Brookville's boys and Rustburg's girls demonstrated that at Saturday's Region III championships at Heritage High, getting dominating performances from juniors Ethan Nixon and Kristin Smith, respectively.
Spurred by Nixon's first-place finish in three individual events, and second-place showing in a fourth, Brookville followed up its Seminole District title with a Region III crown, scoring 98 points to hold off Blacksburg (73) and Jefferson Forest (64).
In his showcase event, the 55-meter hurdles, Nixon, the defending Group AA state indoor champion, broke the Region III record, set by Appomattox first-year coach Kevin Walker, by one-hundredth of a second, winning in 7.58.
"Coming into the finals, I knew I had to run a little better than I did in the preliminaries and I just got a clean start and ran a clean race," Nixon said.
Nixon, who re-injured his hip first hurt playing football while running the 800 relay, also won the long jump with a leap of 21 feet, 2 inches, and the high jump by clearing 5-10, missing a shot at another meet record with an attempt at 6-4. He also placed second to Appomattox's Michael Chambers in the triple jump (43-3?).
He will compete in five events at next Saturday's Group AA state meet at Liberty University, including the 300, which he didn't run at Heritage to rest his hip.
"I need to go into the meet mentally prepared and physically ready to go," Nixon said. "Next week, there will be a little better competition in all the events.
"This gets my confidence up a little bit knowing I can get first or second in the region in just about everything I competed in," he added. "Hopefully, I can come into state and do the same thing."
Brookville coach Ramsey Moore will take it easy on Nixon in practices this week before the state meet and doesn't expect his hip to slow him down.
"We want to make sure he's on his A game," said Moore, who will rely heavily on Nixon, but expects him to receive plenty of support from the 11 boys who qualified.
"Generally, at the state meet, to win you have to have a dominant person," Moore said. "Our goal this week was to get as many people into the state meet as possible. Our goal all year has been to place first at the state meet and hopefully, we've set ourselves up for it. The guys will have the potential to score a lot of individual points. It depends on who comes to run."
Nixon said the Bees knew early on they had the chance to do well this winter.
"We were undefeated in the regular season and won the first big meet, the Wally Gilbert Invitational (at LU), so we knew what we could do after that," he said. "Our goal all year was to win state so that's what we're going to go after."
Moore said having the state meet be a one-day event won't be a disadvantage for Nixon, who runs his best when he doesn't have too much cool-down time between events.
"He stays focused," Moore said.
Rustburg's girls team, which finished runner-up to the Bees at the Seminole meet, repeated its second-place showing at Region III - scoring 59 points to place behind only Blacksburg's 67 - on the strength of Smith's first-place performance in the triple jump and amazing anchor leg effort in the 1,600-meter relay.
When Smith took the handoff from Ashley Heath for the final leg of the 1,600 relay, the Red Devils were in last place in the fourth and fastest heat, trailing the lead runner by more than 20 yards.
"That's why we put her there," Rustburg coach Gerald Mosley said. "She's been training for that all year long. That's why I took her out of the 60. You need your horse running the anchor leg of the 4x400 (when the meet comes down to that race)."
Smith clocked a split time of around 58 seconds for her 400.
"That's smokin' in this place," Mosley said of Heritage High. "(LU's) a faster track, so I'm looking for some real quality times."
Last week, Rustburg lost its lead to Brookville on the final event, when Smith wasn't at full strength due to a stomach virus.
"I'm so excited the girls did what they were told to do, especially after last week, which was so disappointing," Mosley said. "That was Kristin Smith, the way she ran today.
"I'm just excited for her," he added. "Getting a big win in the triple jump and doing well in the 4x400 gives her a lot of confidence. She'll be at an all-time high going into the state meet."
Mosley expects her to duplicate her performances in six events at the state meet.
"She's been doing that all year long, competing in five or six events," Mosley said. "We've trained her for it."
Smith's best individual performance came in the triple jump, when she improved her distance by a foot and a half on the last attempt.
"I had coaches help me," Smith said. "They told me what I needed to improve on and how to extend my phases. I held them as long as I could. Running the 300 right before it really loosened me up for it."
"That was phenomenal," Mosley added.
Smith also had a second-place height in the high jump, two third-place showings (300, 500) and two fourth-place finishes (long jump, shot put).
Staunton River senior Brooke Heller improved by approximately one foot in winning the long jump with a leap of 17-9.
"That was a big shock for me," Heller said. "I was really emotional about it. It was awesome. I'm really proud of myself for what I did today. I didn't think I had it in me."
She qualified in four events - the high jump, long jump, triple jump and 55 hurdles.
Shelley Parker, who led Brookville's girls (40 points) to a fourth-place team finish behind William Fleming (55), won the pole vault on Wednesday before placing second in the 300 and third in the 55 on Saturday.
JF's boys finished third overall led by senior Geoff Ranowsky. He was seeded third in the 500 meters behind two Blacksburg runners, but ended up beating them both in 1:13.82.
"It was unbelieveable," he said. "I took it one guy at a time, one lap at a time. All the guys were cheering for me and I couldn't lose it then; I couldn't disappoint them. I passed the last Blacksburg guy with about a lap to go and I pushed through at the end on an adrenaline rush."
He led off and ran a 2:07 split time in the Cavaliers' defending state champion 3,200 relay, matching that of second runner Brandon Love. Forest won in 8:35.69, more than 12 seconds ahead of Brookville.
In the 1,600 relay, the Cavaliers were seeded first, a second ahead of Blacksburg, and wound up winning over runner-up Christiansburg and the third-place Bruins by nearly two seconds.
Shashi Murthy anchored the event, which won in 3:40.05.
"It wasn't really me," Murthy said. "We had the lead, I just had to hold onto it. We had the lead the whole way and we just kept extending it. We took off three seconds from last week's (Seminole District title). All week, we've been doing blind handoffs (in practice) and I think that's what took it off."