Western Albemarle’s Zoe Clay loved it — a young runner coming after her early in a race. While the senior ultimately prevailed over Fluvanna County freshman Emily Smeds, it was an interesting narrative at the Jefferson District girl’s cross country championship at Pleasant Grove.
“I wasn’t sure who all would be here and who wouldn’t,” Clay said. “But I was really impressed by Emily for taking it out, that was a really gutsy move.”
Clay’s time of 19:02 gave her first place by 18 seconds over Smeds on a day where a lot of runners were gearing up for their respective Region and potential VHSL championship races coming up shortly in the following weeks, and some simply took the day off.
“I haven’t run this course since my sophomore year so I was really just trying to remember it,” Clay said. “My main plan was to practice for states — that when I got to the soccer fields and had 800 (meters) to go to pick up the pace and finish hard, basically practice for future races.”
And with teammate Alyssa Santoro-Adajian finishing third at 20:11 and Caroline McGahren coming in at fourth with a time of 10:36, the Warriors appeared to be in perfect shape to win the team title.
But Fluvanna County, running on its home course, found a way to get the job done. The Flucos edged the Warriors by just one point. While Western put four runners in the top-13 and five in the top-24, Fluvanna placed four in the top-12 and five in the top-17 to pick up the win.
After Smeds’ second place finish it was Saige Haney coming in at fifth with a time of 20:31, and then back-to-back finishes at 11th and 12th from Emily Beckman and Hattie Lintecum with respective times of 20:48 and 20:55. But without Kristen Cabrera’s 17th place time at 21:26, which was just one second ahead of Louisa County’s Alayna Campbell, the Flucos would not have walked away with the title.
“We definitely really have a strong team bond,” Smeds said. “We’ve worked really hard to get better together. We’re going to keep working to make this team move on to states.”
Albemarle, which was without its top tier of runners, managed to finish third with Kenzie Lloyd leading the way with her fourth place finish. Louisa County’s Sarah Seay rounded out the top five individually.
Monticello’s Caroline Wilson came in ninth place and paced the way for the Mustangs’ fourth place finish as a team.
Powhatan’s Lindsey Franz took eighth place. Charlottesville’s top runner, Kik Van Der Plum ran 19th at 21:32. Orange County was led by Mary Oelrich who took 34th at 22:59.
Western boys go 1-2-3 in title run
Sure Western Albemarle is battling through some injuries. And sure Albemarle wasn’t racing with its top runners. But there was still no denying the Warriors dominance on Wednesday at Pleasant Grove as Western swept the top three finishes with Joe Hawks, Jack Eliason and Taylor Jospeph coming across in order to lead the way to a JD team title.
Hawkes won the individual championship with his time of 16:39, a full 24 seconds ahead of his second place teammate.
“(This course) has got a lot of curves so you’ve got to run your tangents,” Hawkes said. It’s got a short little up hill, so you’ve got to sort of explode up those. And then fix all your form on the down hills. A lot of short little down hills.”
For Eliason, it was quite the day as the sophomore gave the Warriors a pair of sub-17 minute times at 16:53. And with Joseph clocking in at 17:13 for third place, Max Miller taking sixth at 17:30 and Will Koestor placing ninth at 17:45, five runners in the top-9 was more than anyone else in the field could deal with as Western beat second place Albemarle by 38 points.
“Today the plan was trying to stick with my teammates as long as I could and in the last 600 give it all I could,” Eliason said. “(Joe) my teammate did really well and so I’m happy because it was a great challenge. We’ve been practicing hills a lot in our workouts. We’ve been working on our downhills and putting those into our races. We keep practicing like that and it’s coming in handy for us.”
Albemarle ran without its top runners but still managed to finish second as a team. The Patriots were led by a fifth place time of 17:25 by Nicholas Gardella followed by seventh and eighth place times by John McDaniel and Joe Yung at 17:35 and 17:43 respectively.
Louisa County took third place with Dillon Nelson’s fourth place time out in front at 17:20.
Monticello landed in fourth place as a team with Jack Kircher running 10th individually at 17:52.
Fluvanna’s top time came from an 11th place time of 17:55 from Jack Rice. Charlottesville was led by Isaac Vik who came in 15th at 18:04 Powhatan’s Cooper Shardt took 16th at 18:04.35. Orange’s Bobby Lee placed 20th at 18:18