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In previous years (as long as memory serves), Jefferson Forest has dominated nearly all facets of Bedford County cross country.
This year, there has been a slight twist.
Have no doubt about it: JF is rock-solid. But Liberty and Staunton River have some ponies of their own.
It all came together at Wednesday's Bedford County meet. There, at JF's Wolf Branch Farm, the Lady Cavs picked up an easy team win. Staunton River's lads took the team victory in the tightest of fashions.
Meanwhile, Liberty had the top finishers in each of those races.
So, everybody seemed to take home something good (including this reporter, who picked up a loaded pizza from Lori's Italian Grill after the meet - delish!).
The JF girls finished with 15 points, as they were the only team with enough runners to qualify. Staunton River ran four (five are needed to qualify) and Liberty fielded three.
On the boys' side, the teams finished thusly:
Staunton River 40
Jefferson Forest 41
Undoubtedly, the Golden Eagle win was the shocker of the meet. "The boys were surprised that they won," said SRHS Head Coach Joe Hubble. "The look on their faces when they realized (they'd won) was priceless."
Having graduated State medalist Stuart Robertson last year and with their expected ace David Barrett out with a leg injury, there seemed little hope of an Eagle win at this meet.
"The key to it all is that we know that we don't have a star leading the way this year, but the guys can have success by running together and pushing each other forward."
Indeed, it turned out that the trio of Alex Cowen, Aaron Britton and Matt Rice, who all came in within two seconds of one another, helped propel the win, even though they placed 9th through 11th.
Girls top ten
1. Kennedy Flynn-LH 20:54
2. Hannah Owen-JF 21:32
3. Marie Abowd-JF 21:36
4. Elizabeth Ruhland-JF 22:03
5. Kaitlyn McCauley-JF 22:20
6. Elizabeth Francis-JF 22:39
7. Brianna Anderson-JF 22:55
8. Kristina Hartsook-SR 23:01
9. Brianna DeCatur-LH 23:37
10.Julia Robertson-SR 23:46
The Flying Flynn was at her best, running away from the field to take the win by nearly 40 seconds.
Her first time out on the Wolf Branch Farm course was a wee bit tricky for the junior sensation. "I almost took a wrong turn," she recalled. "But it wasn't a big deal."
Flynn also admitted that she's less intimidated these days. "I'm working on my confidence; not worrying about what everyone else is doing," she said.
Perhaps it is time for everyone else to start worrying about Flynn.
Boys top ten
1. Craig Danner-LH 18:06
2. Justin Haupt-LH 18:16
3. Ben Barber-JF 18:42
4. Colton Parker-SR 18:46
5. Adam Gibson-JF 18:58
6. Cole Barrett-SR 19:09
7. Austin Roney-LH 19:16
8. Andrew Drap-JF 19:26
9. Alex Cowen-SR 19:35
10.Aaron Britton-SR 19:36
Danner has been one of the pleasant surprises of this season. The senior scooter had a superb track season last spring before deciding to give cross country a whirl.
He participated in a number of area 5K's over the summer, doing quite well against stiff competition.
Now, he's romping the schoolboy courses. How does he explain this year's win after last year's 16th place finish? "I've taken a more serious approach," he noted. "I'm working harder in order to win."
It seems that Danner is in one of those loops where hard work yields success; success drives an athlete to work harder; and more success is realized.
In other cross country action
Last weekend Wolf Branch Farm played host to the Runnin' with the Wolves event.
An astounding 1,100+ runners turned out for the middle school, JV and varsity events. That number doesn't include those that participated in the open run (primarily adults).
The varsity runs provided a glimpse of what might be expected in the post-season.
In the ladies' run, a new mark was established. And it wasn't just any old mark. Cave Spring's Katie Fortner finished the 3.1 mile course in a time of 18:39, breaking Catherine White's old record of 18:41 (set in 2005). White, of course, went on to run for Arkansas.
By the way, Fortner was 41 seconds faster than runner-up Sonia Payerpaj, of Myers Park High.
What was remarkable about this meet was that Jefferson Forest's girls team took top honors in resounding fashion.
Erin Saunders placed third (19:21) and Alyssa Shupe took fourth (19:36). Such excellence has become commonplace from that pair of sophomores.
What were nice surprises were the finishes of other Lady Cavs. Jesse Englund took 11th (20:14), Carsen Wilkerson was 12th (20:21), Hannah Owen was 14th (20:28) and Laci Sorrell was 15th (20:30).
Even Marie Abowd, who wound up in 39th (21:39) finished ahead of 88 other runners.
JF's team score of 44 easily beat Myers Park (69). Christiansburg (93), Blacksburg (160) and Cave Spring (173) followed.
On the boys' side, Christiansburg took top honors, scoring 57 points behind the winning performance of Zach Chase (16:13).
Walker Mogen, of Radford, was second, coming in 16 seconds later.
Collin Montgomery, of E.C. Glass, showed why he's considered one of the best in Region III, cruising home at 16:43.
Richmond's Clover Hill High was second (87 points), while Glass was third (117).
Blacksburg (152) and Spotswood (196) rounded out the top five.
In all, there were 22 teams that ran.
The Staunton River boys finished 15th, with a score of 359. Colton Parker paced the Eagles with a time of 17:53, good enough for 28th.
The Lady Eagles were 16th, led by Kristina Hartsook's 53rd-place finish (22:21).