Last Saturday (Nov. 10) turned out to be a beautiful day for a run at Great Meadows in The Plains as young athletes from around the state converged for the Virginia High School League (VHSL) cross country championship.
It turned out to be an especially lovely day for Rappahannock County High School’s Julia Wood, a freshman. She finished third among the 129 young women running in the Single A schools’ final, earning a bronze medal. It’s the first time ever that an RCHS ninth-grader has medaled in a state cross-country competition, and the highest-place finish in the states by any Panther since Alex Ramey finished 13th in 2005.
“There were a lot of people – double-A and triple-A schools, too,” Wood said. “They all have crazy huge teams. It was such a big event.”
The magnitude of the meet fell away as Wood focused on the starter pistol. “We all started out on the line,” she said. “They shot the gun off, and someone stepped across the line before they shot. False start. That meant we had to restart the race after we’d already gotten out of our boxes. You’re kinda in the zone already, but I don’t think it impacted me too badly. I kinda shook it off.”
Early in the race, Wood recognized her immediate competitor. “I knew there was a girl from Lebanon who was running close to my times,” she said. “I tried to hang with her as long as I could. She got ahead in the second mile, and I just couldn’t make up the distance.
In a state-level competition, the sight of the finish line holds its own motivation. “The finish is a really long straightaway,” Wood said. “A lot of people start sprinting as soon as they can see the line. I knew that it was gonna be a long run from where you could see it to where it really was. I kinda waited to kick it in, then I gave it all. I didn’t have much left at the end. I actually don’t think I’ve been that tired at a meet for a long time. When I finished top five, I was really excited. I got a bronze medal?!”
“It was a great race,” coach James Sharpe said. “She took third by the first half mile. And she kept the number two runner within about 10 seconds of her for most of the race. Julia didn’t waste any energy, and by the last 10th of a mile, she was running on empty. She gave it everything she had. That’s a really good feeling as a runner – knowing you left everything on the field after you ran the correct pace and put yourself in the best possible position.”
“I’d like to thank my coaches for all the help and support,” Wood said. “They held practices for me after the season ended . . . every day they had practice. Thank you to my teammates who were always there to push me. Thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout the season. And a special thanks to my parents because they’ve inspired me to always try my hardest.”
RCHS’ Quiz Bowl scholars traveled to George Mason High School Monday night (Nov. 12) for their latest Bull Run District meet, returning home with a momentum-building three wins.
“Even though Coach [Dave] Naser wasn’t able to be there, all the practices paid off,” said senior Zach Huff. “Plus, Mr. [Brad] Weeks knows how to coach.”
The Panthers took the quality coaching and entered their competitive zone with enthusiasm. “We were completely on target with buzzing,” Huff said. “Our buzzer control was so great. At one point, Case [Kramer] went out and put Henry [Mason] in for himself. Even with a disruption in the energy, we got right back on track.”
In addition to the team chemistry, Naser pointed out other advantages for the team. “Familiar concepts came up in the meet. So, it proves that practice does make a difference.”
The most important ingredient for team success is the roster. “We have had a good year so far,” Naser said. “The team’s coming together. Case is doing a great job as captain because he knows the strengths and weaknesses of the team. We have a nice group of seniors: Robert Yowell, Samantha Landrum, Zach Huff, Case himself, and Trevor Achilles. Case is able to motivate them all. Zach, of course, is just phenomenal. He knows everything, even math. And, I cannot say enough about James MacLeod. He truly has a wide breadth of knowledge.”
“Case is doing a supreme job as captain,” Huff said. “He doesn’t get stressed out, angry or arrogant. He takes things in stride and converses with us on strategies.”
“Yes, our overall record reflects the fact that we’ve been beaten by George Mason and Manassas Park, the number one and number two teams from last year,” Naser said. “When we scrimmaged against them early in the season, we did okay. But they’ve improved since then. The level of competition will just continue to ramp up from here. We have played everyone once, and we’ll play them all again.
“We are going to continue to improve going into the second half of the season,” Naser said.” I think all of these teams are beatable.”
The Panthers will have their next opportunity to prove their mettle Dec. 3 in Manassas Park.
Wakefield sports update
Varsity Volleyball: The Wakefield Country Day School Lady Owls hosted Saint Michael the Archangel High School in the Delaney Athletic Conference (DAC) semifinal on Nov. 2. Despite a one-week hiatus due to the storm and scheduled days off, the girls cruised to a 3-0 sweep of the Warriors. Their win advanced them to hosting the DAC final against the Warriors of Quantico Middle/High School on Nov. 5. The match against Quantico was tight and very competitive. After the girls jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the first game, the Warriors battled back and continued to make things tough for the Owls for the duration of the game. Ultimately, the Lady Owls successfully defended their title – their fourth straight – and went undefeated in conference play.
Alexandria Cancio-Bello, Maeve Dale, Kim Pankow and Hannah Tufts were voted First Team All-DAC by the conference coaches. Coach Zylonis won her fourth straight DAC Division II Coach of the Year award. Their final record was 16-8.
Varsity Soccer: The Owls hosted Fredericksburg Academy for the DAC Division II Championship game on Nov. 2. Daniel Chadduck scored the boys’ first goal 21 minutes into the game off an assist from Marc Cugnon, while Conor O’Heir added a second goal with 13:14 remaining in the second half. The boys’ defense shutout the Falcons, and after Sam Lilburn added the third and final goal, the boys secured a 3-0 championship victory. The boys’ victory gave them two straight sweeps of the regular season and tournament titles and four straight regular season championships. Daniel Chadduck, Marc Cugnon, Alex Foster and Sam Lilburn were named First Team All-DAC Division II for the season. Alex Foster was the unanimous Player of the Year in the division, as voted by the conference coaches, while Coach Tisera won the DAC Division II Coach of the Year award for the fourth year in a row. Their final record was 10-5-2.
Varsity Cross Country: The Owls travel to Randolph Macon Academy for the DAC Championship meet on Nov. 1. Lucas DuMez led the boys with a 27th place finish in a time of 21:44. Michael Chen finished 33rd in 22:05, Will Scaring finished 80th in 27:20, Jerry Li finished 90th and Aaron Corbett finished 94th. Mary Leskovec finished 46th with a time of 32:46. Congratulations to Coach Popkin and the team for a year of improvement.
– Contributed Reports