Athlete of the Week: Funkhouser bouncing back from injury with strong season

LuLu Funkhouser

LuLu Funkhouser

QUICKSBURG – LuLu Funkhouser didn’t have the season she was hoping for last year. A hip injury slowed the Stonewall Jackson junior down, but this season she is back on track.

Funkhouser said going through the injury last year helped motivate her even more this year.

“I want to be back at the place where I was freshman year, and I think I’ve definitely succeeded,” Funkhouser said.

Funkhouser had a strong freshman season as she finished 17th in the Group 2A state meet, just missing all-state by two spots.

Last year she was having another solid season before suffering the hip injury. She was sidelined for a month, but did come back for the postseason. She finished 34th in the Group 1A state meet and eighth in the Region 1A East meet.

“It hurt me to see everybody else running,” Funkhouser said of her injury. “But I was still proud of them, because they picked up the slack and went for it. They did great as a team.”

Last week Funkhouser, The Northern Virginia Daily’s Athlete of the Week for the week of Oct. 17-23, showed that she is back in top form. She won the Shenandoah County meet (in a time of 20:51), besting teammate Brandy Webb by four seconds. As a team the Generals finished second.

It was the first Shenandoah County meet individual title for Funkhouser, who said she was just expecting to be in the top five going into the race.

Funkhouser and Webb have made for a formidable duo for the Generals for the last few years. They were both selected to the All-Shenandoah District team. Funkhouser said they really push each other and make each other better.

She said even in practice they help each other get better and motivate each other.

“It’s more of a friendly competition,” Funkhouser said. “There’s some days I’m not wanting to push myself at all, and then Brandy will be like, ‘Hey LuLu, let’s go’ and vice-versa. It’s great to have a teammate that’s willing to push you.”

Funkhouser and Webb pushed each other at the Shenandoah County meet. Funkhouser began to build a lead on Webb as they went up a hill on Central’s North Street course.

Funkhouser said she loves running up hills.

“Freshman year we did so much training, and when I played travel soccer when I was younger, which I still play it, but specifically then we did hill practice every single day,” Funkhouser said. “So it’s just something I’m comfortable with, and I’m ready to push myself up the hill every time. It’s always a good thing when you pass someone up the hill and you hear everyone yelling.”

Stonewall Jackson coach Mary Clanahan said that one of Funkhouser’s biggest strengths is her mental toughness and competitiveness.

“If you beat Lu Funkhouser you’re going to earn it,” Clanahan said. “She’s going to run you down. If she has a bad day it’s because she doesn’t feel well, but if you beat her you’re going to earn it. You’re going to sweat real hard and your tongue’s going to be dragging the ground when you finish after beating her. That’s just the kind of competitor she is.”

Funkhouser missed two weeks at the start of the year as she went on a school trip to Europe. Clanahan said that she thinks Funkhouser is peaking at the right time.

The Generals start their postseason today when they host the Conference 44 meet. Last year the Generals placed fifth in the Group 1A state meet. Funkhouser said she feels good about how the team is doing.

“We need to get our pack a little bit closer, but other than that I think we’ll do great,” Funkhouser said.

She said she hasn’t placed any goals on herself individually.

“I’m going to go with the flow,” Funkhouser said. “I’ll just run every race like it’s my last.”

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

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