XC, cheer teams excited for VHSL opportunity

The ultimate goal for any high school athlete is to compete in the postseason, and both cross country and competition cheer athletes in Frederick County couldn’t have been happier to find out this week that their school division is giving them a chance to do so.

On Jan. 5, it was announced at the Frederick County School Board meeting that fall sports would take place from March 29 through April 24 and not compete in the Virginia High School League postseason due to COVID-19 concerns.

Since then, cross country and cheerleading were viewed as having unique circumstances (there will be no indoor track season or sideline cheer season for Frederick County schools in the winter season that precedes the fall season). Those two sports will join the VHSL fall season on March 1 and compete in the VHSL postseason, which concludes with the Class 4 state championship meet on April 24 at the Oatlands course in Leesburg.

“I’m really excited, and I think it makes a lot of sense,” James Wood cross country coach Matthew Lofton said. “It’s unfortunate that some of the other sports lost a full season. But [distance runners] lost [the entire] indoor track season. [For cross country], it evens out in a way.”

Millbrook coach Jamie McCarty said he wasn’t sure what was going to happen when Frederick County announced on Jan. 5 that cross country and outdoor track would have extended seasons.

“When we did find out we were going to have a postseason, it was surprising, but it was good news, for sure,” McCarty said. “It’s basically what we thought the schedule was going to look like [before it was announced the fall sports season would take place March 29 through April 24].”

Though his athletes lost their indoor track season, McCarty said Millbrook would have basically been competing outdoors this winter anyway.

“Right now, indoor facilities are hard to come by,” McCarty said. “Outdoor polar bear meets would be difficult, because you don’t know what type of weather you’re going to get. Cross country runners don’t have to worry about jump pits being wet and rained on. We kind of adapt a little bit easier.”

Millbrook sophomore Madison Murphy expressed throughout the fall how much she enjoys competing locally, whether she was participating in the Shenandoah Valley Cross Country League, the Frederick County Parks & Recreation season, or Parks & Rec’s Thanksgiving 5K at Sherando. She enjoys high school meets with local athletes as well.

But Murphy was fourth at the VHSL Class 4 state meet as a freshman, and she also relishes chances to compete against the best.

“To have a state competition is always great, because it gives me a better idea of where I am within the state,” Murphy said. “I think it really helps me in terms of [personal records].”

Sherando senior Molly Robinson, who will compete for the University of South Dakota for cross country and track next year, said she was disappointed that the indoor track season was canceled. She says it’s actually her favorite of the three running seasons because of the atmosphere, but she’ll take what she can get.

“I’m excited for cross country,” Robinson said.

The three Frederick County cross country teams will compete in their first meets on March 3. The Class 4 Northwestern District meet will be held on April 3 at Millbrook’s Third Battle of Winchester course, and the Region 4C meet will take place on April 13 at Morven Park in Leesburg.

The James Wood cheerleading team has been particularly vocal about getting a chance to compete, as a few of their cheerleaders organized two protests outside the Frederick County Public Schools Administration Building in the immediate three days following the school board meeting.

“The whole team is really excited,” said senior Kayleigh Fridley, one of the people who organized the protests. “We’re really grateful that Frederick County gave us the opportunity to compete. I think we are really passionate about being able to compete in the postseason for VHSL.”

James Wood cheerleading coach Wendy DeMaio said the Colonels held Zoom workouts for a few months after the pandemic started last March, then started doing gym workouts in the summer.

“The kids have been practicing and working out, and they just really wanted this season,” DeMaio said. “It means a great deal to them.”

Each of the Frederick County competition cheer teams will open their seasons on March 13 at Fauquier. The district (March 31) and region (April 7) meets will also be held at Fauquier.

Offseason workouts are being counted toward the minimum VHSL practice requirements for each sport, which is why fall and cross country can compete so soon after March 1. Cross country requires eight practices, while competition cheer requires 20 practices per individual.

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at
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