Tomlin Wins, Four Blues Earn All-State Honors

Tomlin Wins, Four Blues Earn All-State Honors

THE PM boys cross country team, under the direction of head coach Chris Poluikis (far right) and assistant coach Daniel Kosogof (far left), celebrates after winning its second consecutive Class 1 state championship. Holding the trophy is individual champion Trevor Tomlin. Running for the Blues were (second from left, left to right) Colin Donnelly, Brenden Plogger, David Lawhorne, Tomlin, Durham Baker, Kedryn Chandler and Kovyk Chandler. (Jonathan Schwab photo)

Tomlin Wins, Four Blues Earn All-State Honors

PM JUNIOR Jillian Wheelock paces herself during the girls’ race. Wheelock placed 21st in a season-best time of 22:40.3. (Jonathan Schwab photo)

Tomlin Wins, Four Blues Earn All-State Honors

THE PM boys huddle together before the start of the race. (Jonathan Schwab photo)

Tomlin Wins, Four Blues Earn All-State Honors

FIGHTING BLUE senior Brenden Plogger follows a Galileo runner uphill in the second mile of the race. (Jonathan Schwab photo)

Led by senior Trevor Tomlin’s individual victory, the Parry McCluer High School boys cross country won its second consecutive Class 1 state championship on Friday afternoon at Green Hill Park in Salem.

The PM boys, who won the Pioneer District title and placed second to Auburn in a tiebreaker at the Region 1C meet, had three all-state (top 15) finishes and scored 47 points to beat Auburn’s 54 at the state meet. The Fighting Blues had beaten Auburn for the state title in the fall of 2019, but their margin of victory was 34 points then.

“It was really tight this year,” said longtime PM head coach Chris Poluikis, after celebrating the trophy with his runners and the Blues’ fans. “Nobody was really out front. We didn’t have quite the experience we had [in 2019].” Poluikis added that all the teams were facing the challenge of staying in shape during COVID-19. The season was delayed from the fall and condensed due to the pandemic, and this season didn’t have the large invitational meets that a normal cross country season has.

The ending of the season was similar to the indoor track and field season, when the Blues had finished second at the Region 1C meet before winning their second consecutive state title.

Galileo placed third of eight teams with 63 points, and Mathews (69) came in fourth. Completing the team standings were Altavista (135), Castlewood (146), West Point (181) and Thomas Walker (215).

Tomlin, who was also the district and regional champion, ran in the small lead group of three runners for most of the race before breaking away from his closest competitor, Riverheads’ Clay Kelly, in the final mile. On the cloudy afternoon with temperatures in the low 60s, Tomlin crossed the line on the flat 5-kilometer course in a personal-record (PR) time of 16 minutes, 25.6 seconds. About 17 seconds later, Kelly placed second of 66 runners in 16:42.9.

Tomlin said he was “definitely not trying to go fast, just hang on.” His strategy was wearing out the leaders, he said. “I put in spurts here and there to sap the energy from them.”

Poluikis said that, knowing how smart a runner Tomlin is, he could sense the win was coming at the 2-mile mark. “When I saw Trevor coming around that turn, I knew it was in the bag,” the PM coach said.

Reflecting on the win, Tomlin, who had placed eighth in the state as a junior, said it was “definitely bittersweet” because he was happy he was able to achieve it as a senior, the last year he plans to race at such a high level of competition. Tomlin, who won the 1600 and 3200-meter runs during indoor track season, will run outdoor track this spring. Next year, he’ll be a student at Brown University, where he said he hopes to do club running.

Tomlin is PM’s second consecutive individual boys’ state champion, as 2020 graduate Dylan May, now running for Southern Virginia University, won in 2019. May was at the state meet to cheer on his former teammates on Saturday.

PM’s second all-state runner was senior Kedryn Chandler, who placed eighth in 16:59.3, and senior teammate Brenden Plogger finished 13th in 17:22.2. Freshman Kovyk Chandler (16th, 17:29.4) was the Blues’ fourth runner, and senior Durham Baker (35th, 18:46.3) stepped up with a big PR as PM’s fifth scorer.

“Durham just stepped up huge,” said Poluikis. After graduating May, the Blues needed a strong fifth runner to improve their team score, and Poluikis was thankful Baker came out for the team.

Baker said he felt “a little bit” of pressure being the fifth runner, but said, “I just tried to stay calm and be there for my team.”

Throughout the season, Baker has steadily improved. “That’s all with the help of my teammates, Coach Poluikis, [assistant] coach [Daniel] Kosogof, everybody,” he said.

Baker was the one member of the cross country team who was on the PM boys basketball team that won the first state title in program history in late February. On winning both titles in the same year, he said, “It’s pretty awesome. It feels different.”

Also racing for the Blues were junior David Lawhorne (55th, 21:10.9) and sophomore Colin Donnelly (62nd, 22:17).

In the girls’ race, Morgan Dalton led team champion George Wythe by winning in 19:56.2.

The Blues had two runners competing. Junior Koya Chandler earned all-state honors by placing ninth of 62 harriers in 21:38.7, a PR by about 30 seconds. Following her was junior teammate Jillian Wheelock, finishing 21st in a season-best time of 22:40.3.

Chandler, who had finished 25th in the state as a sophomore said she was pleased with her finish on Saturday. “I’ve been struggling really bad this year,” she said, noting she’d had asthma and some heart problems this season.

At the district meet, Chandler was a little sick and finished second to Wheelock by 18 seconds, but Poluikis said, “She got over that and has been running well. The past couple of weeks, she’s been bouncing back.”

Poluikis said both Chandler and Wheelock “went out aggressive and hard.”

He said the flat course suited Chandler well because she’s “more of a speedster.”

Chandler will do the 800- meter run in outdoor track this spring, while Wheelock will play soccer.

As a team, the PM girls had a solid season. With five runners, the minimum required for a team score, they won the Pioneer District meet and placed third in the Region 1C meet. They’ll graduate one senior, Cloey Mazingo.

Many of the Blues will go right into outdoor track season, while several will do other spring sports.

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