Strasburg’s Tischler reaches goal at state meet

THE PLAINS — Rachel Tischler was surprised.

When the Strasburg girls cross country runner got to the third mile of Friday’s Group 2A cross country meet she felt good,despite the cold, the wind and the effects of having run two miles. At that point, Tischler realized her goal was very much in sight.

She picked off runner after runner in the final mile, and earned all-state honors by placing 11th.

“The last mile I was thinking I could get all-state and I was [around] 19th, and I said ‘I can do this’ and I just kept moving up,” Tischler said. “I love doing long miles, and I think that’s really helped in just giving me some confidence in my racing strategy.”

Tischler, who finished with a time of 20:20, also helped lead the Rams to a fourth-place finish as a team. Maggie Walker won the meet with 38 points, followed by George Mason (57), Floyd County (78) and Strasburg (127).

“Everyone did great today,” Tischler said. “I’m really proud of the girls. We brought it together for this last race.”

Not far behind Tischler was Stonewall Jackson’s Lulu Funkhouser. The freshman finished 21st in a time of 20:36. Stonewall Jackson sophomore Brandy Webb was 26th in 21:19.

“[Funkhouser] had a really good race,” Stonewall Jackson coach Mary Clanahan said. “Pretty good for her first time here. [Webb’s] asthma was acting up on her. The cold just took its toll on her, but she still toughed it out and did really well. She’s happy.”

The Generals didn’t have a team at states, but Clanahan said that having Funkhouser, Webb and Pedro Jacuinde, who was in the boys race, at states is already paying off for the future.

“Hopefully we’ll have more than just three next year,” Clanahan said. “We’ve already got some kids interested in [running] next year just because of these three individuals. That in itself says a lot.”

Strasburg freshman Grace Dellinger finished 21st to place second for the Rams in a time of 20:53.

“Grace is young and she’s hungry,” Strasburg coach Jeff Rudy said. “With a little bit more experience, as she understands the nuances of running, the future is so bright for her. And especially with us losing so much talent to graduation, for her to step up in the leadership role will be exciting.”

Central placed 11th, with 256 points, in the Group 3A state meet led by Bethany Neri’s 37th-place finish in a time of 20:28. Central’s Lexi Keller was 62nd (20:55) and Elsa Garcia was 65th (21:02).

“They ran against tough competition,” Central coach Melissa Wright said. “I thought they ran very well today. I think their times are pretty good, near or better than what we normally run. I thought Bethany put together a nice race today. I thought she ran very well today.”

Blacksburg won the Group 3A girls meet with 23 points, followed by Loudoun Valley (67) and Western Albemarle (95).

Wright said it was a great season for the Falcons, and with a strong nucleus returning the future looks good.

“It’s probably one of the best teams that we’ve had, as far as the girls, in Central’s history,” Wright said. “The competition is just very intense at this level. We’re going to lose two wonderful young ladies in Elsa and Bethany, but we definitely have a nice core group coming back for next year.”

Warren County’s Claire Morrow placed 50th in a time of 20:42 in the 3A race. Morrow said she was happy with how she ran.

“It’s always a lot harder when it’s cold out, it’s harder to breathe,” Morrow said. “I’m proud of how I did. …It’s a lot different than last year, because last year I had my team with me. It was different, but I still had a really good time. I’m glad I got to come.”

For Strasburg’s Tischler this year’s state meet couldn’t have ended any better. The senior was the No. 7 runner on the team last year, and she said she couldn’t have asked for anything more from her senior season.

“I’ve come a long way,” Tischler said with a smile. “I used to be back of the pack I didn’t even make it to state my sophomore year, so this is a dream come true – it really is. It’s a great feeling. I feel very proud of myself and my team.

“It’s definitely ending on a high note.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com