By Tommy Keeler Jr.
EARLYSVILLE -- Despite the dominance of Maggie Walker High School, Strasburg and Stonewall Jackson got what they were looking for in the Class 2A East Region cross country meet held Wednesday at Panorama Farms near Charlottesville.
The Rams finished third in both the boys and girls races, and the Generals advanced two of their three runners to next week's Class 2A state meet.
"We anticipated our place and the way things unfolded," Strasburg coach Jeff Rudy said. "It's great to be third out of 16 other school systems. A great day for the boys and the girls team."
Strasburg was third in the boys race with 113 points. George Mason was second with 80 points, while Maggie Walker dominated the meet with 17 points.
Strasburg's Max Middleton finished eighth in the boys race in a time of 17:13. Middleton said he struggled during the very tough race, but knew he had to do what he could for his team.
"In the second mile I felt like I needed to drop out, but I knew if I did my coach would be mad at me," Middleton said. "Then I saw that big two-mile sign and I was like 'I got a mile left I might as well finish it.' It was a tough course, lots of fast kids here."
Strasburg's Nic Campbell placed 19th with a time of 18:03. The junior was very happy with his time on a course he said he usually struggles on. Campbell said he wasn't feeling real good at the start, but he got stronger as the race went on.
"After the first mile everything just kind of went away," Campbell said. "I was getting my rhythm. When the time for the two-mile hill came around you just have to push through it.
"I just knew that all of us had to pick it up. Timmy [Wallis] wasn't feeling the best. So before the race I told everybody they had to pick it up if they wanted to go to states. I just knew I had to come through for my team."
Timmy Wallis finished 30th (18:30) despite running on an injured ankle. Freshman Dylan Campbell was right behind him in 31st (18:31). Freshman Nealon Davis was 35th with a time of 18:47.
The top six teams and the top 10 individuals not on the top six teams advanced to the state meet. Strasburg's boys team didn't qualify for states last year as a team, and that motivated them to secure a spot this season.
"It feels really good knowing that we [finished third] and we move onto states," Campbell said. "We knew top six went on to states, but we weren't really satisfied with anything other than third."
Stonewall Jackson's Ashton Davis finished eighth in the girls race in a time of 20:39. The senior finished 15th last year in the meet, barely qualifying for the state meet, and said her goal was to do much better this year.
"My goal was above ninth, so that's what I got," Davis said. "Last week [in the conference meet] I got out really fast and I didn't really run my own race. I ran a sprint and then I died, and then [George Mason's Blaise Sevier] passed me. I didn't want to do that today. I wanted to stay strong the whole way and finish hard too, keep it all equal."
Davis will have company at the state meet, as teammate Brady Webb qualified by finishing 18th (21:19).
The freshman said it was a tough race, but she was excited to be qualify for the state meet, especially since she'll be joining Davis.
"I feel good, I didn't want to leave [Davis] alone," Webb said. "It's my first time, so I'm excited to see how it goes."
Strasburg's Morgan Carter led the Rams in the girls race, finishing 16th in a time of 21:17. Carter missed last week's Conference 35 meet with a foot injury. The senior said she was completely healthy for the regional race, and happy to be able to run in the regional race.
"My goal was to go really strong, just to get a good pace and then be aggressive, try to pass as many kids as I could," Carter said. "Then after the two mile my goal was just to take off and give it everything that I had left. I was happy with how I did."
The Rams finished with 124 points in the girls race. Maggie Walker won with 21 points, while George Mason was second with 82.
Strasburg freshman Caroline Miller finished 26th (21:50), followed by Cheyanne Combs (30th, 22:15), Sarah Peer (32nd, 22:17) and Haley Garrett (43rd, 23:04).
The Rams have had a strong tradition in cross country, and despite losing several last year to graduation, the girls team showed the program is still going strong.
"It's a living tradition," Carter said. "Every year we have a great team because we have great training, and it's the coaches that really get us through each year. The tradition is to go to states, be on that podium. It's the best feeling, whether we get second, third as long as we get that podium. It's a tradition."
Strasburg will try to have another strong showing in the state meet at Great Meadows, and so will Davis. Last year Davis finished fourth in the state meet, and she's hoping for another solid performance this season.
"I'm so excited. I'm ready to give it my all, because it is my last cross country meet, and I'm super excited," Davis said. "I just want to do my best. That's all I can ever ask for. It's a nice course. I know I can run it well, and I'm just pumped to be back there."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org