It was almost like watching the same race twice. First the girls did it, then the boys did.
The Western Albemarle boys and girls cross country teams dominated both races, with the Warriors’ boys taking seven of the top eight spots while the girls took the top four and five of nine. And that wasn’t the only piece of déjà vu. Nathaniel Hermsmeier and sister Madeline each paved the way for Monticello to finish second, in both cases, ahead of Louisa County.
In the first race of the day, Mattie Webb finished comfortably in first place with her time of 18:50 and was followed by a photo-esque finish between Claire Johnson and Killian O’Connell who took second and third.
“I don’t think any of us were trying to go out there set and any (personal records), so to finish the way we did was really nice,” Webb said. “We have a lot of injuries so we wanted to do as well as we could but also not get hurt.”
They did just that. To take fourth, Katie Farina come across the finish line just 13 seconds before Monticello’s Madeline Hermsmeier was able to break the streak of yellow jerseys and start a new chain. After the Mustang junior took fifth, teammates Cathy Merritt and Tessa Diehl placed sixth and seventh respectively.
By the end of the race though, Western had all five scoring runners in the top 10 as freshman Sarah Grupp was able to take ninth to make a runaway win for the Warriors.
“Before the race they had a little meeting saying they wanted one through four,” said Western girls coach Katie Pugh. “I don’t want to say that I didn’t think they could do it, because I knew they’re capable, but I wasn’t sure it was going to happen because (Madeline Hermsmeier) is such a strong runner. They stuck it out and then our fifth running was outstanding. Sarah Grupp really stepped it up today.”
With its three runners in the top seven, and five in the top 25, Monticello finished 36 points in front of third place Louisa.
The Lions were led by Chelsea Nelson, Samantha Madison and Casey Clune who finished 11th, 13th and 14th in that order. By beating out Orange County, Louisa locked up the third and final Region II championship bid.
All individuals to finish 15th or better qualified for the Region II meet next Thursday. Charlottesville’s Katherin Bouchard and Jayme Kusyk came in eighth and 12th to earn such honors. So too did Fluvanna County’s Brooke Hairslip who finished in the 15th spot.
Minutes after the girls finished up, the JD boys did their best to replicate the previous race. It started with Western’s Derek Armstrong finishing on top at 16:02. Just 17 seconds later Mustang senior Nathaniel Hermsmeier took second place, and then it was another Warriors train.
“It’s always exciting to get to cross the line first,” Armstrong said. “But it’s so much more exciting to turn back and see all your teammates coming right behind you.”
Henry Giles, David Taylor, Ben Schiller, Adam Schiller, William Plews-Ogan and Gavin Ratcliffe finished in succession, giving Western third through eighth place, for the nearly flawless outing.
“Our goal was for our seventh man to finish in eighth place and we pulled that off,” said Western boys coach Lindy Bain. “We kind of figured that we weren’t going to be able to get seven guys ahead of (Nathaniel Hermsmeier).”
Monticello piled up the points for its second place showing by taking up five of the top 17. Miguel Gomez, Anthony Taberirno took 12th and 13th and Reid Dickerson and Dylan Ferrer were close behind in 15th and 17th respectively.
Louisa snagged third place with Coleman Brady finishing first for the Lions in 11th. Rylan Donlon and Rockdale Quarles were 16th and 19th to give Louisa three top-20 runners.
Others to round out top-15 performances and advance were Orange’s Jeff Taylor, Goochland’s Stephen Fergusaon and Fluvanna’s Chris Markham. The three finished in ninth, 10th and 14th.
The Region II championship will be held on November 4 at Kernstown Battfield in Winchester.