School and sports news for Oct. 1

Focus on Rapp cross-country

Despite the dreary weather Rappahannock County athletes continue to post sunny performances on the fields and the courts. This week’s focus is on Rapp’s cross-country teams, who will be the first of the fall teams to begin the road to the state championships.

When the season began in August, the varsity boys’ team saw six runners returning from last year, with another seven moving up from Junior Panther or new to the sport. On the girls’ side, three members of the 2014 state runner-up team returned to this year’s roster, joined by seven more from JP or new to cross-country.

Over the last eight weeks, head coach Kenny Burt and coach James Sharpe have shepherded their runners through extreme heat, hilly workouts and sore muscles, with the goal being to set a new personal record (or PR) in each week’s 3.1-mile race. Despite numerous nagging injuries, Rapp’s runners have improved their skill, speed and endurance each week, with the new runners achieving that goal of a new PR each week.

In addition to midweek Bull Run District meets, many of our runners have competed in prestigious weekend invitational races. On Sept. 19, many of Rapp’s runners competed in the Oatlands race against 3,800-plus high school runners from across the country. Two standout performances from that day were defending state champ Julia Wood’s eighth-place finish in the girls’ race (with a time of 19:08) and Gavin Jenkins’ 40th place finish in the boys’ race (with a time of 17:00). In both instances the Rapp runners finished in the top 1 percent of a very competitive field.

Last weekend, many Rapp runners competed in the Stonewall Jackson Invitational at the New Market Battlefield course. While senior Julia Wood could not compete because of injury, junior Gavin Jenkins took home the first-place medal for the 1A and 2A runners. (Rappahannock County High School is 1A, the smallest size designation.)

The varsity teams had their final home outing Wednesday on the Blue Rock course, and the Bull Run District Tournament will be run Oct. 14 at Central High School, first race at 4 p.m. Then the Rappahannock River Conference Tournament, the first step on the road to states, will be held at the end of the month, its date and location to be determined. The Region 1A East meet is the following week.

The Virginia High School League State Championship will again be held at the Great Meadows course in Warrenton on Saturday, Nov. 14 — the girls’ race at 10:30, and boys’ at 11:15. Hopes are high for some strong performances, particularly from Jenkins, striving for his first state title, and Wood, who has a good shot at a hat trick — her third straight cross-country state championship.

On the JP side of the course, coach Sharpe’s harriers have had a successful season as well, striving to meet the Valley Middle School Conference championship bar set by so many previous teams. Standout performances from this season include Skylar Culbertson’s second-place finish (by just two seconds!) Sept. 16, Luke Ellis’ 12th-place finish (out of a field of 74) in a home meet on Sept. 8, and Chase Wharton’s 11th-place finish (in a field of 57), also Sept. 16.

The JP runners had one final VMSC qualifier race at Randolph-Macon Academy this past Monday and then compete in their season-ending VMSC championship next Thursday, Oct. 8, at R-MA.

In other Rapp sports news . . .

Rapp’s volleyball teams continued their torrid pace, with all three teams scoring wins over the past week. Coach Wyatt’s JV and Coach Atkins’ varsity squads traveled to defending Bull Run champ Madison last week, and by the end of the evening the Mountaineers had suffered a mauling at the hands of the Panthers. Last Thursday the Dragons came to RCHS and saw their flames doused as once again the Panthers put on a clinic on the way to winning their matches in straight sets.

This past Tuesday the teams traveled to Clarke County, looking to clip the Eagles, and hit the road again tonight, hoping to corral the Mustangs of George Mason. Next Tuesday (Oct. 6) the teams return to their home gym as they host the Falcons of Central Woodstock, a game that marks the halfway point of the season.

The JP volleyball squad is matching their older counterparts win for win as they continue to take on and defeat both VMSC and Bull Run District foes alike. Last week Coach Atkins’ squad defeated Madison at home and William Monroe on the road, both in straight sets, and yesterday they traveled to St. Joe’s for a VMSC matchup.

Tonight (Thursday, Oct. 1), the JP squad hosts their Dig Pink match, with William Monroe coming to the home court at RCHS, first ball served at 4:30. Fans are encouraged to wear pink and support the Dig Pink raffles and fundraisers as all our volleyball squads strive to top the $5,000 mark in Dig Pink donations for the third straight year. As a result of their undefeated record, Rapp’s JP squad will be hosting the VMSC tourney, tentatively scheduled to begin on Tuesday, Oct. 13.

Both of Rapp’s football teams had time to regroup, with only the JP squad having a game last week, at Locust Grove. Both teams return to Panther Stadium for their next contests, with varsity hosting the Ponies of Chincoteague High School at 7 p.m. this Friday (Oct. 2) and JP hosting Prospect Heights Middle School next Monday (Oct. 5) at 4:30. Coaches and players are hoping to see the Rapp faithful fill the stands for these home contests, as both teams have been working hard to get to that first win for the season.

Coach Paratore’s JP soccer team dropped a close VMSC game last Thursday at home, falling to Fresta Valley by a score of 1-0, with the winning goal literally being scored in the closing minutes of the game. Playing tough against physically bigger opponents, the team shows marked improvement over last season and continues to improve with each passing game.

On Monday (Oct. 5), the JP boys’ soccer team will travel to their counterparts at Wakefield Country Day School for a VMSC matchup (4:15 start) and then conclude their regular season at home on Wednesday (Oct. 7) when they host St. Joseph’s at 5 p.m.. Like their volleyball counterparts, they will be in the VMSC tournament the week of Oct. 12.

As always, the Rapp Athletics website ( is the place to get your latest scores and schedule information. Go Rapp!

— Jimmy Swindler