Ashley Cope has one hurdle trip every year.
The fall was costly as an eighth-grader, when she tripped over the final hurdle at the state meet. The past two years, the falls didn’t come in important meets.
But it did Wednesday when Cope tripped over the third hurdle in the 300-meter hurdles at the GISA Region 2-AAA track and field meet at Mount de Sales’ Cavalier Fields. Cope, however, didn’t let it ruin her race. The junior popped up from the fall, caught the opposition and still won by about 20 meters despite sporting two bloody kneecaps.
It was Cope’s big performance that helped catapult the FPD girls to a region championship. The FPD boys also won the region title, marking the third straight year with both teams winning the region.
“I just wanted to help the team win a region championship and qualify for state,” Cope said. “I thought, ‘Just finish fourth to qualify for state.’ But I ended up getting back in the race pretty fast. We had a good day.”
Cope won the 100-meter hurdles, the 300 hurdles and the pole vault and anchored the 4x400-relay team to push the Lady Vikings to a 15.5-point victory over Mount de Sales. The FPD girls also got three wins out of eighth-grader Grace Tinkey in the distance events and wins by Fran Johnson in the triple jump and 400.
Mount de Sales stayed in the mix thanks to a big day from Amber Vaughn, who won the high jump, long jump and 100 meters and anchored the winning 4x100-relay team.
“It’s pretty special to win this year because we’ve had some questions marks,” FPD head coach April Willingham said. “But the girls stepped up and came up big the last few weeks.”
The Lady Vikings have won four consecutive state championships, but a fifth came into question when standout Morgan Johnson tore her ACL during basketball, forcing her to miss out the track and field season. Her sister, Fran Johnson, also missed time at the beginning of the season. FPD didn’t start winning meets until late in the season.
“We have really come together late in the season and feel pretty good about our chances at the state meet,” Cope said.
The FPD boys also had a fight Wednesday, pulling away from Stratford with a dominating performance in the track evens.
Stratford took an early lead by winning five of the six field events but didn’t have the same depth in the track portion even with a win from Chaz Curtis in the 110 hurdles.
“We can only do what we can do,” Stratford head coach Walt Mays said. “We are a little better in the field events, and FPD is a little better in track. That’s just the way it is. I feel a lot better about the state meet this year than last year.”
The Vikings won nine of the 10 track events and pulled away for a 29-point win.
“We had (more than 50) kids come out for the team, and there are no cuts,” FPD head coach Nick Morgan said. “So we have strong competition in practice, and that has translated into success (at meets).”