With the conclusion of last weekend’s state track meet, Rappahannock County High School’s spring sports season has come to a close. Weather was one of the biggest stories of the season, with cancellations and reschedules due to rain a constant fixture on A.D. Burley’s to-do list. Many thanks to the parents and fans who adjusted and readjusted their schedules and continued to support the athletes.
Last weekend featured the Virginia High School League (VHSL) Group 1A and 2A track state championship at Radford University and Rapp athletes had strong showings throughout the event.
Senior standout runner Julia Wood claimed her 10th and 11th state titles in convincing fashion, winning the 1600-meter (one-mile) race for the fourth straight year and also taking the title in the 800-meter race. And in both races Julia set new meet record times, breaking her own record in the 1600 with a time of 5 minutes 14.88 seconds and posting a new mark of 2 minutes 22.04 seconds in the 800. Julia will be missed at Rapp but we all look forward to seeing her continue her success at the NCAA Division I level as she begins running for the Tribe of William and Mary this fall.
Junior Julia Estes turned in a state runner-up time in the 100 meter hurdles, setting a new RCHS record with a time of 16.69 seconds. Julia also finished seventh in the 300-meter hurdles. Julia’s teammate and junior classmate Jessica Thorne placed fourth in the 100-meter hurdles with a new personal record of 17.36, and finished 11th in the 300 hurdles. Additionally Jessica placed third in the high jump, clearing the bar at 4 feet 10 inches. Incredibly the three Rapp girls scored enough points to earn the Rapp girls team a fourth-place state finish.
In boys track, junior Gavin Jenkins claimed his first state title with a top finish in the 1600-meter race, finishing with a time of 4 minutes 32.90 seconds. Gavin also finished fourth in the 800-meter race with a time of 2 minutes 4.45 seconds, and 13th in the high jump with a tally of 5 feet 8 inches. Gavin’s teammates A.J. Palmer and Sam Barnes were also in Radford, with A.J. finishing eighth in the shot put and 11th in the discus and Sam, competing in the state meet as a freshman, finishing 10th in the 3200 (2 mile).
All in all it was a very good day for Rapp tracksters and their coaches, Scott and Heather Stephens and Kenny Burt, and there were many parents and fans in attendance to cheer them on, including last year’s state champs Kayla McGhee and Emily Allen, who made the trip to Radford to cheer on their old teammates.
Varsity baseball head coach Mike Atkins, assisted by coach Middy Midkiff, led their team through a sometimes frustrating regular season, facing opponents from much larger 2A and 3A schools. But the coaches kept the players’ attitudes up and that paid off with a first-round win in the Rappahannock River Conference playoffs as Rapp beat fellow 1A competitor Colonial Beach. The season ended with RCHS loss to RHS, the other Rappahannock, in the second round of the playoffs, but coach Atkins is confident that baseball’s fortunes will improve with his many younger players using the summer to hone and improve their skills. And in one more postseason accolade, senior first baseman Dylan Midkiff was selected for the conference second team by virtue of his .393 batting average, .476 on-base percentage and nearly error-free performance in the field.
Junior Panther baseball coach James Murray along with assistant coach Kevin Ramey saw the weather shorten their season to just seven games. Although victory proved to be elusive, the team represented Rapp well, losing close games to much bigger 3A and 4A middle schools. As with varsity, many of the JP players will be focusing on improving their games this summer.
Varsity head coach Mike Bowman and assistant coach Wade Lusk also endured a tough regular season against 2A and 3A opponents but did post a .500 regular season record against their 1A (same-size) opponents. And while the season ended with a first-round playoff loss to Colonial Beach, coach Bowman is confident that his young team will greatly improve in coming seasons, with many of his players participating in summer workouts and travel leagues.
Junior Panther coach Jeff Atkins, assisted by coach Connie Smith, led their team to a 2-6 record, with four of those losses being by three runs or less. Again facing only much larger 3A and 4A middle schools, coach Atkins was proud of the competitiveness of the Panther squad, a quality that bodes well for the future of the varsity program. Like their varsity counterparts, many of the team’s players will be competing and practicing all summer long, working to return their Panthers to winning form.
Varsity coach Rich Hogan led his team to four wins in the regular season. Indicative of the competitive difference, the varsity squad had a perfect record (3-0) when playing schools of the same 1A size. And despite playing in the Bull Run District, traditionally one of the strongest districts in the state for girls’ soccer, the team still managed to get two wins over larger opponents. However VHSL as of yet offers no state playoff for girls’ soccer in group 1A, combining 1A and 2A schools for the playoffs, and Rapp’s season ended with a playoff loss to perennial 2A powerhouse Clarke County. There were postseason accolades as junior Julia Estes received second team All Bull Run District and first team All Rapp River Conference honors.
Junior varsity (and varsity assistant) girls’ soccer coach Jenn Rosen led her squad to a 5-6-2 record. The team was undefeated against 1A opponents and managed to score wins against several 2A and 3A schools, including one over perennial state contender George Mason. Congrats to the JV team on their season.
Junior Panther girls soccer coach Seth Wyatt led his team to another Valley Middle School Conference championship, this year taking the long way around to a tournament title. In the regular season they split their games with conference opponents but once the playoffs started the team got it together on the road and defeated Fresta Valley and then Bethel Christian in the final tourney game to claim the tournament trophy. Keeping quality players in the soccer pipeline is coach Wyatt’s goal and this season’s success seems to ensure that tradition.
Varsity head coach Cecil Beeler took the reins of the boys program this year and while wins eluded the team, clearly a return to competitiveness was evident. The team started off the season with a strong scrimmage win over 1A opponent Luray and suffered multiple one-point losses through the balance of the season. Ending the season with yet another one-point loss to the other Rappahannock, the team showed its mettle, continuing to play hard throughout the season. Postseason honors were accorded to forward Jack Massie, named second team All Bull Run District and first team All Conference.
Tonight (Thursday, June 9) athletic director Brandon Burley will host the spring sports and end-of-year athletic awards ceremony, with the event beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the high school auditorium. Parents and friends are welcome. And while summer means no VHSL games or contests, our Rapp athletes are staying busy to prepare for the coming season. Already this summer, Rapp Volleyball has hosted their annual JMU volleyball camp and the football coaching staff has been manning the weight room for the gridiron hopefuls. Stay in touch with the most current schedules at bullrundistrictva.org, selecting Rappahannock County to view current schedules and teams.
— Jimmy Swindler