HARRISONBURG —A good thing happens after a high school cross country team makes it to the state meet for the first time.
It wants to do it again … and as soon as possible.
“I realize now how special it was,” said Waynesboro’s Stuart Vailes, a freshman on last year’s team that went to the Group 3A meet for the first time. “Last year, we weren’t expecting to go to states, but I think we got a lot of confidence from going there. When we came back this year, we stepped it up.”
That the Little Giants have stepped it up is undeniable. They’ve turned in a fine dual-meet season so far, and continued that trend Wednesday at a Valley District mini-meet with Robert E. Lee, Turner Ashby and Broadway at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds.
Waynesboro put its five scoring runners in the top 10 to finish with 31 points, easily outdistancing the Knights (58), the Gobblers (63) and the Leemen (82), who were running without senior Jacob Warner.
In the girls’ race, the Little Giants’ Addison Stevens placed second and Lee’s Savannah Corbin eighth to highlight area finishers.
Waynesboro’s boys started the season with a win in the inaugural Valley Cup, then posted a mini win over Lee and Harrisonburg, then captured the Valley District title at Broadway on Sept. 14. The Giants followed that up with a first at the Augusta County Invitational last Saturday.
Senior Chandler Showalter, who is back on the team after a year off playing soccer, sees a team that is very different from the teams he was on his freshman and sophomore year.
“It’s a deep team, and it’s a tight group,” said Showalter, who placed sixth on Wednesday. “And we’ve got the mentality to want to get back to states.”
That mentality has not gone unnoticed by head coach Julie Stevens.
“They know what they can accomplish,” she said. “I think they don’t want to let each other down and they don’t want to let me down. They’re focused on making it back.”
Stevens also points to the arrival of some freshmen who have fit in immediately and made a solid impact, such as Sam Sikora and Kevin Hicks, who placed fifth and 13th, respectively Wednesday.
“I think it’s been a big key for us this year,” Stevens said. “We lost a lot from our top seven last year … and it’s nice to have them come in and find their spot.
In the boys race Wednesday, Lee’s Oliver-Wilson Cook finished second second behind Broadway’s Isaac Alderfer with a time of 16:51, followed by Vailes on third at 17:21. Justice Allen (8th, 17:52) and Patrick Maneval (9th, 18:14), rounded out Waynesboro’s top five, which finished within 51 seconds of each other.
The Leemen’s top five included Wilson-Cook, Alex Lightner (11th, 18:34), Tenor Nay (19th, 19:27), Shaun Waters (30th, 19:54) and Francesco Nunez (48th, 24:37).
The the girls race, Waynesboro, Broadway and Turner Ashby were the only ones who ran full teams. Rounding out the Little Giants’ top five after Stevens were Hannah Jane Upson (12th, 23:57), Sabrina Munro (13th, 24:00), Faith Goalder (14th, 24:02) and Piper Bane (15th, 24:52).