Funkhouser takes over as top runner

By Brad Fauber

QUICKSBURG — Stonewall Jackson cross country coach Mary Clanahan had her eye on the Generals’ current crop of talented freshmen runners for quite some time — years, in fact, before that group arrived at the high school this fall.

Those freshmen, which include Charlotte “LuLu” Funkhouser and Jailyn Dellinger, had competed at the middle school level, and Clanahan focused on “nurturing” them as runners until they were ready for Stonewall’s varsity girls cross country team this season.

“We knew LuLu and Jailyn Dellinger were coming. They just had to dedicate themselves and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to come to the cross-country level,'” Clanahan said Tuesday. “They use it as a tool for their soccer, and we’re OK with that. They’re just phenomenal athletes and every now and then you’ll get a group of athletes that rotate through and do that.”

The optimism that Clanahan felt with the impending arrival of that group has likely only intensified since they first hit the trails for Stonewall Jackson this fall.

Those freshmen are not only contributing for the Generals — some are doing so at the top of Stonewall’s lineup.

Funkhouser has been particularly strong for the Generals so far, and she has emerged as the team’s No. 1 runner. Funkhouser, The Northern Virginia Daily’s Female Athlete of the Week for Sept. 28-Oct. 4, showed why she’s claimed that top spot in Stonewall Jackson’s lineup on Oct. 1, when she topped the girls field during a Shenandoah District tri-meet at Luray High School.

“She’s just so very focused personally, and she’s focused academically. She’s just a focused individual. Whatever she’s into, she’s dedicated,” Clanahan said of Funkhouser. “… That’s the kind of individual she’s going to be. She’s into different things to make the whole child developed. That’s the kind of kid this is. She reminds me a lot of [former Generals standout] Ashton Davis … which is kind of nice.”

The win on Oct. 1 marked the first overall victory for Funkhouser in her varsity career, and helped the Generals take first-place as a team with a five-runner total of 28 points. Luray (35) was second, followed by Stuarts Draft (63).

Funkhouser’s career-best time of 21 minutes, 35 seconds capped what turned out to be a top-three sweep in the girls race for Stonewall Jackson. Dellinger placed second with a time of 22:01, while sophomore Brandy Webb (22:05) came in third.

“Brandy’s times are still dropping and LuLu is right there,” Clanahan said. “They’re all working together. Who knows what’s out there for us? We just don’t know. The sky is the limit for us and we’re just thrilled to have these girls on the team and LuLu’s just one of those kids. We’re happy to have her.”

Though Funkhouser has staked a claim at the top of Stonewall Jackson’s pack so far this season, Clanahan said the freshman hasn’t been pressured into assuming a leadership role on the team.

“It’s not a leadership. They’re doing this together,” Clanahan said. “She is a very unselfish runner. This is, ‘I don’t want it for me, I want it for the team.’ These girls want to run together.”

Stonewall Jackson competes again this evening, as the Generals travel to Riverheads for another district tri-meet that also includes Wilson Memorial.

Clanahan hopes Funkhouser and the rest of the Generals can repeat the outcome of last week’s race.

“She has run against [Riverheads senior] Jenna Rea and she beat her at an invitational, but we also have to do Wilson again, so it’s going to be interesting to see if we can do a 1-2-3 punch again like we did last week,” Clanahan said. “We’re excited. They’re pumped up. Our girls are pumped up and it’s nice to have a young group that has that energy level.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com