Girls' cross country notebook: Wood's Beatty shines in return from injury

WINCHESTER — After taking a final stride-out together prior to Saturday’s Class 4 Northwestern District championship race on Saturday, the James Wood girls’ cross country team huddled together to get themselves ready for the race.

At first, it wasn’t quite the whole team. One of them took off after the others, and when she was spotted approaching the group one of them smiled and warmly said, “Lauren!”

After arriving late to the huddle — and to the cross country season — on Saturday, James Wood junior Lauren Beatty was a welcome sight for the Colonels at the Third Battle of Winchester course. And it didn’t long for her to show she had no intention of hanging back once the starting gun went off.

In her first race since November — a hiatus caused by a fractured femur and a previously unknown bone condition — Beatty led the Colonels with a ninth-place finish to qualify for the Region 4C meet on April 13 at Morven Park in Leesburg. It wasn’t until Thursday that Beatty decided she felt comfortable running on Saturday.

Beatty hadn’t run so much as four miles at one time until last week. So to cover 3.1 miles in 20 minutes and 35.8 seconds — faster than 44 other girls on Saturday — gave Beatty plenty of reason to smile.

“All things considered, I’m really, really happy,” said Beatty, who placed fifth at the 2019 district meet. “I don’t have any pain. I’m just really grateful to be out here running today.”

Beatty’s performance was reminiscent of the numerous successful ones she’s had throughout her stellar career before she was forced to stop last fall.

With no Virginia High School League season taking place last fall, Beatty competed in the Frederick County Parks & Recreation running club season and also participated in the Shenandoah Valley Cross Country League season held at Kernstown Battlefield.

In the third SVCCL meet on Oct. 23, Beatty won for the second straight time. Five days later at the final Frederick County meet at Third Battle, Beatty recorded a time of 19:12.3 that she wasn’t enthusiastic about, but she still did better than everyone except Millbrook’s Madison Murphy.

On Nov. 13 though, Beatty only placed 16th in a 6K race at Kernstown in the final regular season race of the SVCCL. She would have been seeded third for the following week’s championship race, but she wasn’t healthy enough to compete.

“In the fall season, [my problems were the result] of the constant wear and tear of my pelvis hitting my femur,” Beatty said. “That’s what caused the fracture.”

Beatty didn’t get diagnosed with the fracture until December, and what caused it was FAI (Femoroacetabular Impingement), a condition she was born with. Beatty said her femoral head has too much bone on it, which meant it was hitting her pelvis when she was running.

“It was really hard to hear [about FAI] at the time,” Beatty said. “Because I knew I’d be missing indoor [season] and cross country.

“But it’s helped me build character. I’ve still had the opportunity to be with my team, to go bike and support them. And it’s really helped me realize how grateful you do have to be to be running.”

Before Beatty was able to start running again, she used crutches for eight weeks. For the past couple months, Beatty has worked with a physical therapist to strengthen the muscles in her hip to keep her femur from hitting her pelvis. Beatty said her teammates have done a great job supporting her during her rehab with frequent text messages.

When James Wood coach Matthew Lofton learned one of his runners would not be able to run this week, he asked Beatty and her physical therapist if Beatty could step in. Lofton noticed how Beatty had been increasing the length of her runs each week. Beatty was hesitant, but not because she was worried about hurting herself. She didn’t think she would have a great time.

Maybe Beatty wasn’t at her peak Saturday, but she did more than she or her team could have asked for. Even though Izzy Newman and Elena Farinholt had only done minimal work in the last two weeks because of their own injuries, James Wood finished only four points behind Sherando for second place thanks to Beatty’s contribution. Only the top two teams and top six individuals on Saturday qualified for the Region 4C meet.

“What she did today shows a lot about her fitness and her talent,” Lofton said.

While Lofton said it was great to see Beatty advance to regionals — where she took sixth last year — the priority is seeing Beatty build herself up more to excel in outdoor track. Beatty said she still has two more weeks of physical therapy.

 

“When track starts, that’s when she’ll be able to get a good block of training,” Lofton said.

MillbrookBeatty wasn’t the only 2019 All-Region cross country runner who made her competition debut last week.

At the beginning of the season, the Pioneers had a problem. Though Millbrook had taken third in the Class 4 state meet and won the district each of the previous two years, the Pioneers only had four healthy runners on their roster. Cross country teams need five runners to record a team score.

On Saturday, the Pioneers recorded a team score for the first time all year thanks to the return of a familiar face. Millbrook junior Lina Guerrero — who made her season debut on March 30 in a meet at Kernstown Battlefield — was Millbrook’s No. 2 finisher and 10th overall in 20:37.

Guerrero’s return wasn’t quite enough to return Millbrook to regionals, as the Pioneers finished fourth with 68 points, six behind second-place Sherando. But Guerrero at least gave the Pioneers a chance. Seh wasn’t on the initial team roster because of her desire to focus on soccer.

“All the girls convinced me to come back,” Guerrero said. “It’s been fun. It’s really great to be back on the team.”

Guerrero said the Millbrook runners approached her more than three weeks ago about returning to the team.

“I love them all,” Guerrero said. “We’re so close, all of us. They’re like a family. It’s always so fun running with them. We laugh a lot.”

While soccer players run more than most athletes during the course of a competition, soccer conditioning isn’t the same as cross country training and racing. Guerrero said she’s done some practicing with the Pioneers over the past few weeks, but most of the time she’s been playing soccer.

“It was definitely challenging, because I haven’t been in shape at all,” said Guerrero with a laugh. “I did a lot better than I thought was going to. It was pretty cool.”

Guerrero was the only girl to run from Millbrook on March 30 at Kernstown, a race she won in 22:10.1. On Saturday, her goal was to just stay with teammate and fellow junior Becca Edlich, who finished six seconds behind Guerrero.

“I figured as long as I stayed with her, I’d be pretty good,” Guerrero said. “She’s fast. It was blurry at the end. I was just trying to give it my all.”

Millbrook coach Jamie McCarty said the idea to talk to Guerrero was entirely the girls’ idea, and he gave them credit for doing so.

None of the girls who ran Saturday are seniors (Millbrook also has injured junior Cailey Johnson on its roster). But if the Pioneers hope to get back to the state meet in the fall, they’ll need to build more depth.

“Everybody we had ran their tails off and probably ran their best races of the season,” McCarty said. “We knew we didn’t have a big team, and that’s another thing we’ve got to work on.”

HandleyThe Judges didn’t have anyone qualify for the Region 4C meet, but Handley coach Mark Stickley gave a lot of credit to his girls’ team. Sophomore Sarah Roberson placed 17th in 21:46.7 to lead the way for the fifth-place Judges (116 points).

“I’m really proud of the girls,” Stickley said. “We’ve come a long way. I was really bummed that Kettle Run didn’t get to run, because we were going to gear our meet toward how do we compete with them versus our first meet of the season. They beat us pretty soundly, so I wanted to see if we can close that gap up a little bit. I think we really ran well. This is a tough district.

“It was mostly just our sophomores that were carrying us through this year, and they got a lot of experience this year.”

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at
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