By Jeff Nations
WOODSTOCK -- Warren County sophomore Zach Beckner knew the plan for his race during Wednesday's cross country quad meet hosted by Central on the 2.95-mile North Street course.
Wildcats coach Jeremy Burnworth wanted Beckner to take it easy and stay close to teammates Nick Myers and Nathaniel Lund. But the weather was finally cool at 59 degrees, and Rappahannock County's Gavin Jenkins was there to provide great competition.
Plan? What plan?
"I don't know if it's just that adrenaline rush you get when you're at the line and they're like, 'Runners on your mark,' and it's just complete silence, and your heart is just going, boom, boom, boom. When they sound the horn, I just completely forget my coach's words and just go," Beckner said.
Burnworth wasn't surprised, and didn't hold it against his standout sophomore.
"He went out like a nut and ran hard," Burnworth said. "He did listen to me when I said don't sprint at the end, so he did listen for like 10 seconds. It's a little easier to listen at the end of the race than the beginning. But he ran strong. He's been looking better every race."
Beckner reluctantly eased up coming down the final hill, allowing Jenkins to sprint away for the individual victory in 16 minutes, 3 seconds. Beckner took second in 16:09.
"At the top of the hill over there, he was like, '15:46 -- don't sprint.' I was like, 'Aw, sub-16. That'd be good.'"
Host Central swept the team competition, nearly landing five runners in the top 10 to win the boys competition with 36 points, followed by Warren County (39), Rappahannock County (65) and Broadway (99). In the girls meet, the Falcons took first with 33 points, followed by Rappahannock (42) and Warren (45). Broadway did not score in the girls race.
"In both races after the first mile, I was a little concerned," Central coach Melissa Wright said. "On the girls side, Rapp was certainly up there and a lot of Warren County girls, but our girls kept plugging along through mile two and three and had a tremendous finish."
Central's Lexi Keller had the top finish for her team, taking third in 19:45. The rest of the Falcons were close behind, with Heather Landes (fifth, 20:21), Bethany Neri (seventh, 20:48), Elsa Garcia (ninth, 21:04) and Emily Walker (11th, 21:41) also providing scoring efforts.
"Emily Walker certainly picked it up throughout the race and had a great finish for us as No. 5," Wright said.
Rappahannock County's Julia Wood won the girls race in 19:04, followed by Warren County's Rachel Oden in second at 19:25. Oden, who missed last weekend's invitational meet, was also told to take it easy on Wednesday.
"I was just kind of trying to finish the race," Oden said. "I just came in to try and do a good workout because I didn't run Saturday."
Burnworth said Oden came through with probably her best run of the season.
"We did a speed workout on Monday, and she was talking about being sore and everything," Burnworth said. "She came out and eased into the race, stretched out really well and she looked really good. Her stride was good, her breathing was good, and she looked strong."
The Wildcats, still missing No. 2 runner Claire Morrow due to illness, got scoring efforts from Fiona Sayers (sixth, 20:23), Jacklyn Rankin (10th, 21:32), Karley Shanks (14th, 22:00) and Mara Brown (16th, 22:40).
In the boys race, Central's Ivan Alvarado delivered his first top finish of the season for the Falcons and took third overall in 16:36. Alvarado broke former Central standout Brandon Poff's freshman school record on the North Street course by 47 seconds.
Joining Alvarado with scoring finishes for the Falcons were Tristan Lucy-Speidel (third, 16:38), Taylor LaFever (eighth, 17:29), Ryan Freiwald (ninth, 17:35) and Nick Waldron (12th, 17:48.52).
"I felt like the last couple weeks, sickness has plagued us a little bit," Wright said. "So hopefully our guys will continue to get a little stronger. It's definitely going to be very tough for them in the postseason, and I think they showed up today and ran well."
For Warren County's boys, other scorers were Nick Myers (fifth, 16:47), Nathaniel Lund (seventh, 17:19), Zack Workman (10th, 17:47.56) and Erik Stafira (15th, 17:55). Wyatt Robinson, Zach Zollner and Josiah Selby were close behind, all finishing in less than 18 minutes.
Burnworth was glad to see improvements across the board, especially from some of the Wildcats' runners pushing to break into the top five.
"For the longest time this year, we only had five," Burnworth said. "If someone got hurt, we were in trouble. So it's nice to see some of those young guys kind of catching up."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>. Follow on Twitter @J_NationsNVD