Falcons cruise to district cross country title

Central senior Mason Lucy-Speidel claims individual championship

Central's Mason Lucy-Speidel leads the final stretch of the Bull Run District Cross Country finals Wednesday in Berryville. Mason won the event with a winning time of 16:47. Central's boys team placed first in the event. Rich Cooley/Daily

BERRYVILLE – Central High School’s boys cross country team entered the 2017 season loaded for another deep run into the postseason. The Falcons cleared their first major hurdle, in dominating fashion, on their path to another state tournament berth.

Central, the VHSL Group 2A state-runner up in each of the last two seasons, cruised to the Bull Run District championship on Wednesday afternoon at Mansfield Farm, easily outpacing runner-up Clarke County by 26 points.

The Falcons won the Conference 35 championship – the previous postseason equivalent to the Bull Run District meet -the past two seasons. On Wednesday, they placed four runners inside the top five as senior Mason Lucy-Speidel claimed the individual title.

“Definitely putting four in that top five at a district meet, it’s really good to show how well we can do later on in these bigger meets,” said Falcons senior Gus Wightman, who finished second behind Lucy-Speidel.

Central's Jaclyn Cardoso runs during the Bull Run District meet last year in Berryville. Cardoso, a sophomore, will look to lead Central to a strong season this year. Rich Cooley/Daily file

“It’s really looking good for us going into the later postseason.”

Lucy-Speidel, last season’s Conference 35 champ, paced the six-team field on Wednesday by winning the race in a time of 16 minutes, 47 seconds. He was the only runner to post a time under 17 minutes.

Lucy-Speidel’s twin brother, Sawyer, placed fourth (17:21) for the Falcons and Central sophomore Chase Rimel crossed the finish line two seconds later for fifth place. Central’s Anthony Piselli narrowly missed all-district honors (top 15) with a 16th-place finish to round out the Falcons’ scoring.

“For the group it says that a lot of our training has paid off well,” Mason Lucy-Speidel said. “We try to keep the top guys together during practices, during our long runs and during our workouts, so when we come out here and we’re able to get four of our guys in the top five, it’s a good goal for us. It’s a great thing to happen for us because … our pack needs to stay as close together as possible if we want to win meets.”

Wightman, who said his racing strategy has always been to come out hard off the starting line, led the way through the first mile of the three-mile race before giving way to Mason Lucy-Speidel early in the second mile.

Central's Gus Wightman leads a pack of runners up this hill during the Bull Run District Cross Country race Wednesday in Berryville. Rich Cooley/Daily

“He caught me a little sooner than he normally does,” Wightman said of his teammate, “so I was thinking maybe I’ll be able to keep up with him and pass him at the end. But he just kept on taking that lead out and trucking it.”

Mason Lucy-Speidel beat Wightman (17:01) by 14 seconds.

“Something my dad taught me a long time ago with his running is that consistency is key,” Lucy-Speidel said. “Some people go out fast in that first mile and they don’t have anything left for the second and third. For me it’s just about staying consistent through the three miles, and it sets me up for mile three. I have a lot left to be able to push through and pick a couple guys off in the end.”

Central’s boys finished with a five-runner total of 28 points. Clarke County had 54 points, followed by George Mason (64), Madison County (100), Strasburg (119) and Rappahannock County (175).

On the girls side, Central (62) placed second behind team champion George Mason (40). Clarke (89) was third, Rappahannock County (94) fourth, Strasburg (101) fifth and Madison County (143) sixth.

The top four Class 2 teams from each race and any individual in the top 15 of Class 2 runners qualified for next Wednesday’s Region 2B Championships at Panorama Farms (Rappahannock County is the only Class 1 member of the Bull Run). Strasburg’s boys were the only local team not to qualify for advancement.

In the girls race, Central freshman Jaclyn Cardoso led all local runners with a third-place finish. She posted a time of 20:10.

“I feel accomplished getting up there, running up there with all those people. I feel accomplished with this race and moving on to the next meet,” said Cardoso, who trailed only Clarke County’s Madison Webster (19:38) and Rapp’s Rachel Weghorst (20:00) across the finish line.

“This is my first time running (the course) but we looked around and I just ran the race. And I ran against some of the girls (before), I just knew where to pace myself with them, so that helped me.”

Cardoso was one of three Central girls to earn all-district honors alongside Aliyah Kibler (eighth, 21:04) and Grace Dellinger (13th, 21:16). Ashley Dodd (21:57) was 18th and Hannah Dellinger (22:24) was 20th for the Falcons.

Falcons head coach Melissa Wright said she was “absolutely thrilled” with the girls’ performance on Wednesday.

“They’ve had a great season. We felt we were pretty comfortable coming into this race being one of the top four,” Wright said. “We were probably looking at top three, and to bump that up to No. 2, we’ll take that going into the region meet.”

Strasburg’s Tyler Zimbro (11th, 17:43) and Anthony Cadle (12th, 17:50) each qualified individually for the regional meet on the boys side, and the Rams’ lone all-district performance in the girls meet came from senior Rachel Palmer, who finished in seventh place with a time of 21:01.

“What a great heart and a great leader,” Rams head coach Jeff Rudy said of Palmer. “Before the race she gave just a beautiful inspirational speech that the girls really, really responded to.”

Abigail Davis (17th, 21:51), Mary Carter (24th, 23:23), Debra Dillman (26th, 24:06) and Kara Bowman (27th, 24:13) rounded out the scoring for Strasburg’s girls.

“Great day of racing for the girls team as a whole, to really step up and battle through some really tough competition,” Rudy said.

“We’re excited to move on. We’re excited to go to Charlottesville as a team. We’re really excited for those two girls, the seniors, Rachel Palmer and Kara Bowman, to get to live on to fight another day.”