was kind of angry. Someone (another competitor) raised their hand just when we were ready to go, then the starter held us at the line for a long time which I didn’t understand. I just turned it into energy on the track,” said Taylor.

Taylor had a big lead early into the turn of the 200, and continued powering ahead down the straightaway.

The final time was a couple tenths off Taylor’s personal best and a time in the 20-second range is what Taylor has his mind set on.

“It might take a perfect race, but I know I’m capable of it. It might take some time, but I’m willing to wait,” said Taylor.

Taylor will be going for three individual titles, in the 100, 200 and 400 next weekend.

“It’ll be harder than indoors, because there will be preliminaries and finals for each event,” said Taylor, “but I’ve trained to be ready for it and I’m not too worried.”