Area runners set for state meet

For four area teams and 10 individual runners, this weekend’s state cross country meets gives them one last chance to shine in their final race of the year.

Strasburg will have its boys and girls teams in the Group 2A meet on Friday, while Central has its girls team in the 3A meet on Friday. Sherando will have its boys in the Group 4A meet on Saturday. All six classifications will run at Great Meadow in The Plains. The 1A, 2A and 3A meets will be held on Friday, and the 4A, 5A and 6A meets are Saturday.

Strasburg coach Jeff Rudy was not happy with how his boys’ team performed last week in the 2A East regional at Panorama Farms in Earlysville. The usual No. 1 runner Max Middleton struggled to an 18th-place finish, while sophomore Dylan Campbell led the Rams with a 17th-place finish. The Rams finished third in the meet, after winning Bull Run District and Conference 35 titles the two previous weeks.

“Not a good day for racing for the boys or the girls, but we’re excited that we’re moving on and using the state meet as a day of redemption,” Rudy said after the region meet. “We live to run another day and we’re excited to see how things unfold at the state meet.”

Strasburg’s girls placed fourth in regionals, led by senior Rachel Tischler’s ninth-place effort. Strasburg’s Cheyanne Combs was 29th, while freshman Grace Dellinger was 37th.

Sherando coach Jamie McCarty was not happy with how his boys’ team performed last week in the 4A North regional. McCarty said the guys haven’t all run well at the same time, but he’s hoping they will put it all together at the biggest time. Sherando finished fourth in the regional, led by Trevor Whiteside (23rd) and Thomas Shea (28th).

“We don’t have anything to lose and we’ve got talented guys,” McCarty said. “Trevor [Whiteside] and Tom [Powars] and Thomas Shea and Jahlil [Northover] have become a formidable four. Now if we get all four to perform like they’re capable of on the same day, we’re going to be dangerous.”

Sherando freshman Paige Conner is the lone girl to qualify for the Group 4A state meet. She finished 15th in regionals, and McCarty said it’s a great experience for her no matter what happens.

“I just want her to go and just race, just do what she’s been doing,” McCarty said. “I’m not going to say, Oh, you should be 15th,’ or ‘You should be 20th.’ I think she can be whatever she’s prepared to be, and she’s worked hard for the opportunity. She’s gotten better as we’ve went along every week, and I don’t think it will be any different. I don’t think the stage is going to be too big for her. I think she’s fully prepared mentally and physically to handle it.”

Central’s girls’ team placed fourth at the 3A East Region meet, led by the trio of seniors Bethany Neri and Elsa Garcia and junior Lexi Keller.

“I think [finishing top four in regionals] is very promising going into the state meet,” Falcons coach Melissa Wright said last week after the regional meet. “If we can get them all healthy and feeling a little better, it will be good.”

Central’s Tristan Lucy-Speidel and Ivan Alvarado qualified for the Group 3A state meet. Lucy-Speidel was 22nd in regionals and Alvarado was 25th.

Skyline’s Luke Cline, Justin Haggerty and Demetry Arnold will also be in the 3A state meet. Cline made the all-region team with his 15th-place showing, while Haggerty was 31st and Arnold was 39th.

Cline advanced to the state meet last year but was by himself, and this year gets joined by a few teammates.

“I’m glad those guys are going with me. [Last year] I was training by myself for a week and a half. It was awful. It was just mentally taxing when you run by yourself every day,” Cline said. “The state meet was awesome [last year]. Great Meadow is awesome. The course is fast there. It’s the best competition in the state, obviously, so I’m pumped to being going back there.”

Warren County’s Claire Morrow finished 17th in the 3A East regional to advance to the state meet. The junior ran in the state meet last year with the team, but said she’s looking to do better this year.

“I will definitely try to get a much better time because last year I had been injured before I ran states,” Morrow said. “So it wasn’t exactly how I wanted to run it. So this year I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do.”

Stonewall Jackson has a trio of runners in Friday’s 2A state meet. Junior Pedro Jacuinde, who was 28th in regionals, will be running in the boys race.

Jacuinde is the first boys state qualifier since 2010. The Stonewall girls will also be well represented as freshman Lulu Funkhouser and sophomore Brandy Webb race in the state meet.

Funkhouser and Webb both made all-region with 10th and 14th place showings, respectively.

“States brings out uniqueness,” Stonewall Jackson coach Mary Clanahan said. “It’s anybody’s race. Last year we saw Brandy [Webb] step up and sneak in there, she finished 23rd. They placed her in the 50’s and she finished 23rd.

“[Webb] has a look on her face of determination. Lulu Funkhouser — when she runs she’s a miniature [2014 Stonewall graduate] Ashton Davis.”

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