Rams strong in first Central Invitational

By Jim Laise

WOODSTOCK — Strasburg’s girls and boys teams sped to fourth place finishes respectively Saturday at the first Central Invitational cross country meet at the 3-mile Wetzel Farm course off North Street.

In all, 13 teams were included in the invitational, including Strasburg, Central, Stonewall Jackson, Skyline and Massanutten Military Academy.

Freshman Grace Dellinger of Strasburg ran what may have been the most surprising race among the locals, as she tripped the course in 20:20.78 — good for seventh overall — while Central standout Tristan Lucy-Speidel claimed sixth place in the boys’ race, clocking in at 16:55.7

John Champe claimed the girls’ championship with a low of 50 points, while the boys’ winning team turned out to be Brentsville (17), which claimed the top four individual finishers on the warm morning run.

For Dellinger, who was running middle school races this time a year ago, the finish was her first ever on the varsity level.

“Yes, I was surprised since this was my first varsity event and I wasn’t sure how I would do,” said Dellinger. “I thought I did fine for my first time out. I’ll just keep working hard and see if I can do better.

“I knew this was something of a flat course, and, at three miles, I figured the times would be good. I was just happy to do my part.”

Her “part” was bolstered by teammate Cheyanne Combs, who came in 10th place with a time of 20:48.03.

The top 15 finishers in both the girls and boys races medaled, while the top seven competitors in both the boys’ and girls’ races earned points for their teams. At the end trophies were awarded for both genders’ leading runners.

Among the top 15 girls’ finishers were Dellinger and Combs of Strasburg and Stonewall Jackson’s Charlotte Funkhouser 21:16.96 (13th).

“Grace is an up-and-coming runner we’ve known about for a while. We were happy to add her to our group. I think all of our girls ran hard, and it was good to see some of our veterans stand out,” said Strasburg coach Jeff Rudy.

Rudy named Rachel Tischler (31st, 22:19.87), Haley Garrett (39th, 22:09.8), Caroline Miller (45th, 23:50.16) and Sarah Peer (53rd, 22:49.51), among that group.

Flora Grainger of new school Rock Ridge of Loudoun County claimed the top girls spot posting a time of 19:37.45.

Lexi Keller, of Central, came in 23rd (20:58.51). Other Falcons who finished highly were Ciarra Philpott (30th, 22:19.87), Madison Pence (40th, 23:23.95) and Lauren Cook (43rd, 23:43.35)

Stonewall Jackson’s Jailyn Dellinger (27th, 22:13.07) and Brandy Webb (29th, 22:13.07) were among the high finishers for the Generals.

Stonewall (fifth), Central (sixth) and Skyline (ninth) rounded out the local girls teams.

Strasburg’s boys’ finish was made all the more impressive since three of the Rams’ top seven participants were missing due to injury.

Jacob Willis, of Brentsville, (16:11.89) led all boys’ finishers. Among the top 15 local boys were Lucy-Speidel; Luke Cline (9th, 17:06.97), of Skyline, Ryan Davis, of Strasburg, (11th, 17:17.03) and Dylan Campbell, of Strasburg, (13th, 17:25.36).

Brentsville’s Willis, Nicholas Broemmel, Jack McNally and Robert Theimer ran one-through-four, while Connery Ryon, of Kettle Run, took fifth. Then came Lucy-Speidel, a senior for the Falcons.

“I really enjoyed running with the pack because those guys really pushed me,” said Lucy-Speidel. “They made me run hard and I think I had a good time for my first time out. I’ll just keep working, trying to be better.

“My idea was to go out there and run hard, but be sure I had something left for a kick. I had a good time today, but I’d like to break 16 [minutes] on this course. I’d like to leave a mark.”

“Tristan has really worked hard this summer,” Central coach Melissa Wright said. “The Long family sponsored two runners from Central to go to camp this summer [the other was Keller on the girls’ side].”

The boys’ winning trophy was dedicated to the late Jason Long and the girls’ trophy was awarded in memory to Jessica Pumphrey, two former members of the Falcon running family who have passed away.

“It’s just a way for us to honor members of our teams from the past. We are a family at Central, and this was part of the way of showing it,” Wright said.

Kettle Run (73 points) was the runner-up boys team, followed by John Champe (100, third), Central (119) fifth, Skyline (135) sixth and Stonewall Jackson (271, 11th).

This race was a pre-cursor to the 3A East Region championship, which will be hosted by Central, also.

“The upperclassmen really stepped up for this race. In a race this big, you have certain people who are designated to do certain things, and if they don’t you don’t have this success. I thought the day turned out well,” Wright said.