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2013-02-27 / Sports

Lancers deploy talent and camaraderie to win title

By Jim McConnell
STAFF WRITER


David Thompson (from left), Corey Devore, Christian Rogers, Michael Averett, Micah Todd and Ben Taminger led Manchester High’s boys track team to its first Central Region indoor championship since 2007. 
Jim McConnell/Chesterfield Observer David Thompson (from left), Corey Devore, Christian Rogers, Michael Averett, Micah Todd and Ben Taminger led Manchester High’s boys track team to its first Central Region indoor championship since 2007. Jim McConnell/Chesterfield Observer For Manchester High School’s boys winter track team, chemistry isn’t just a class where you perform experiments and memorize the periodic table of elements.

It’s an invisible force that carried the Lancers to the 2013 Central Region team title – an accomplishment which, prior to this season, nobody outside the Manchester locker room saw coming.

“These are really the only people I hang out with,” said Michael Averett, a senior and one of the team‘s five individual regional champions. “You grow a bond and that carries over to your events. It’s a good feeling to know you always have your teammates there to support you.”

“It’s like a brotherhood,” added classmate Corey Devore.

That connection is obvious during the Lancers’ daily workouts. They keep up an almost-constant stream of jokes and goodnatured trash talk. They also challenge each other to put in the work to get better on those frigid winter afternoons when everyone would rather be inside.

“They’re laid-back until it‘s time to compete,” said first-year coach Will Byrnes, who inherited the talented squad when longtime coach Gene Bowen retired after the 2011-12 school year.

Bowen was coach when Manchester’s boys won their last Central Region team championship in 2007. Since then, the Lancers have been overshadowed by several other teams in an always-tough Central Region.

Their underdog status was a major motivator for Manchester’s seniors as they prepared for their final regional indoor meet.

“We had a chip on our shoulder,” senior David Thompson said. “Everybody said we wouldn’t be able to return Manchester to its former glory and we proved them wrong.”

Byrnes knew that in order for his boys to win the region, they’d have to dominate the field events. That’s exactly what happened.

Led by University of Virginia-bound senior Christian Rogers, who won the triple jump with a leap of 47 feet, 5½ inches, the Lancers built a massive lead during the first day of competition at Richmond’s Arthur Ashe Center.

Fellow senior Micah Todd won the long jump and Averett edged teammate Devore to win the high jump.

Manchester’s title hopes got a major boost when Thompson unleashed the throw of his life. Seeded sixth in the shot put, Thompson stood in third place until his final attempt. He came through with a throw of 54 feet, 4 inches, and won the event by nearly 4 feet.

“It was amazing … I can’t really put it into words,” Thompson said. “All the hard work finally paid off.”

Teammate Ezra Hill, one of the favorites to win the shot put, celebrated Thompson’s accomplishment by rushing across the track and nailing him with what a smiling Thompson described as “an aggressive hug.”

“They’re a close-knit group,” Byrnes added. “They were as happy for each other doing well as they were for their own championships.”

Manchester’s team title wasn’t assured until Taminger produced another unexpected result. The sophomore, whose seed time was only 10th best in the region, came out of the slower of two heats to nip Hermitage’s Devin Barnes by 12-one-hundredths of a second in the 1,000 meters.

“To get those 10 points for the team felt really good,” Taminger said. “I felt like I played my part.”

For these Lancers, the regional championship truly was a team effort.

In addition to the five individual titles, the trio of Rogers, Averett and Todd earned valuable points in running events that contributed to a 31-point margin over runner-up Midlothian.

Considering all of the work they’ve put in over the last four years, Manchester’s seniors agreed that it held extra significance to win the title together.

“You know that when it comes down to it, your teammates are going to have your back,” Todd said. “That makes you want to keep going.”

Added Rogers: “If you’re going to do a sport, you have to love it. If I didn’t love these guys, I wouldn’t be out here.”

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