State bound: Sherando’s Harris, Arellano qualify for state meet at Region 4C cross country championships

Sherando's James Harris, right, leads this group downhill including Fauquier's Nick Matthews, left, and Riverside's Greyson Sequion, center, during the Region 4C Cross Country Championships Wednesday afternoon at Kernstown. Harris placed 12th overall. Rich Cooley/Daily

WINCHESTER – Sherando High School cross country coach Jamie McCarty said boys runners James Harris and Christian Arellano have been performing well on the course, particularly in recent weeks. But even McCarty admitted he was a bit surprised with how well that duo competed in Wednesday’s Region 4C Championships at Kernstown Battlefield.

Harris and Arellano, fresh off a pair of top-10 performances at last week’s Class 4 Northwestern District meet, extended their cross country seasons one more week by snagging the final two individual qualifying spots for next week’s VHSL Class 4 State Championships at Great Meadow.

Harris, a freshman, finished 13th overall in a boys field that included 61 runners who completed the 3.1-mile course. Arellano, a sophomore, finished right on his teammate’s heels in 14th place.

“Looking at it, we knew we were gonna have to race our best and heck, those guys ran almost their PR times on this course and this course is pretty tough,” McCarty said. “… Obviously extremely proud of them as a freshman and sophomore. It’s a good building block for us moving forward, and for them.”

The top three teams in each race and the top five individuals not on those three teams advance to the state meet scheduled for Nov. 10 at Great Meadow.

Sherando's Camryn Ubert leads Fauquier's Shelby Rosenberger as the pair lead this pack to the finish line during the Region 4C Cross Country Championships Wednesday in Kernstown. Ubert placed 18th overall in the race. Rich Cooley/Daily

Loudoun Valley dominated both the boys and girls races to sweep the team championships. The Viking boys placed five runners in the top seven and ended up with 19 points, handily beating runner-up Dominion (67) and Fauquier (112). Valley’s girls finished with 26 points, outpacing Fauquier (84) and Millbrook (106).

Harris and Arellano were the only Sherando runners from both the boys and the girls squads to advance to the state meet.

Harris, who finished in a time of 17:03.40, said he felt that a top-15 individual finish on Wednesday would be enough to send him to the state meet in his first high school cross country season.

“It feels pretty good,” Harris said of his accomplishment. “I started running in seventh grade. I’d never run a 5K before, so I tried it out this season, and it just feels amazing to go to states.”

Harris held his grip on a spot inside the top 15 for the entire race, even though his muscles began to stiffen up on him as a result of the chilly weather, he said.

Sherando's Christian Arellano leads a group of runners downhill during the Region 4C Cross Country Championships Wednesday. Arellano placed 13th overall in the event. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I wanted to stay up with the Loudoun kids but then I was thinking the second time going up this hill (a steep incline that is traversed twice, once at the start and again at the midway point, during the race) was going to be a bit tough, so I paced up that hill and then after that took off,” Harris said, adding that he knew he was in contention for a state-qualifying spot when McCarty began yelling at him as he prepared his second trip up the hill around the race’s halfway mark.

“(McCarty) was like, ‘This is where you’ve got to push it down,’ and everything, so I pushed it with all I could give,” Harris added. “… I couldn’t feel my legs and after that downhill (approaching the finish line) I had to look. I was like, ‘Top 15, here I go.'”

Arellano, who said his race strategy was simply to follow Harris, crossed the finished line nearly six seconds after his teammate with a time of 17:09.10. Arellano claimed the fifth and final individual state-qualifying spot.

“It’s pretty unbelievable here,” Arellano said with a glance back at the course’s starting line. “I’ve always been dreaming of this from watching videos on YouTube of people running, and now I’m here myself. (I) just enjoyed it.”

Sherando’s boys as a team finished in fifth place with 140 points, with sophomore Ty Waits (37th overall, 18:01.20), freshman Johnathan Gates (40th, 18:11.20) and sophomore Lucas Williams (56th, 19:23.50) rounding out the scoring for the Warriors.

Sherando's Olivia Couillard rounds a turn toward the finish line during the Region 4C Cross Country Championships in Kernstown on Wednesday. Couillard placed 20th in the race. Rich Cooley/Daily

For Sherando’s girls, their season came to a disappointing end that resulted in no state qualifiers for the second straight season.

Camryn Ubert, a junior, finished 22nd for the Warriors with a time of 20:45.6. Classmate Olivia Couillard (20:54.30) finished two spots behind Ubert, followed by freshman Molly Robinson (29th, 21:02.20), junior Stella Williams (31st, 21:06.80) and freshman Daisy Conde (37th, 21:28.20). The five individual qualifying spots in the girls race were used up in the top 10.

Sherando’s girls placed sixth as a team with 123 points.

“We weren’t good,” McCarty said of Sherando’s girls. “We didn’t have a good day today. We didn’t do the things throughout the season that we needed to do to get better and eventually those things show up. It’s unfortunate, but a lot of those girls come back. I feel bad for Paige (Conner, 44th overall), being a senior, that it kind of ended that way, but we bring back five of those six girls and hopefully they use this as a learning experience and they can get better from it.”

Loudoun Valley’s Sam Affolder (15:39.40) won the boys individual regional championship, while the Vikings’ Natalie Morris (18:40.70) was the girls champion.