Skyline captures district title

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

WINCHESTER — Skyline senior Luke Cline can still remember what it was like running against the Northwestern District teams two years ago. That’s what made things even sweeter on Wednesday, when the Hawks won the boys district cross country title.

“It says a lot about how far the program has come,” Cline said. “My sophomore year all these teams in the Northwestern District really whipped up on us. We were the joke of the district, and it feels really good to have a team that can compete with these guys now. It feels really good. “

The Hawks certainly showed that they were no joke on Wednesday in the Northwestern District mini-meet at James Wood. Skyline won the boys meet with 33 points, 18 points ahead of second-place James Wood. This was the second mini-meet of the season, and the overall district champion was determined by combining the results of the two meets. Skyline finished third in the first meet, but it was still enough to declare them the champions.

Most of the teams did not run most of its top runners, but it was still a strong effort by the Hawks.

Cline is normally the top runner for the Hawks, but was bothered by a calf injury during the race and finished seventh overall (18:57), and fourth on his team.

Justin Haggerty, normally No. 3 for the Hawks, finished second overall (18:44) and was first for Skyline.

“I was very happy to see my performance, not time-wise but place wise,” Haggerty said. “I was just feeling good today.”

Haggerty was followed closely by teammate Tanner Steed, who finished three seconds behind him in third place overall.

“I knew Tanner Steed was behind me in the final stretch of this race,” Haggerty said. “I thought he was going to kick it in behind me, so I sped up a little bit more, because first place on the team — you always want that.”

James Wood’s Andrew Shade won the race in a time of 17:55. Skyline’s Demetry Arnold finished sixth in a time of 18:57, just ahead of Cline.

Sherando held out most of its top runners as well, and finished third overall with 63 points.

Sherando’s Jahlil Northover finished fourth overall in a time of 18:55.

“Jahlil Northover, this is a good result for him. He had a good day today,” Sherando coach Jamie McCarty said. “He was up there with the Skyline group. That’s good for us. Right now he’s our fourth or fifth guy, for him to be mixing it up with those guys is pretty good. Garrett Allegra, same thing, he’s one of those guys battling for that top seven — he had a good day.”

Allegra finished 10th in a time of 19:17.

On the girls side, Sherando finished third with 80 points. Handley won the meet with 23 points. Skyline was fifth with 117 points.

Like with the boys, McCarty held most of the top runners out to save them for Saturday’s Albemarle Invitational.

Sherando’s Haley Powers, who is usually the school’s No. 3 runner, finished seventh in a time of 23:21. James Wood’s Sophia Dorsey won the girls race in a time of 22:09.

“Haley, she’s taken SATs this weekend, so we put her in there,” McCarty said. “She had a good day today. She mixed it up with most of that pack of Handley girls. So we feel real good about where we were there. Emily Askew had a solid day for us. She was right up there, not too far off from Haley [Powers]. Once again, we sat most of our varsity girls out, so we feel pretty good about the backside of that group coming together.”

Askew placed 12th in a time of 23:34. Skyline was led by McKayla Jackson, who finished 17th in a time of 24:12. Morgan Meredith was 24th with a time of 25:03 for the Hawks.
Skyline coach Mike Tanner said that they’ve had trouble keeping girls in the program, which has hurt the program overall.

“We just have to keep them. Next year we have to keep the leaders, so that we have someone to be an example, someone to look up to,” Tanner said. “Our top two girls are running well. The three is moving up. They’re improving, and so that’s all we can ask for right now.”

The Warriors swept the Stonewall Jackson Invitational a few weeks ago, and McCarty said that helped give his team confidence. Now he just wants to keep it going with the Conference 35 meet a few weeks away.

“I feel like we’re in a good spot,” McCarty said. “I feel like we can compete. Obviously, looking at what the Loudoun schools have done, with Woodgrove and Heritage and some of those schools, it’s going to be tough on the girls side especially. We’re still looking at getting in that top four. That’s our goal, and I think we’ve made progress towards that.”

Skyline doesn’t have to worry about the rest of the Northwestern District teams when it moves into the postseason. The Hawks will be competing in Group 3A, while the rest of the district is 4A.

Winning the district title against 4A schools certainly helps build Skyline’s confidence.

“It feels really good to come out here and race against the teams in our old district, because we used to race against these teams for districts and going onto regionals,” Haggerty said. “But now that our conference is against other teams, it’s good to come back to this and show them that we’re for real. We mean business.”

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