Stonewall’s Webb and teammates win title

NEW MARKET – While Stonewall Jackson cross country coach Mary Clanahan was setting up for the Conference 44 meet at the New Market Battlefield Thursday afternoon, she spotted one of her former runners who had stopped by out of curiosity to see what was going on.

Recalling their interaction shortly after the race, Clanahan said she casually asked the former General ‘what’s up?’

“And he says, ‘Some of my best memories were here,'” Clanahan said.

Stonewall Jackson junior Brandy Webb and her girls cross country teammates made their own lasting memories on the Generals’ home 5k course Thursday afternoon. Webb raced away from the rest of the Conference 44 field to claim the individual girls title, while teammates Carley Bennett, Hayley Gibson and Haley Bennett each added top-10 finishes as the Generals’ girls won the team title with 30 points, topping runner-up Luray by 16 points.

“I just went out and ran as hard as I could because I wanted the team to make it to regionals,” said Webb, who added that she didn’t expect to win her first conference title Thursday evening.

“It just kind of happened. I was kind of hoping for it but I was like well, if somebody else makes it then they deserve it because I was gonna make them fight for it.”

Webb, named the Conference 44 Girls Runner of the Year after the race, set a blistering pace from the start, as she built a lead of about 200 feet after the first mile and more than doubled that advantage as she climbed the hill parallel to the power lines that cut through the rolling terrain as she approached the final third of the race. The junior finished in a time of 22 minutes, 53.17 seconds, beating runner-up Veronica Ferguson, of Riverheads, by 34 seconds.

“There for a while I was just kind of like, ‘Woo, this doesn’t feel good’ but I had to keep going,” Webb said.

The Generals’ team title in the girls race was the first such accomplishment for a Stonewall Jackson cross country team in “a while,” according to Clanahan, who guessed it could’ve been 10 years since the school’s last district/conference championship.

And just in case Clanahan didn’t already have enough to smile about Thursday evening, the Generals’ boys team also qualified for next Tuesday’s regional meet with a third-place finish. Stonewall, led by top-10 finishes from junior Kaelan Sorrells and senior Isaac Blank, netted 89 points, besting Galileo Magnet by 4 points and trailing only Altavista (25) and Luray (60).

The top three teams from each race qualified for the Region 1A East meet, as did the top 12 individuals not on one of the regional-qualifying teams.

This is the second straight season Stonewall will send both the boys and girls teams to the regional meet.

“I feel like Tina Turner right now, Proud Mary,” said Clanahan, who was named the conference’s girls coach of the year. “It’s been an emotional roller coaster trying to keep the kids healthy, and we’ve had some growing pains with some of the kids. When they’re high school kids there are growth things that are going on and we’ve had to nurture a lot of that this year, and just keeping healthy. And we’re still not running with two of our top runners but the other kids have stepped up to the plate and they’ve done what we’ve asked them to do and sometimes (there’s) a good outcome.”

Carley Bennett, a freshman, arrived at the finish line one minute after Webb in the girls race, completing the course in 23 minutes, 55.39 seconds to place fourth overall. Bennett led a pack of Generals in eighth-place through the race’s first mile before she began pushing into the top five at the “sweet spot” along the power line, eventually emerging from the wooded section of the course’s third mile in fourth place.

“I like the woods,” Bennett said. “The woods (are) where I can kind of calm down and I know what to do. And going up the hill definitely helps.”

Gibson, a senior competing in cross country for the first time this season, placed seventh with a time of 24:27.47, while Carley Bennett’s twin sister, Haley, placed eighth overall in 24:36.90. Generals junior J.J. Dellinger (25:04.09) just missed the top 10 with her 11th-place finish but did earn all-conference honors, reserved for the top 12 individuals in each race.

On the boys side, Sorrells placed eighth in a time of 19:32.81. He gained significant ground after emerging from the first mile in 14th place.

“About the first mile I thought I wasn’t gonna do so well,” Sorrells said. “Then I reached the second mile, just decided, I guess, it was going through my mind that ‘Oh, I can do a little better, it’s time to pick it up.’ So I just picked it up and then the race, it was actually going pretty well. … The finish-line stretch I was a little scared, you know, having everybody close to you and thinking that they are gonna pass you.”

Right on Sorrells’ heels at the finish line was Blank, who finished ninth in a time of 19:33.91 to give the Generals two all-conference medalists in the boys race.

“Very hard race,” Blank said. “I mean, I just gave it my best and luckily that was enough. Everybody just put out an amazing effort.

“I was exhausted but I just pushed through it and knew I gotta do my best.”

The Region 1A East meet is scheduled for next Tuesday at Panorama Farms in Charlottesville. Stonewall Jackson raced Thursday without injured girls runner LuLu Funkhouser and boys runner Pedro Jacuinde – both state qualifiers last season – and Clanahan said she’s unsure if those two will compete next week.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com