STRASBURG - Strasburg cross country coach Jeff Rudy knew his team could have a strong season, but even he wasn’t expecting what transpired in the postseason.
The Rams ran well together in the Class 2 State Championships and finished third as a team. Rudy said Strasburg’s girls teams had a lot of success over the years from 2006-14 and it was great to see the boys team starting to have some of that same success.
“Now we have this young crop of boys here, none of them are seniors, and it was great to see them show up and really produce under a high stressful situation of the championship season against much larger schools,” Rudy said. “So it’s exciting to see all these underclassmen performing and knowing that we have a season to come in the future and what could possibly be.”
The Rams had a young squad with eight juniors, seven sophomores and two freshman. However, four of their top seven runners were juniors.
Rudy, The Northern Virginia Daily’s 2018 Boys Cross Country Coach of the Year, said he’s known for the last few years that the boys team had potential to be successful.
“We saw the talent and we knew it was there for the past couple years,” Rudy said. “And coaching the boys team you really have to take a long term approach to them over the seasons. So we keep them together. You train them, you increase their mileage over the years, and do some things that have a really long term approach to their success. You could see their times getting really fast and their workouts were really coming together nicely. And seeing the bonds, gelling together as a whole, running together as a close group of pack-running from our No. 1 runner Anthony Cadle going all the way back to the 5, 6, and 7 runner as well.”
All the hard work the Rams put in over the years paid off even as early as the regular season this year. Strasburg won the Stonewall Jackson Invitational on Sept. 29, including beating Wilson Memorial. The Green Hornets finished second in the Class 2 State Championships last season.
Rudy said that victory was a confidence builder for his team. Once the postseason began, the Rams took it up another level.
“We were excited pretty early on,” Rudy said. “And I always preach to be patient. It’s not where we are at the beginning of the season, it’s where we are championship season. And we really sort of peaked at the right time.”
Strasburg won the Bull Run District Championships by 12 points over second-place George Mason. However, the next week the Rams fell a little short, finishing second to Wilson Memorial in the Region 2B Championships, which were held at Stonewall Jackson’s New Market Battlefield course.
The Rams bounced back and performed at their best in the Class 2 State Championships. Led by Anthony Cadle’s 10th-place individual finish, the Rams placed third, slipping past both George Mason and Wilson Memorial.
Rudy said his team had a lot stacked against it in their first state meet in a number of years. The Rams were going against schools with bigger enrollments and had to battle through bad weather. The race was run in a heavy cold rain with puddles all over the course. Due to the weather, runners were not allowed to preview the course the day before the race as is usually done.
“So much up against them from the school populations, to not previewing the course, a cold wet day, they really sort of were focused and steadfast,” Rudy said. “And knew who their competition was and performed when it really counted.”
Rudy said the state meet was definitely his favorite memory of the season, but he said it was also great seeing the runners bond and work together like they did throughout the season.
While Cadle led the way all season, Rudy said the No. 2 through 5 spots changed from race-to-race and that’s part of what made the team strong.
Juniors Tyler Zimbro, Dylan Baker and Josh Knight and freshman Zack Ritchie were key to the teams success and sophomores Zach Asher and Seth Nicholson were also steady in the top seven all season.
Rudy said that he is proud that all of his runners represent Strasburg in a fine manner as student-athletes, are well-rounded and play other sports as well.
Many of the top cross country schools in Class 2 will be moving up to Class 3 next year due to enrollment numbers, including powerhouse state champion Maggie Walker, George Mason, Wilson Memorial and Central. Radford, which finished second in this year’s Class 2 Boys State Championships, will still be a Class 2 school and could be Strasburg's biggest obstacle to a possible state title next year.
Rudy said that he is looking forward to seeing what’s ahead for his young squad.
“Radford looked fantastic this past year,” Rudy said. “Floyd County is always a great team and there’s some other really good schools. But not losing anyone and with the new realignment and seeing these kids be focused like they have been, we are really excited for the future.”