Morrow shining at top spot for Warren County

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

FRONT ROYAL — Two years ago Warren County’s Claire Morrow was the new girl on the cross country team looking up to the upperclassmen, and following their lead. This year as a junior it’s Morrow’s turn to take the leading role, and it’s one she’s relishing.

“When I was a freshman, as soon as I came to practice, they would all be like, ‘Come run with us, we’ll show you what to do’ and that really helped me,” Morrow said. “It’s different [this year], but I do like it because I do enjoy helping the other girls.”

Kayla Gibbons and Rachel Oden were Warren County’s No. 1 runners the last two years, and Morrow said she learned a lot from them and watching them.

The Wildcats lost a lot to graduation and have a new coach, Rebecca Webster, and have only seven runners on the team. Webster was a volunteer assistant coach the last two years under former coach Jeremy Burnworth, who was the head coach for the last 13 years.

Webster said Morrow’s leadership has been very valuable to the team.

“We have a very small team this year,” Webster said. “We needed someone to step up and lead everyone else. She’s perfect for it, and she’s doing a great job with it.”

Morrow certainly did a great job leading the way in the first meet of the season last week. She won the Conference 28 mini-meet with a time of 20 minutes, 38.82 seconds at Central. For that, she is The Northern Virginia Daily’s Female Athlete of the Week for Aug. 31-Sept. 6.

Morrow won the race by 22 seconds, and credited a fast start with helping her get the victory.

“I was nervous at the beginning of the meet because this is the first time we were going against any of these teams, and I don’t know how good these girls are,” Morrow said. “I was especially nervous going out at the front. I was thinking, ‘Am I going too fast?’ Because no one else is kind of with me, but it ended up being a really good race and I felt really good.”

Morrow said she started running track in middle school, and always loved the distance running so she stuck with it.

However, running wasn’t the only sport she loved. As a freshman she played soccer instead of running track, but last year she decided to run track and gave up soccer. She said she can already tell it’s helped her for the cross country season.

“I definitely like cross country more [than track], but [track] definitely helped me with my speed work and pacing,” Morrow said. “It was a tough decision. But in the end it was choose between soccer or improving your cross country with track, and so I chose track and it’s really helped me.”

Morrow finished seventh in the Conference 28 meet last year, and said that her goal for herself this season is to place at states.

Webster said Morrow has always worked hard at running, and is very dedicated to improving.

“She’s very self-motivated,” Webster said. ” You can tell her to run hard and you know she’s going to do it. You can tell her to run on the weekends and you know that she’s going to do it.”

The Wildcats have had a very successful team the past few years. Last year they finished second in the Conference 28 meet and fourth in the Region 3A East meet to qualify for the state meet.

With only seven runners and most of them new to the top six, it will be a challenge for the team to live up to the standard of past teams. However, Morrow said she thinks the team can have success again.

“The girls that are here, they show a lot of promise. I think if we work hard enough we can get back to where we were,” Morrow said. “The girls before me have always done so well. We’ve been district champions a couple years, and we definitely want to keep that going for us, and make Warren County proud.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd