VIRGINIA — The Virginia boys’ track and field team will be sending two athletes to the state meet this weekend. Eighth grader Cameron Stocke will be competing in the 800 and 1600 meter runs and junior Chris Jacklen will look to make his mark in the shot put.
For Stocke,it was easy to realize he would advance to state in the 1600 after being so close as only a seventh grader, but advancing to state in the 800 was the real shock amongst Stocke and the Virginia coaching staff.
Initially slated to stick with the 1600 and 3200 meter runs this season, Stocke switched from the 3200 to the 800 after not racking up enough miles at practice that would help make him competitive.
“I just don’t think I did enough miles at the beginning of the season to be ready for the two mile,” Stocke said at the Virginia’s Ewens field Tuesday. “I ended up trying out the 800 and I thought it was pretty fun so it became my new race.”
As humble as can be in person, Stocke’s times in both events show he’s not one to mess with. Stocke comes into the state meet seeded second in the 1600 with a time of 4:24.33. In the 800, he’s seeded fourth at 1:58.07.
Both times put him well within reach of a state championship, but the young runner is seeing the state meet as just another opportunity to drop time.
“I wanted state to be a priority. Halfway through the season, I didn’t have any expectations time-wise, but now I want to keep going faster and cutting seconds off.
“In the mile, I’d like to get below 4:20, so I need to shave off about four and a half seconds. It sounds like a lot but I think I can do it. And in the 800, I’m really hoping to just make the finals (top nine). The 800 is still a little scary for me. It’s a much faster pace than the mile so it takes some getting used to.”
Scary or not, the eighth grader already has quite the resume. Finishing in 13th place at last fall’s state cross country championships, Stocke’s distance coach, Andy Del Greco, thinks already having the taste of state will give him a great boost heading into the weekend.
“That experience is going to be big,” Del Greco said. “He was a little overwhelmed this fall at state but now he’ll be much more ready. We’re just excited to see what he’s going to do. He’s going to give everybody a good run for their money down there.”
As for junior thrower Chris Jacklen, making the state meet in the shot put seemed almost out of reach, but an outstanding day and a personal record (PR) that saw his subsection throw improved upon by more than five feet the section meet skyrocketed Jacklen into state qualifying territory.
What caused the big improvement? Jacklen said that by the time the postseason came to be, it was time to buckle down.
“I just had a good day,” Jacklen said. “My teammate Anton [LeBeque] also set a PR by over three feet that day so it was nice for both of us. I think we were just more focused.
“Right after subsections, I buckled down and kept that focus and that’s really how it happened. I told myself the day before sections that this was the perfect time in the season to get another PR and that’s what I did.”
Jacklen’s section mark of 45 feet, five and a half inches was enough for runner-up at sections and leaves him seeded 16th heading into state. Looking to move up from his seed position yet again, Jacklen has set himself a few goals heading into state.
“I want to make it into the top 10, set another PR or throw 48 feet. If I throw a 48, I’m thinking I’ll be hitting all three of those goals. But at least I’d like to that same mark from sections or just a bit better to end the season.”
Devils first-year head boys’ coach and throwing coach Matt Anderson says Jacklen’s improvements can be attributed to a strong presence in the weight room, as well as a sound structure when it came to a practice schedule fro throwing.
“Chris is an experienced weight lifter and getting everyone in the weight room -— runners, jumpers, throwers — was the big thing I wanted to bring to the program. Chris’ experience there and having a great lifting partner in Anton really made his improvements fun to watch.”
Jacklen said he really started taking weight lifting serious this past winter, entering himself into lifting meets when given the opportunity.
“I think lifting competitively, Olympic style was a big turnaround for me,” Jacklen said. “It really helped not just with strength, but with my mentality.”
“Another thing he really benefited from was a structured practice schedule,” his coach said. “It wasn’t just showing up when you wanted to and throwing the same thing every day. We mixed things up every single day but still kept a routine so kids were peaking heading into the meets. The routine of it all is what was so huge for him.”