FISHERSVILLE – The boys cross country teams from Wilson Memorial and Robert E. Lee have seen quite a bit of each other this season.
From invitationals to midweek dual meets, the Green Hornets and the Leemen have gotten to know each other, and that familiarity has led to mutual respect and friendship. It also has produced competitive meets between them, like Wednesday’s Conference 36 at Wilson Workforce & Rehabilitation Center.
The Hornets countered a 1-2 finish by Lee’s Oliver Wilson-Cook and Jacob Warner by placing their five scoring runners, led by sophomore Vincent Leo, in the top 15 to win the team title for the third straight year and advance to the Region 2A East meet.
In the girls meet, Natalie Prye was victorious in the final race on her home course as she led Wilson to its second title in a row and a region berth.
The Leemen also are going to regions, while the Lee Ladies and Buffalo Gap also advanced to next Wednesday’s meet at Panorama Farms in Earlysville.
Getting their top five runners in between Lee’s third, fourth and fifth was not an unusual occurrence for the Green Hornets this year. It’s the way they’ve had to stay ahead of the Leemen.
Leo finished third behind Wilson-Cook and Warner. The Hornets then got a fifth and a sixth from Justin Stewart and Kyle Bryant, then 11th and 13th-place efforts from Jacob Schrauder and Jeremiah Sanders to clinch the title with 38 points.
Coming in after Wilson-Cook and Warner for Lee were Calvin Siemers in 10th, and Henry Goodson and Cooper Yurish in 16th and 17th, respectively, to give the Leemen 46 points.
“We talked about it this week and we talked about it before the meet, that Lee was going to be tough, and they’d have to step up,” said Wilson boys coach Steve Geiman. “They did a great job with it today. We’ve been physically tough all year, but now they have to stay mentally tough.”
Leo, who along with Wilson-Cook and Warner, finished under 17 minutes with a time of 16:42, said the rivalry with Lee has been good for both teams.
“It’s almost like a brotherhood,” he said. “We compete with each other, but we all respect each other. We love the competition and we love running against each other.”
After staying with his rivals for the first two miles, Wilson-Cook put some distance between them in the final mile.
“I was trying to stay behind Vinnie at the start, but then I heard all these feet pounding behind me, so I got a little scared,” he said. “Then Jacob made a move to the front and I decided I should, too. Then, Vinnie passed me and then I passed him and just tried to stay ahead of them.”
The Wilson girls’ win was more impressive than dramatic. They put all five of their scorers in the top 10 to finish with 25 points, easily outdistancing Lee, which finished with 66.
The mission for Prye was to not let anyone beat her in her final race at WWRC. She accomplish that mission by running a personal-best 20:29, beating out runner-up Sophie Kozlowski of Lee (20:42) and the Hornets’ Spencer Tuttle (20:54).
“They’ve been right behind me all season, pushing me along,” said Prye. “Having them there just motivates me to do my best. Getting a PR today was a great way to finish here.”
Coming in after Prye and Tuttle for Wilson were freshmen Erica Sanders, Paige Miller and Ashtyn Davis, sweeping seventh, eighth and ninth place.
Kozlowski also registered a PR for the WWRC course, beating her previous best by one second.
“I was pacing myself off of Natalie,” the junior said. “I just kept telling myself that this is what I’ve been training for. At this point, it’s all mental. We’re all physically ready, but you have to be mentally tough, too.”
Buffalo Gap, which has been dealing with injuries all season, finally had all five of its runners finish a race, giving them a chance to move on to regions as a team. Led by Annika Fisher and Tiffany Simmons, who placed 10th and 11th, respectively, the Bison finished with 106 points, beating out Page County for the final qualifying spot by 18 points.
“It was exciting to see them race together and finish together,” said Gap coach Amelia Coltrane. “It was a good day for them.”