Athlete of the Week: Central’s Dellinger finishing with strong senior season

Grace Dellinger Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK — Sometimes being a senior is all the inspiration an athlete needs to perform at her best. That’s what is happening to Central cross country runner Grace Dellinger this season.

As a freshman, Dellinger had a standout year, but she said the last two years haven’t gone as well as she would have liked. This year Dellinger is back on track and it’s paying off for the Falcons.

“My sophomore and junior year I wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be in running,” Dellinger said on Monday after practice. “And I feel like this year I’m improving a little more and getting back to where I want to be. I’m happy about that.”

Dellinger, The Northern Virginia Daily’s Athlete of the Week for the week of Oct. 16-22, said she hasn’t changed anything in the offseason. She said she thinks she has simply been more motivated this season.

“I think being my senior I want to finish it out strong,” Dellinger said.

One thing that has changed this year is the color of her jersey — from purple and white to blue and gold. Dellinger transferred from Strasburg to Central in January and said it hasn’t been a tough transition.

Dellinger said that she misses running with her Strasburg cross country teammates, but she enjoys being on Central’s team as well.

Last week Dellinger finished second in the Shenandoah County meet, behind freshman teammate Jaclyn Cardoso. Dellinger finished the meet, held at New Market Battlefield, in a time of 22:19.

Dellinger, along with Cardoso and freshman Aliyah Kibler have been a strong force at the top of Central’s squad this season. The trio have taken turns leading the way for the Falcons this season.

“Those top three girls any day any one of them could change a spot here or there,” Central coach Melissa Wright said. “They certainly have given us a great 1-2-3 punch that makes us a strong team. Not only them, but the rest of the girls are working hard. I like the girls we have. I’m very fortunate.”

Dellinger said she started running when she was little, because her dad wanted her to run and she’s enjoyed it ever since.

Dellinger, said she and her dad, Kim, and her sister, Hannah, who is a sophomore on Central’s cross country team, usually run a lot together. She said sometimes it can get a little competitive.

“My dad, even though he’s like 40, he still likes to try and race me and Hannah,” Grace Dellinger said with a smile. “We’ve beat him a couple times. But he’s a really good runner too.

Wright said that Grace Dellinger fit in nicely with the rest of the team. Wright said she’s been impressed with Dellinger’s work ethic.

“She’s just tough, very hard working,” Wright said. “When we get to do speed workouts or hill workouts, she’s very determined. That determination is very evident in her face during workouts.”

Wright said that Dellinger is a quiet leader, but a very good leader by example.

“From the very beginning of the season it was evident that the girls had a different mental approach to workouts and for the season,” Wright said. “Definitely (Grace Dellinger) has helped elevate the intensity at our practices.”

The Falcons won the Shenandoah County meet as a team last week with 22 points. They had seven of the top 11 runners.

Grace Dellinger said she’s very happy with how the team has done so far this year.

“I think things are going really well,” Grace Dellinger said. “I’m really excited to see where we go.”

The Falcons will compete in the Region 2B meet next week at Panorama Farms in Charlottesville. The top three teams advance to the Class 2 state meet along with the top five individuals not on the top three teams.

Grace Dellinger said she is hoping to keep her streak going. She has qualified for the state meet individually each of her first three seasons. Grace Dellinger said she loves running in the state meet, which is held at Great Meadows in The Plains.

“It’s probably the only meet that I don’t get that nervous for,” Grace Dellinger said. “Because I know it’s the last meet and it’s (an accomplishment) that I made it there, so I’m really happy about that. Its a fun meet.”