Warriors teams advance

By Jim Laise — sports@nvdaily.com

KERNSTOWN — For the first time in four seasons, Sherando’s girls and boys qualified as teams for the regional meet — to be held next week — on the Kernstown Battlefield course on Wednesday.

The Warriors girls’ team, which was represented on the regional front in 2013 by Katie Rogers, finished fourth on a wet-and-soggy battlefield course in the Conference 21 meet with 91 points, and the boys, who qualified as a group for the ’13 regional, finished second with 85 points on the same course where both teams will compete in the regionals.

Former coach Tim Ritter said in a phone interview on Monday that the last time the girls qualified for the next meet on the way to the state championships was “when Krista DeCeault was a senior (the cross-country season of 2010), so it has been since then.”

Both the leading girl for Sherando in the conference meet, freshman Paige Conner, and boy, Trevor Whiteside, were running the hilly course south of Winchester for the first time.

The girls’ conference meet was held in a steady shower, while the rain stopped for the following boys meet.

Sherando coach Jamie McCarty said they’ve run in the rain several times and that he didn’t feel it affected the girls or boys.

“We’ve prepared for this meet all season, running on courses like this through the fall,”
he said.

Conner agreed that the weather was not a problem.

“As long as it’s not windy, I don’t really worry about the rain,” she said. “It was really rainy at the Knights Crossing meet earlier in the season (at Salem), so I got used to it there.”

The freshman said her time was better here than during the regular season at Salem “mainly because this could have been our last meet of the season. I was motivated.”

Rogers agreed. Only for her, it would have been the last meet of her Sherando career.

“That really pushed me forward,” the senior said.

Conner finished fifth in the Conference 21 meet with a time of 20:04.7, while Rogers earned the 13th designation, pacing the course in 20:30.2, four seconds ahead of 14th finisher Sarah Smith of Heritage (Leesburg). Smith ran a 20:34.2 time.

The top five individuals representing the respective eight competing teams were eligible to score points in the meet, with the top four teams automatically finding themselves in the upcoming Region 4A North meet. Meanwhile, the top 10 individuals, excluding those who were accommodated by virtue of a top five team finish, also moved along to the regional.

The 3.1-mile course on the site of Civil War battles at Kernstown, started near a barn, moved directly up an incline toward a grove of trees, circled back toward the historic Pritchard House, east toward the Valley Pike, then re-circled toward the rise and down again.

The girls’ individual winner was Heritage’s Weini Kelati in 17:55.6, who set a new course record. The old mark was set earlier this season by Abby Colbert of Jefferson, West Virginia, who ran a time of 18:28. Kelati finished well ahead of runner-up Grace Howard of Loudoun County, whose time was 19:25.4

For Sherando, Conner and Rogers were followed by junior Emily Askew (22nd, 21:18.8), and senior Haley Powers (25th, 21:23.5), who edged out junior teammate Evelyn Gibson (26th, 21:25.8) to provide the points for the Warriors.

Heritage, of Leesburg, was the girls’ conference champion (65 points), followed by Loudoun County (68), Woodgrove (87), Sherando and James Wood (105).

Other Sherando girls finishers included senior Andi Crosby (35th, 21:55.3) and junior Gillian Liedke (37th, 22:12.5).

McCarty said his seniors have been on the course before.

“Katie has been an anchor for us all year. She really stepped up today. Our three seniors made a decision this year to really improve. Haley, Andi and Katie have been great for us all year. All our girls worked hard to place as highly as they could in this meet.” he said.

Conner said she used her arms to power her up the various rises on the course, while Rogers said she used speed built on coming down the hills to power back up the inclines.

Sherando’s best boys finisher, Trevor Whiteside (7th overall, 17:01.8), used another strategy. The junior said that teammate Thomas Powars (15th, 17:27.2) advised him to keep his head down on the hills, so as not to psychologically make them bigger impediments than they already were.

“It worked for me today,” he said. He added that he saw former coach Ritter at the final decline who told him “to give it all I got.”

Whiteside also had a more personal inspiration. He was wearing socks similar to those of the fictional character “Flash” in D.C. America comics. They were gifts from his girlfriend.

“Flash is my favorite, so I wore these socks for the first time,” he said of the red, black and white apparel.

Whiteside and Powars medalled — top 15 individuals earned the honor, along with senior Jahlil Northover, who finished at 12th (17:20.3). Juniors Garrett Allegra (23rd, 17:47.5) and Thomas Shea 28th, (17:52.9) rounded out the Warrior scoring.

Senior Justin Hammer (30th, 17:54.6) and junior James Kelly (31st, 17:55.1) were other Sherando finishers.

“I can’t say enough about Jahlil. He’s been running fourth for us all year, and today he was our second best finisher,” said McCarty.

Northover nipped Dominion’s Calvin Miller (17:20.4) at the finish line to provide what may have been the points needed for the Warriors to finish ahead of third-place Dominion (87).

“As I’ve told you before, it’s not about the times but the place,” said McCarty.

“(The boys) were a little inconsistent. It was not what I expected. On the other hand, the girls probably did better than I thought. The good news is that we have a week to train and we’ll try to come out here and do better next week.”

Millbrook (52) finished first among the boys. Sophomore Alec Schrank (15:56.8) was the champion. He was followed by teammate and runner-up Tyler Cox-Philyaw (16:12.6).

Woodgrove (94) finished fourth and Heritage (Leesburg) was fifth (97).

The Conference 21 qualifiers will join with those from Conference 23 and two other leagues in next week’s regionals. The latter conference race was held on the Kernstown Battlefield course immediately following the group from 21.

Overall, 108 runners took part in the Conference 21 event.