Halloween was far from frightening for freshman cross country runner Julia Wood, who treated her Panther teammates that day to a second place finish in the Region B Championships in Charlottesville. She advances to the Virginia State Championships this Saturday (Nov. 10).
To earn her place in the regionals, Wood qualified by winning the Bull Run District Championship run, hosted by Rappahannock County High School on Oct. 24. “It was the last official race that we knew we would all be running in,” Wood said. “So there was a lot of pressure for us to perform well. It’s the race we’d been getting ready for all season. Everyone did so well. Dani Boutte was only two seconds away from going to regionals. It was just great to be there.
“I actually think I had the best race of the season at districts,” Wood said. “It was really warm, so I was thinking I might not do as well as I had in the past. Instead, I took almost a minute off my time. I honestly have no idea how that happened. Sometimes I have a plan for how to run a race, but this time . . . well, I just ran.”
Cut from tiny rural Rappahannock to a sea of competitors at Panorama Farms outside Charlottesville on Oct. 31, where Woods said she had an awakening. “It was so much bigger and so much different. At districts, you know everyone. There, you knew no one. It was kind of nerve-wracking. You’re the only one from your school standing on the starting line.”
Solitude on the course translated to team support along the route. “It was great to have such support,” Wood said. “Several of our team came. They went and stood on the course to yell my splits and tell me where I was on the course. It was a difficult course, but not as difficult as ours.”
Wood’s high hopes blossomed about a 10th of a mile from the finish line. “Once I got to that point, I could see the finish line,” she said. “Seeing that scene was one of the only things that kept me running. There were some nasty hills on the course, but I pushed harder to get to the end.”
“First, second and third places were only minutes apart,” said coach James Sharpe, “so it wasn’t an exciting finish. The first-place runner put a lot of distance between her and anyone else. Julia finished second with almost the same distance between her and any other runner. It was very clear who the first- and second-place finishers were. The excitement came when the top 15 came through. Rapp, of course, was the most thrilling result.”
“It’s been such a fun season,” Wood said. “The best cross country season I’ve ever had. The team was bigger than it has been, and we competed well. We are looking promising for next year.”
Wood tackles the state championship course this Saturday (Nov. 10) not far from home: at Great Meadows, off U.S. 17 north of Warrenton. Race time is 10:30 a.m. Admission is $10.
Quiz Bowl tested
The Panther Quiz Bowl season began its competition calendar in late October. With a confidence-boosting, preseason scrimmage and a two-match win fueling their early momentum, RCHS’s quizzers traveled to Clarke County this Monday (Nov. 5) and fell hard against both Manassas Park and George Mason.
“We highly underestimated Manassas Park,” said senior Robert Yowell. “We really hadn’t played them, except for a scrimmage where we did pretty well, so we thought we’d do well again. However, their captain was playing this time, and it changed things. She was knowledgeable and aggressive.”
Historically, George Mason is always one of the Panther’s toughest foes. “They did pull out a secret weapon,” Yowell said. “When we first played them, one of their key players barely answered any questions. This time, he answered so many questions. It seemed like he was buzzing in every single time.”
“Ouch!” said senior Zach Huff. “We lost to Mason, who always trumps everyone. I thought we’d have a chance with Manassas Park, after they forfeited their first matches. Apparently, they used their time away rather well. They kicked us harder than Mason. Nonetheless, I think we could still take a comfortable third place this year.”
Freshman member James MacLeod proved his mettle in the final round, a toss-up session, against Mason by earning 40 of Rappahannock’s 55 points. “I was glad that I finally got a set of questions that was mostly geography, history and ‘Beowulf,’ one of the pieces of literature that shows up most in Quiz Bowl,” MacLeod said. “It was fun to be in the round where we did so well, but I was disappointed that we lost.”
“Mason and Manassas Park are tough,” said coach Dave Naser, “but we still have an opportunity to be solid competitors this season.”
The Panthers travel to George Mason next Monday (Nov. 12).