Rudy, Rams continue solid tradition

Jeff Rudy

STRASBURG — Strasburg coach Jeff Rudy knew it would be a challenge for his girls cross country team to achieve things to which the program has grown accustomed.

The Rams lost a lot to graduation and had only nine varsity runners at the Group 2A state meet, but the team showed it’s about quality not depth. Strasburg placed fourth in the state meet, showing that the cross country tradition is still going strong.

“The girls program was very small this year with only nine athletes competing, which creates that fine balance between training and pushing the limits, yet maintaining a healthy athlete to allow them to be successful,” Rudy said. “It speaks volumes about the girls themselves to be dedicated and proactive and making sure that their workouts were where we needed them to be, yet not getting hurt.”

Rudy, The Northern Virginia Daily’s 2014 Girls Cross Country Coach of the Year, also had a lot to do with the team’s success. One of the things that Rudy does to help the athletes is he comes up with an individual workout plan for each runner.

Strasburg senior Rachel Tischler said the individual plans are really beneficial to the team.

“I think that really helps, because everyone’s different and everyone has different strengths and weaknesses,” Tischler said. “He helps build on our strengths and improves us.”

The Rams certainly hit their stride at the right time this season. Once the postseason came the Rams improved with each race, peaking with a strong performance at the state meet.

Not only did they peak as a team, but individually as each race went on. Rudy said he trains the runners to be able to pace themselves and be at their best in the last mile, and it showed. Rudy said in the last two miles of the girls state meet race, Cheyanne Combs moved up 10 spots, Caroline Miller moved up 15 spots and Haley Garrett climbed 10 spots. In the last mile, Tischler moved up eight spots to earn an all-state honor by placing 11th.

Rudy said it takes a lot of hard work from the athletes to be able to perform at such a high level when it counts the most, and he’s proud of the girls not only for their accomplishments in the sport but around the school as well.

“It’s the whole picture. It’s getting a full night’s sleep. It’s putting in the miles,” Rudy said. “It’s stretching, it’s getting the right grades. It’s doing the right things in the hallways. So when we think about the student-athlete, we see the wins and losses and we see them ranked number four in the state. But there’s so much more to the complete student athlete that [assistant] coach [Katherine] Klus and I are interested in creating.”

Rudy said that having Klus around as an assistant for a number of years has been important, and has helped provide stability.

“She embraces those same tenants of the family, which we try to instill,” Rudy said. “Helping out with workouts and to help tutor athletes, and to embrace the time and effort and hard work that it takes to have the program that we have here at Strasburg High School. Her help over the years, the way that we’ve built the program together, is so important to who we are.”

The Rams will lose three seniors, but still return a solid nucleus led by freshman Grace Dellinger, who was Strasburg’s top runner for most of the season.

Rudy said he expects the team to be solid again next season.

“Losing people like Rachel Tischler, losing people like Cheyanne Combs, losing people like Haley Garrett creates a void that we recruit and we rebuild, and we look forward to the future because who knows who the next Rachel Tischler will be,” Rudy said. “We don’t know what the future holds, but there is a tradition that we expect to continue with the distance program.”

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