Funkhouser leading the way for Generals

LuLu Funkhouser Rich Cooley/Daily

QUICKSBURG — As LuLu Funkhouser was listening to the results being announced in Saturday’s Augusta Invitational cross country meet she kept waiting to hear Stonewall Jackson be called. The sophomore and her teammates had to wait anxiously until the very end as the Generals won the girls meet.

“I remember sitting there with us and hearing the second place team called and knowing it was us (that won), and my hands were shaking,” Funkhouser said. “I turned and looked at my teammates, and I was like ‘we have this. We got first place.’ It was great. I still have goosebumps thinking about it. Going from winning nothing to winning a whole meet — that’s great.”

Funkhouser played a big role in her team’s success as she has done the last two years. She finished sixth in the meet with a time of 21:50.

Her strong finish in the meet helped Funkhouser earn The Northern Virginia Daily’s Female Athlete of the Week for the week of Sept. 14-Sept. 20.

Funkhouser said that it helped that the course is one of her favorites to run.

“It’s a fast course,” Funkhouser said. “There’s a lot of hills.”

Last year Funkhouser finished 17th in the Group 2A state meet and had a very strong season as a freshman. She said that having that year of experience helps her a lot this season, and she knows all of the courses better.

“It was nerve-wracking but it helped me so much,” Funkhouser said. “This year I’m not as nervous going into the meets. I know what to expect.”

Funkhouser said she started running cross country in seventh grade after her mother urged her to do it. She said she didn’t enjoy it at first, but now she’s grown to love it, especially being with her teammates.

Stonewall Jackson coach Mary Clanahan said that one of the things that really helps Funkhouser on the course is her mental toughness and her competitiveness.

“Running is 90 percent mental. She has blisters on the back of her heels when she runs and she just mentally pushes through those,” Clanahan said. “… She mentally leads them and is like hey ‘let’s be mentally tough.'”

This season Funkhouser said she’s trying to use her competitiveness at the end of races to finish stronger, and it’s helped her pass a few more people at the end.

Funkhouser has plenty of competition even within her own team. Junior Brandy Webb joined Funkhouser last year at the state meet, and placed eighth in the Augusta Invitational just six seconds behind Funkhouser.

Clanahan said the two get along great, and Funkhouser said that they really push each other.

“There’s parts of the race where I’m literally like ‘I need to slow down and Brandy just keeps going,” Funkhouser said. “I’m strong on the hills and she’s strong on the straights. We push each other and that’s how we get the times we get.”

Last year Funkhouser, who also plays basketball and soccer, was named Stonewall Jackson’s Female Athlete of the Year. She had a very successful freshman season all-around and Clanahan said that they just want her to relax and enjoy running and not put too much pressure on herself.

The Generals have a very strong and deep team this season. With most of last year’s team returning, and a few strong additions. In the Augusta Invitational, the top five Stonewall Jackson runners placed in the top 31.

Stonewall Jackson finished just two points shy of advancing to the state meet last year, and Funkhouser said that making it to the state meet as a team is the top priority this year.

She said that just being part of a team is her favorite thing about cross country.

“We’re so close. We go to each other’s houses almost every weekend,” Funkhouser said. “You don’t have that in other sports.”

Clanahan said that Funkhouser is doing just what she expected, and she just wants her to have fun and enjoy the sport.

I just want her to continue doing what she’s doing and just to enjoy the ride,” Clanahan said.

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