2017 Girls Cross Country Coach of the Year: Clanahan leads Generals to another solid season

Mary McClanahan Rich Cooley/Daily

QUICKSBURG – Stonewall Jackson girls cross country coach Mary Clanahan didn’t see much of her girls cross country team over the summer, but she trusted that her team would be fine once the season started – and she was right.

Most of her girls cross country team play other sports, and were focusing on the other sports in the summer.

“We knew that a lot of them were doing soccer camps, and they were working out at (Stonewall Jackson girls basketball coach) Jeff Burner’s basketball camp,” Clanahan said. “So we knew they were being active. So (Stonewall Jackson assistant cross country coach) Kelly (Clanahan) and I just kind of let them be. They were real quiet and they just did their thing. And we just kind of let them gently do what they did.”

Mary Clanahan, The Northern Virginia Daily 2017 Girls Cross Country Coach of the Year, said that after the first meet of the season she knew the team was on the right track.

Stonewall Jackson finished in the top six in the Knights Crossing Invitational held at Spring Cave High School in Roanoke. Clanahan said that there were 29 teams, including many from much bigger classifications, in the race the girls ran in.

The Generals went on to a successful season with many accomplishments, including winning the Region 1B title and placing fifth in the Class 1 state meet.

Clanahan said she feels like the fact that so many of her runners do multiple sports definitely helped them in cross country and other sports.

“The studies are out there that show that repetitious of a single sport are really kind of hurting some of these athletes and they are kind of burning out,” Clahanan said. “So it’s nice to see these athletes changing up the muscle groups and they are getting more benefit from it. And I think that’s why we’re seeing these girls do really well with their athletics.”

The Generals were led this season by senior LuLu Funkhouser and freshman Eli Dellinger.

Funkhouser placed second in the Region 1B meet, and eighth in the Class 1 state meet. Dellinger was sixth in the Region 1B meet and 19th in the Class 1 state meet.

Clahanan said this season was a great experience for Dellinger.

“She’s a powerhouse,” Clanahan said. “She’s a tremendous athlete as well. She’s a three-sport athlete just like Lu (Funkhouser) and does the same three sports. She’s very head-strong. She’s very focused when she runs.”

It was the second straight season that Funkhouser made all-state (Top 15). She finished the Class 1 race in a time of 21 minutes flat. Funkhouser qualified for the state meet all four years.

Clanahan said that she and Funkhouser were standing at the Great Meadow course, in The Plains, after the Class 1 state meet and Funkhouser told Clanahan that she was going to miss the sport.

“I looked at her and I said you know you’re a rare breed for anybody – four years and 12.4 miles at Great Meadow,” Clanahan said. “I said that’s a heck of a career for any kid. And I said not only are you going to miss it, but Great Meadow is going to miss you. Just to watch her determination, that determination on that young lady’s face whether it’s cross country or basketball or soccer. Just to watch that determination, because you know when she’s out there she’s going to give 110 percent. And if you beat Lu Funkhouser in anything you’re going to earn it”

Funkhouser was one of five seniors on the team. Three of the seniors were among Stonewall Jackson’s top five in the lineup. Clanahan said they were a special group and advancing as a team to the state meet for three straight years was quite an accomplishment.

Certainly one of the biggest highlights for the team this season was winning the regional title. The Generals had four runners make All-Region 1B (Top 15) and five in the top 18.

Clanahan said as special as winning it was, what made it even better was the boys team finished second in the regional meet. Both teams won a trophy at the meet.

“Coming home together with two trophies and having those freshman having that good feeling,” Clanahan said. “And they understand when they walk through that hall where the trophy case is now, both of them can look in there and see those regional trophies and feel good as alumni – and say I was a part of something good.”