Warriors come up empty in regional cross country championships

WINCHESTER – One year after sending both the boys and girls cross country teams to the Virginia High School League Group 4A championship meet, Sherando High School will not be represented when runners hit the course for a shot at a state title next week at Great Meadow.

Paige Conner, Stella Williams and Hayden Williams competed as individuals for the Warriors during the Region 4A West championships Wednesday at Kernstown Battlefield, although none of the three qualified for the state meet.

The performance came one week after the Warriors’ disappointing showing at the Conference 21 West meet, held on the same course, that saw both squads eliminated from further postseason contention, and Sherando head coach Jamie McCarty said Wednesday’s results are just another experience “we learn from.”

“Obviously we’ll take a little break here and get ready for track season but there will be some things we look at doing differently going forward,” McCarty said. “Still proud of those kids. Nobody quit today. Everybody put effort out there. They tried their best and it just wasn’t in the cards for us.”

Conner, who grabbed the final individual regional qualifying spot for the girls at the conference meet last week, led the trio of Warriors on Wednesday on an unseasonably warm day that saw temperatures approach 80 degrees at race time.

Conner, a junior, finished the meet in 45th place with a time of 21:41.70, 44 seconds slower than her time in last week’s conference meet on the same course. She finished 21 places out of a state qualifying spot.

“The weather doesn’t really affect me much if I’m hydrated so I really didn’t feel bad about the heat, like I felt pretty comfortable with it. It was just, even at the start going up the first hill, my legs were just pooped out already, I don’t know why,” said Conner, referring to the lengthy incline that looms over the starting line and is traversed twice during the 3.2-mile race. “But I gained ground on the bottom loop because it wasn’t as hilly there. So I starting passing people and I was feeling OK but once we went up (the hill) the second time … you could just tell I looked awful.”

Stella Williams, a sophomore who placed fourth in the conference last week, crossed the finish line 14 seconds after her teammate to place 48th with a time of 21:55.90.

“The heat really surprised me. It was like 80 so I was feeling a little off compared to like the 50-degree weather last week. I don’t know, I just really wasn’t with it, I guess,” said Stella, who completed the course in 20:23 in the conference championship.

“The start I felt kind of good but it was almost like a false sense because my legs felt so weak, just exhausted from the whole season I guess.”

Stella’s older brother, Hayden, finished the boys race in 106th place with a time of 19:27.80, a full minute and a half slower than his 14th-place last week.

“This course in general, I’ve never done like a good course here that I can think of ever. So that was pretty upsetting, and I wanted to go to states really bad,” Hayden said. “I don’t know what happened.”

Hayden Williams started the race strong as he led all runners off the starting line and charged up the hill, but by the time he reached the first mile he had fallen back into the middle of the pack of 125 runners.

“I felt good going up the hill,” Hayden said. “I just kind of settled after the hill was done and something clicked with me. I just kept slowing down.”

McCarty said adjustments in terms of preparation could be made to Sherando’s cross country teams in the future after he and assistant coach Megan Roberts determine what did and didn’t work for the Warriors this fall.

“Obviously when you have a result like this and you feel like your team’s better you look at preparation in the postseason and is it a physical thing, is it a mental thing? We’re gonna have to figure that out,” McCarty said. “But like I said, I think we’ve got good kids and I’m proud of them, but obviously we’re gonna have to get better.”

Libby Davidson (18:33.20), of E.C. Glass, ran away with the girls individual championship, as she crossed the finish line well ahead of Liberty Christian’s Noel Palmer (18:56.50).

Millbrook’s Alec Schrank (16:07.30) won the boys individual title after sprinting away from Loudoun Valley’s Peter Morris (16:09.90) as the two descended the final hill that lies a couple hundred feet from the finish line.

E.C. Glass (38 points) cruised to the girls team championship, finishing 43 points better than runner-up Loudoun Valley (81).

Loudoun Valley (64) edged Freedom (South Riding) by 4 points to claim the boys team title.

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