The first official meet of Rappahannock County High School’s cross country season found the Panthers traveling last Wednesday to Skyline High School in Front Royal.
Coach James Sharpe complimented his team, many of whose members were running in their very first competition. Newcomers and veterans alike contended with the same obstacle, he said, but it wasn’t the infamous Skyline hill. It was the thermometer.
“Unlike the muddy mess from last year, this meet had hot, sticky air and dry, clumpy grass,” Sharpe said. “A number of athletes became very dehydrated, and some were physically unable to finish.
“There were a number of good times. though, especially considering the heat. Matt Beck got a personal best with a time of 21:35. Josh Jones put in another solid performance which was greatly improved over last year. Newcomer Isaac Berry had a great first meet, and should be a contender by the end of the season. Tiffany Wayland and Rita Clifton both improved by a couple minutes over their times from last week at Eastern View.”
Although sophomore Beck reported that the course was “pretty much all concrete, which I didn’t like, my legs were just feeling great. It was good to have my best time because Skyline’s a good running school. They beat Clarke, which is the best team in our district. I’ll probably try to beat this time at least twice more.”
Former Junior Panther runner Clifton commented on the new aspects of being a varsity athlete. “Now that we’re back in the Bull Run, it’s different. It’s also a change going from JP to varsity; there’s a mile added to the course.
“At the beginning of the race, I was kinda nervous. I stayed with Tiffany [Wayland] the whole time. There was the big hill, and that was pretty tough. At the end, I sprinted the last part and somehow managed to improve my time. Since this is my second year, I think I’m starting to run faster. I hope to improve my time, and do well at districts.”
Jones, an RCHS junior, ran a 28:00 as his personal best last year. “This year at Skyline, I had a 22:32. I don’t know what happened. I didn’t do any crazy training over the summer. I tried harder this time, and my fitness improved. Because it was so hot, it felt like the longest first mile I’d ever done, but I ran my best. Every school brags about their hill, but I put that hill in its place — twice!”
After a first-place Rappahannock finish, one Panther runner offered a unique perspective. “Considering it was the first cross country meet I’ve ever done,” Isaac Berry said, “I felt pretty good. I hurt my hand in football, so I decided on this sport. It’s a tiring sport, but I just start off slow with a good pace, then work into it. The bumpy hills at Skyline were a challenge. I got a 20:18, so I’ll probably try to get a 19-something for next time. Oh yeah, one more thing — it felt good to beat Seth [Wayland]!”
The cross country team next faces Middleburg Academy in a home meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15.