COLUMBIA - The Bishop England girls' success has become as much a part of the Lowcountry spring as azaleas and no-see-ums. The Bishops won their seventh consecutive Class AA track and field state championship Saturday at Spring Valley's Harry Parone Stadium.
In Class A boys, it was a case of a new kid on the block flexing its athletic muscle as Military Magnet collected three individual state championships, including two by standout James Heyward, who won both hurdle events to lead the Eagles to an eighth-place finish.
When Heyward talks about the Magnet program, it's a story many Bishop Englanders can relate to because they've been in the same situation until they hit the big time.
"We have about only 10 people who run track," said Heyward, who will play football at Newberry College. "We really don't have a place to run or practice. We run around on the big field outside of school. And, we never had a state champion until today."
Bishop England was pretty much in the same situation when coach Phillip Bottelier arrived at the school. The Bishops were small in numbers and were lucky to have one qualifier at the state meet in the late 1990s. The school moved to its Daniel Island location and Bottelier built the program's foundation, and current coach Tony Colizzi has done nothing but win.
Saturday, it was more of the same as the Bishops scored 126 points to easily outdistance second-place Emerald, which tallied 65 points and Woodland was third with 55.
Woodland won the boys' Class AA title with 73.5 points. Andrews used three first-place finishes from Marcus Pope to claim third with 66.
Lamar won the girls' Class A title with 87 points, while Allendale-Fairfax was second with 70. Johnsonville was third with 63.50.
In the boys' competition, Allendale-Fairfax was first with 78 points to edge out Lamar, which had 74.5 points and St. John's was third with 50 points. Lamar had won eight straight state titles.
Bishop England girls won with great depth as it dominated in the distance events and swept the three relay events.
Molly Thayer was one of many Bishops who had big days. She won the pole vault, was a member of the winning 4x100- and 4x400-meter relays while placing fourth in the 400-meter dash. It was her last appearance at Harry Parone Stadium as the senior went out the same way she came in years ago: a winner.
"This was our seventh straight, and hopefully we'll carry on and go even more years," she said. "It's been a very emotional weekend. I've been crying. I cried at the coach's meeting (Friday) night, and I cried after we won the 400 relay this morning. I've been on a lot of state championship teams, but this one is the most special because it's my last one.
"Being a member of the team puts a lot of pressure on you," Thayer added. "But it's worth it. I'm glad we can work together and strive to get through that pressure."
The Bishops' Megan Hohenberger won the 800 run, while the Bishops had four runners score points in the 3,200.
Shannon Graham, Haden Knight, Madison Taylor, Hollen Dodds and Natalie Held also turned in strong efforts.
While the Bishops won as a team, Heyward and the Eagles' Kierra Gabe were pretty much on their own.
"This is the school's third year to have a team, and I've made it to the state three times," said Heyward, who finished second in the high jump. "This is the first time that I've won. Winning hasn't really hit met yet. I guess it's a big deal since it's the first time our school's had a state champ."
Woodland won its first boys' state championship since the Tye Hill era by edging out Andrews.
Jacoby Mackey had a big day for Woodland. He was on the winning 1,600 and 400 relay teams and gained silver medals in the 200 and 400 dashes. Teammate Andrew Johnson won the long and triple jumps.
Hanahan's Nicholas Carson and Megan Bessinger both won gold medals in the high jump.
In Class A, St. John's won the girls' 400 relay for the third straight year as Saadia Brisbon, Ashley Sumter, Crystal Mosley and Tyshonda Hawkins ran a 49.79.
The Islanders' Greg Roper repeated as champion in the 400, while the 1,600 relay team also claimed first.