LYNCHBURG — Handley senior Taylor Beard has been setting records throughout her career, so it couldn’t have been more fitting that she set another one in her final Virginia High School League high jump competition.
Beard captured the seventh high jump state title of her career by leaping 5 feet, 8 inches on Friday at Liberty University’s Osborne Stadium. That mark broke Beard’s own Class 4 state meet record of 5-6 that she set last year when the meet was held at Harrisonburg High School.
While the phrase “Beard wins high jump” has been said and typed countless times over the years, it meant a lot for Beard to finish her VHSL career in familiar fashion. Beard won all four indoor state competitions in her career and has captured every outdoor state title since her sophomore year.
“Grabbing my last state title in the high jump was very bittersweet, honestly, because I won’t be doing [the high jump] at the state meet again,” Beard said. “But I’m not that sad about it because I still have a couple more meets, including nationals. I still have a long way to go.”
Beard only had the chance to win one state title on Friday because of two lightning delays. The first lasted for more than an hour. The meet resumed for less than 10 minutes, then shortly into the second delay the rest of the competition was postponed until this morning.
The girls’ triple jump — which Handley coach Mike McKiernan said Beard led with a 39-3 with the preliminaries — and the boys’ pole vault did not finish, and the prelims for the boys’ 200 did not start. The meet will start at 9 a.m. today.
Beard’s ability to think about the future and constantly push herself is why she’s won seven state high jump titles, owns the state high jump record (6-0.5), is an All-American high jumper and is going to the University of Cincinnati on a full scholarship.
On Friday, Beard said the mat wasn’t set up straight during the high jump competition, which she said was “messing with her mind.” Still, she cleared 5-4 to beat Blacksburg’s Ellie St. Martin (5-2), then cleared 5-8 next so she could surpass her meet record.
“It was hard to get my approach down,” Beard said. “I broke my own record, but I knew I could have gone higher. It happens.”
Beard might have been a heavy favorite, but Handley coach Mike McKiernan did not want to assume that she’d win. He took Beard out of the 100 hurdles and moved her to the 4x100 team instead because the hurdles trials were taking place at the same time as the high jump competition, and he did not want to disrupt her focus in her signature event.
“I was so happy for her because there’s a lot of pressure on you when you’ve been as successful as she has,” he said. “Everybody just kind of expects something. That was the actually the event I felt most apprehensive about because of those expectations. Once we got that out of the way, I felt good about the rest of the way. Her jumping 39-3 in the triple is very solid.”
Handley also received an all-state performance from senior Chloe Putnam in the discus (eighth with a mark of 108-0) to give the Judges 11 points after the first day, good for third place. Blacksburg is in first with 16 points, Loudoun Valley is second with 13, Sherando is tied for sixth with 8, Millbrook is tied for 13th with 4 and James Wood is tied for 18th with 0.33.
“I’m very happy for Chloe,” McKiernan said. “She’s had some difficulties this season with her technique, but she kept plugging, she kept working, and today it paid off.”
Sherando’s points all came from freshman Ella Carlson in the discus. She took the lead heading into the finals with a mark of 119-7 on her third throw, which was her best mark of the day. But, Dinwiddie’s top-seeded sophomore Leslie Young had three throws of more than 122 feet in the finals, including two of 124-5, to win it.
“It feels great [to place second],” said Carlson, who had a seed mark of 128-1 to Young’s 131-7. “I’m proud of myself for being able to make it this far, especially as a freshman. It’s a big deal. I had someone say to me, ‘So you’re a senior, right?’ I said, ‘Nope. Freshman.’
“I didn’t throw my best, but the competition was great today. I’m so proud of all the other girls who stepped up. The girl from Dinwiddie, I’m really proud of her. It’s just a special experience to be here as a freshman.”
Sherando coach T.J. Rohrbaugh said Carlson deserves every award coming to her now and in the future.
“She has a lot of natural ability, but she works hard,” Rohrbaugh said. “I expect big things out of her in the future.”
Millbrook and James Wood each had one all-state performance. The Pioneers’ 4x800 team of freshman Becca Edlich and seniors Maddie Lloyd, Emily Muldowney, and Kaycee Cox-Philyaw placed fifth in 9:51.92. James Wood sophomore Brooke Sandy tied for eighth in the high jump with a 5-0.