It’s a fact the three City/County girls cross country teams are relatively young this season.
However, they all may turn out to be pretty good, too.
Fort Defiance, Robert E. Lee and Waynesboro have their share of juniors and seniors on the roster, but there are a lot of freshmen and sophomores who have already made an impact this season. A combination of five freshmen and sophomores from those schools finished in the top 30 individually at the Ragged Mountain Valley Cup relay meet at Wilson Workforce Rehabilitation Center on Aug. 24.
The Indians and Little Giants will run in Conference 29 for the last time this year before going back to district competition next year. The Lee Ladies are preparing for their final season in the district. Next year they’ll join the Shenandoah District.
You could hear the excitement in Dave Stewart’s voice as he talked about this year’s team.
“I’m already having fun,” said the Indians’ veteran coach, who has 17 girls out for the team. “This is a nice group. They’re very young, but they’re all training like people who are focused on what they’re supposed to do.”
When Stewart said “very young,” he wasn’t embellishing. Three of his top four runners will be freshmen, and two are in the mix for the final three spots.
But those young runners aren’t acting like it, Stewart said.
“They know they’re not just here to run,” he said. “They’re here to compete.”
Fort’s No. 1 runner so far has been freshman Brianna Allen. She made an impressive statement at the Valley Cup, placing in the top 10 individually to lead the Indians to a sixth-place finish.
“She’s a savvy cross country runner,” Stewart said. “She has all kinds of ability and she’s brings a real competitive element to the team.”
Running at No. 2 is junior Carrie Wright, who finished 31st in a rugged Conference 29 meet last year. Jillian Hammond and Hunter Lawson, both freshmen, are third and fourth, with senior Deanna Botkin, sophomore Gussie Nafziger and freshmen Cara Landes and Meredith Lloyd battling for the final three spots.
Also back for Fort are senior Gina Bentley and junior Brittany Taylor, who, along with Botkin, are the team captains. Junior Haley Summers and sophomores Sarah McGuffin and Louisa Esteban also are returnees.
ROBERT E. LEE
Lee Ladies coach Nate Lawrence got a double surprise from the results of the Valley Cup race.
His top relay team of juniors Sophie Kozlowski, Savannah Corbin and Haley Corbin, and sophomore Kitty Tillen not only finished third overall behind Wilson Memorial and East Rockingham. The quartet’s times were separated by a total of 53 seconds — from Kozlowski’s 14:44 to Savannah Corbin’s 15:37.
“I was very pleased to see that,” Lawrence said. “Having them all finish within a minute of each other was something we’ve been working on and it’s nice to see it happening.”
Last year, Kozlowski finished third to lead the Lee Ladies to a second-place finish in Conference 36. She finished 34th at the Region 2A East meet to make it to the Group 2A meet, where she capped her season with a 24th-place finish.
Haley Corbin (18th) and Tillen (20th) had top 20 finishes at the conference meet, while Savannah Corbin was 22nd.
Also back for Lee are seniors Rachel Morrison and Grace Smith, and sophomore Luci Oechslin. New to the team are sophomore Emily Van Assendelft and twin freshmen Abby and Haley Teney.
Little Giants coach Julie Stevens wasn’t sure what kind of team she had coming into the season. After her runners’ fourth-place finish in the Valley Cup on Aug. 24, she has a better feeling, and it’s a good one.
“They did a good job,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting that from them. But it shows that they’re working hard.”
Among the top four for Waynesboro at the Valley Cup, freshman Addison Stevens led the way. Her time of 14:07 over the two-mile course was the fourth-best individually. Two more underclassmen, sophomore Hannah Jane Upson and junior Sabrina Munro, who has come back strong from injuries last year, were second and third for the Giants with times of 15:25 and 15:36, respectively.
Seniors Mackenzie Carter and Piper Bane will vie for spots in the top seven, as will junior Nina Quizado and sophomores Emma Hill and Faith Goalder. Hill capped her freshman season last year with a 38th-place effort at the rugged Conference 29 meet, where the Giants placed seventh.
With the graduation of Grace Brooks, an all-state finisher in Group 3A last year who is now at NCAA Division I Appalachian State, Stevens said her runners know they have some “big shoes” to fill.
“We’re not a team with a ‘powerhouse’ runner anymore,” Stevens said. “But they saw how hard Grace worked, so they know what they have to so. They have to run with confidence.”