Strasburg cruises to Conference 35 boys title

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

NEW MARKET — It was a sea of purple at the finish line.

Strasburg’s boys dominated the Conference 35 cross country meet on Wednesday at New Market Battlefield Park. The Rams had five runners in the top 10, and all seven runners placed in the top 16. The Rams finished with 21 points, over 30 points ahead of second-place George Mason. Stonewall Jackson finished fourth in the boys with 107 points. The top four teams and top 15 overall individual finishers advance to next week’s Region 2A East meet at Panorama Farms in Charlottesville.

“I just saw purple all around me and I knew we had it,” Strasburg senior Nic Campbell said with a smile. “The team did really good. I’m proud of that. I’m proud to be a Strasburg Ram today, and it feels really good knowing you can steamroll all the other teams.”

Strasburg’s Max Middleton won the boys race in a time of 18:20.77. It was the second conference title in a row for Middleton.

The junior said he started to pull away from the pack at the start of the third mile, and he finished 18 seconds ahead of teammate Logan Smalls, who finished second.

“I felt really good today,” Middleton said. “We’ve already ran his course twice, so we should all know when and where to go, and when to speed up and when to slow down.”

Strasburg finished second in the girls race with 69 points, and Stonewall Jackson was third with 75 points. George Mason won the meet with 36 points, despite having two runners disqualified. Two George Mason runners crossed the finish line in first at the same time, holding hands as they crossed, which is illegal. George Mason’s Blaise Sevier, who originally finished third was awarded first place.

In the boys race, Smalls (18:38.20) barely beat out Campbell (18:42.00) at the finish in the battle for second place. Smalls said he learned from the Shenandoah County meet on Oct. 16, which was held on the same course.

“Last time I was here I was racing another kid, and I let up at the end because I didn’t have enough energy,” Smalls said. “I didn’t want that to happen this time.”

It was one of the best races of the year for Campbell, who has been running as Strasburg’s No. 5 or No. 6 runner most of the season. Last year Campbell was Strasburg’s No. 2 runner most of the year.

“I don’t know what happened at the beginning of this year, I just wasn’t fast,” Campbell said. “It wasn’t clicking for me, and I started seeing improvement about two weeks ago. Then today I felt good, and it just came out today.”

Strasburg was running without one of its top seven runners, Nealon Davis, but still managed to have six runners make all-conference (top 15).

Stonewall Jackson junior Pedro Jacuinde set a school record with a time of 18:50.27. He finished in fourth place, after sprinting past Strasburg’s Dylan Campbell (18:53.17) at the finish line.

“It was a good day today,” Jacuinde said. “It’s a good feeling to get the record. It helps having the home-course advantage. I know where to cut corners, when to use energy.”

Jacuinde was even more excited about the team than his own individual performance. Last year Jacuinde was the only General to advance to regionals, but this year he will be going with his teammates.

“It’s a great thing,” Jacuinde said. “I don’t like going solo. I like having everybody there.”

Strasburg senior Rachel Tischler was third in the girls race, while teammate Grace Dellinger was fourth.

“I went out strong in the first mile and held my pace in the second, and in the third I started reeling some people in,” Tischler said. “My teammate, Grace [Dellinger], she really helped me. She really helped pace me the whole way.”

Strasburg coach Jeff Rudy said he was very happy with how the girls team ran.

“We were running without Caroline Miller, one of our top five, who was sick today,” Rudy said. “The girls realize that it takes a team effort to get us through the championship season. “

Stonewall Jackson freshman Lulu Funkhouser placed fifth, while teammate Brandy Webb was seventh and Jailyn Dellinger was 11th.

“I’m really excited with how the team did,” Funkhouser said. “It will make it so much better to have the whole team [at regionals].”

Stonewall Jackson coach Mary Clanahan said it’s the first time in almost 10 years that both the boys and girls teams advanced to regionals.

“This is a nice young group of kids,” Clanahan said. “What we saw today was pretty much what we expected of them. They’re a great group of kids, and they love each other.”

Times for the girls meet were not available at press time.

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