Local Cross Country Teams Ready For Conference Meets

Posted: October 30, 2013
The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — After finishing as the top Group 4A team at the Third Battle Invitational on Oct. 19, Millbrook’s boys’ cross country team heads into today’s Conference 21 championship meet with a lot of confidence.

The Pioneers placed third overall on their home course at Third Battle, finishing behind only Group 6A schools Battlefield and Osbourn Park. Millbrook also finished well ahead of seventh-place Dominion, which might be the Pioneers’ toughest competition in today’s conference championship race (1 p.m. start for girls, 1:45 p.m. for boys) at Oatlands in Leesburg.

In the Virginia High School League’s new six-classification system, conference meets replace the district meet as the first postseason qualifying meet. In addition to Millbrook and Dominion, Conference 21 also includes Sherando, James Wood, Woodgrove, Heritage, Loudoun County and Park View.

Millbrook coach Kevin Shirk said his team is running strong and ready to race, but he said his team won’t be overconfident heading into today’s event.

“Based on Third Battle results, taking out all non-conference teams, we would have won by about 16 points,” Shirk said. “That’s a nice margin, but doesn’t leave us tons of room for mistakes. We need to make sure we’re beating specific guys on specific teams on race day. We’ll rely on our strong No. 3 through No. 6 [runners] to push other teams back.”

The Pioneers’ depth was on display at Third Battle with sophomore Tyler Cox-Philyaw and Alec Schrank leading the way in 14th- and 15th-place (both in 16 minutes, five seconds), respectively, and all five runners finished in the top 45 overall (in a field of 223). Israel Lockhart (33rd, 16:30), Max Bader (42nd, 16:43) and Nathan Burgreen (44th, 16:44) rounded out Millbrook’s top five — who all posted sub-17 minute times.

Although the times are solid for the Pioneers, Shirk said he’s more concerned with the competition than the clock once the postseason arrives.

“Now it’s time to focus on points and places,” Shirk said. “Our goal for the conference meet is to put five guys in the top 10 and a sixth guy in the top 15. If we do those two things we’ll be very difficult to beat.”

The top four teams and top 15 individuals will advance from the conference meet to the 4A North Region meet.

Although the Pioneers should contend for the conference title, there appears to be four teams vying for the other three team qualifying spots.

Dominion, Woodgrove, James Wood and Sherando should be in the hunt for the top four spots.

Luke Farinholt and Mark Bohler give the Colonels a solid top two, but they will likely need some strong races from the rest of their top five to advance.

Colonels coach Mike Onda said the boys’ goal is to make it to regionals.

“We’ve got a pretty big gap between our top two athletes and the rest of our pack,” Onda said. “Luke and Mark are running really well and so are the others. The athletes behind them have really been stepping up. Max Lindquist has really put up some impressive times for a freshman, and Jesse Evans, a senior, has really been running well for it being his first year [on the team].”

While Onda’s boys’ team faces a tough task in qualifying for regionals, a young Colonel girls’ team could compete with Millbrook for one of the top four qualifying spots.

Freshman Sophia Dorsey has led the way for a Wood lineup that features four freshmen, including Autumn Hottle, Zoe Schopick, Maria Harter and Jessie Clatterbuck along with senior Brittany Arnold.

James Wood’s girls placed sixth at Third Battle, finishing three spots and 18 points ahead of Millbrook.

“We think we’ve got a really good shot of being one of the teams to make it to regionals,” Onda said. “We’d like to get the whole team out, and I think that’s where our main focus is.”

Onda said the terrain at Oatlands is similar to the Colonels’ home course, so he hopes that will benefit his team in today’s race.

“Our home course is pretty hilly, so that helps us prepare for a course like [Oatlands],” Onda said. “We’ve run at Oatlands, and we’re pretty familiar with that course. I feel pretty good with our mental and physical preparation.”

While the three Frederick County Northwestern District schools head to the Conference 21 meet, Handley will compete in today’s six-team Conference 23 meet (with Harrisonburg, Charlottesville, Fluvanna, Louisa and Amherst) at Burtner Farm in Penn Laird.

Both the Judges’ boys and girls’ teams could contend for conference titles.

Handley’s boys finished ninth at the Third Battle Invitational, but Judges boys’ coach Mark Stickley said his entire team posted personal records.

“Adam Arslan broke 17 for the first time and that was his first PR since his freshman year,” Stickley said. “That’s a big boost for us team-wise. Cole and Aaron have been running outstanding for us and getting Aaron up there will make us real strong.

“[MileStat’s virtual meet] has us pegged to take the top three spots, and I’d love to do that. I’d like to go in there and make a statement. For us, our biggest challenge is making sure our No. 4 and No. 5 are close to the top three right now.”

Handley’s girls’ team, led by senior Ashden Personius, appears to be the favorite heading into today’s race.

“This will be the first time we have had our top seven together in a big race since the third week of September, so it will be exciting,” Judges girls’ coach Emily Budnyk-Putt said. “Our goal is to race strong. The course is slow and tough, but we are prepared for that. We hope to place well and advance to regionals.”

Clarke County will compete in the Conference 35 meet — with Madison County, George Mason, Strasburg, Stonewall Jackson, Luray and Page County — at New Market today at 3 p.m.

— Contact Robert Stocks at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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