Hotek, Wilkins, Grant qualify for championship

LEESBURG – Front Royal’s two high schools made it three-for-three at Tuesday’s VHSL Group 3A East regional cross-country meet on the grounds of the Oatlands Historic House and Gardens.

Warren County and Skyline failed to place their full teams in the event, but individually they were all in.

All were young.

Sophomore Carrie Hotek and freshman Sabrina Wilkins of Skyline finished with all-regional performances and will represent their school at the 3A state meet at Great Meadow in The Plains, while Warren County sophomore Bailey Grant qualified for the same activity on the boys’ side.

Hotek finished third overall among the girls and was followed by teammate Wilkins, the 10th place finisher. Because these Hawks finished among the top 10 individual placers, they earned the regional medals and qualified for the big meet.

Hotek’s time of 20 minutes, 1 second was about 90 seconds off the winning pace of Brentsville’s Lydia Goetz (19:26), who was deemed the Region 3A East champ.

Wilkins’ finishing time was 20:34.

Winning teams and team runner-ups earned trophies while individual medalists were also recognized after the meet, conducted in perfect conditions.

“The last time I was here I was determined to go out and do six-minute miles, but this time I held back a little so that I could have a kick at the end,” said Hotek.

She and Wilkins ran at Oatlands a week ago in the Conference 28 championships. Wilkins won the shootout between the two friends. She ran a 20:07.56 to finish fourth among the participants.

Hotek ended up in sixth at 20:16.25.

“My goal is always to beat her,” said Wilkins, sharing a laugh with Hotek.

Skyline cross-country coach Rodger Seemiller said he credited assistant coach Amanda Widmer for keeping the two Hawks and their teammates in shape this season.

“I’d always want to go push them a little further, but she’d step in and say, ‘No, no; let’s let them come along.’ They did today,” Seemiller said.

That overall process – along with one Hotek developed for this race – had her finishing highly.

“The last time we were over here I tried to sprint up the last hill, but I read some things over the week that said to pace yourself and then, halfway up, book it. That’s what I tried to do today,” Hotek said.

It worked. The key feature of the Oatlands layout is a stream which gives way to a sandy area and then advances straight up an incline with a half-mile to go.

“I was really nervous. My legs felt like Jello (after the hill) but I just pushed myself to the end to place,” said Wilkins.

Warren County was represented by sophomore Bailey Grant, who toured the course in 17:30 to qualify for the state meet by finishing 16th overall among the boys.

But, since the 10 runners outside the top half-dozen winning teams make the state field, Grant will be the Wildcats’ representative.

Warren coach Joseph Owens has watched the youngster grow up.

“You know when he was young, he played touch football and he does martial arts. He’s an athletic kid, so when he was coming up, I told him you’re coming with me,” the coach said.

Owens serves as the track coach and cross-country mentor at Warren County.

“He’s really athletic, he has a burst. I foresee him running the 800 meters for us this spring in track. We’ll talk about it.”

“I remember beginning and being nervous because I thought I could never get under 20 minutes. But then I did that and other things started to happen,” Grant said.

His strategy was to hang back for a couple of miles and then begin his sprint.

“But we had to bring him along a lot quicker on his kick. In previous meets he would (kick later), but because of the competition, we wanted him to start earlier,” said Owens.

Warhill won the regional girls race. Because Skyline was running individuals, there was no overall tally for the Hawks. Similar were the Wildcats.

The boys’ team champ was Brentsville.