John Paul Wins Catholic State Championship And Competes At VISAA Championship
By Shane Wall
Junior Xander Fry stepped up to the line, ready to run eight laps around the track. Ten minutes and thirty-three seconds later, Fry earned his state title at the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Championship held at Sports Backers Stadium in Richmond, Virginia.
Fry is one of many members of this year’s successful Saint John Paul the Great Boys Outdoor Track Team. Led by Coaches Jim Garster and Bakita Rosenkrantz, the John Paul Track Team practiced five days a week, rain or shine, since late February. A rigorous meet schedule then tested this work ethic. At times, the team had two meets a week, which was challenging, especially for student-athletes. But the team showcased its hard work later in the season, winning state titles and breaking school records.
In May, the John Paul Team traveled to rival school St. Paul VI in Chantilly, Virginia, for the 2021 Virginia State Catholic Championships. There, Catholic school students from all over the diocese and state competed in various events, from 400-meter relays to the long jump to the 800-meter run. The latter event featured a stand-out performance by John Paul Senior Brandon Thompson. With a 2-minute and 3-second finish, Thompson placed first out of 22 athletes, followed closely by Junior Xander Fry. Cayden Bass-Hensley, dominated the 100-meter dash, another John Paul Junior. Bass-Hensley not only placed first in this sprinting event but also secured a first-place finish in the 200-meter dash. Similarly, the John Paul Boys 4x100-meter relay team of Cayden Bass-Hensley, Kareem Dhillon, Rahmin Norwood, and Joseph Wolstenholme won their heat with a forty-four-second finish. By the end of the meet, the John Paul Boys Team had racked up enough points to win the 2021 Catholic State Championship, a well-earned title.
A week later, the team ventured to Richmond to race at the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) Championship Meet. Competitive athletes with impressive qualifying times represented Forty-eight independent schools in Virginia to race at Sports Backers Stadium, the Virginia Commonwealth University Track and Field Team home. While the weather was not ideal, with temperatures reaching highs of 91 degrees, the John Paul Track Team was determined to succeed.
The meet kicked off with field events in the morning, followed by running events in the early afternoon. In the 3200-meter race, John Paul Junior Xander Fry outpaced 16 others to win a state title, only an hour after placing second in the 1600-meter race. Brandon Thompson also placed second in the 800-meter race, a commendable achievement in his final year running at John Paul. Another notable performance included the Boys 4x800-meter Relay Team of Sean Alorro, Thomas Oylear, Brandon Thompson, and Matthew Elliot. Historically, this relay race is fast-paced and intense, as each athlete on a team of four runs a baton for a portion of the race. The John Paul Boys Relay Team finished in third place. By the close of the meet, the John Paul Boys Team placed fifth overall, the highest rank in school history for the VISAA Championship.
Overall, this year’s John Paul Outdoor Track Team proved its resilience, converting hours of practicing into several state titles and personal records. The team congratulates its seniors Erin Elliot, Brandon Thompson, Katherine Ulrich, Estela Ralston, Joseph Wolstenholme, Emma Westerfield, Rahmin Norwood, Kareem Dhillon, and Carolyn Halgas for their hard work and hopes for their continued success beyond high school.