Konyar ninth at cross country state meet

THE PLAINS — The Millbrook girls’ cross country team and James Wood junior Kenzie Konyar finished their stellar seasons in fitting style on Saturday at the Class 4 state meet.

The Pioneers tied their best-ever state performance by taking third and Konyar earned her third all-state medal in three seasons by taking ninth in 19 minutes, 21 seconds over 3.1 miles to lead all local runners during a cold and windy day on the muddy Great Meadow course.

Millbrook coach Kevin Shirk said a few weeks ago that the only two teams in Class 4 that were having stronger seasons than his squad were Loudoun Valley and Blacksburg. The Vikings and Bruins wound up taking the top two spots to defeat a Pioneers team that had five runners place in the top 31 spots on Saturday.

Loudoun Valley — last year’s state runner-up — became the first team since 2010 to defeat Blacksburg in state competition by scoring 44 points, four fewer than the Bruins. Prior to winning the Class 4 title last year, Blacksburg won four straight Class 3 titles and two straight Group AA championships.

Millbrook’s score of 87 points was impressive in its own right. It was a whopping 67 points better than fourth-place Midlothian. And it was a lower point total than the ones the Pioneers posted in achieving their previous third-place state finishes (91 in 2007, 101 in 2008) when the state was divided into three classifications and they were in Group AA.

Saturday’s performance capped off a season that saw Millbrook win the Class 4 Northwestern District title, take second to Loudoun Valley at the Region 4C meet and win four regular-season meets.

“I’m happy with what we did,” said Shirk, whose team placed eighth at last year’s state meet. “From the beginning of the season, it was kind of our goal to win the district, be in the top two in the region and be top-three in the state, just because we knew what our competition was. It was kind of a tall order to ask for anything higher than third. .... Blacksburg and Loudoun Valley were really, really awesome today.

“Our girls ran really well. We had almost half as many points as the fourth-place team did. So it was just a really good competition.”

Vikings sophomore Ricky Fetterolf won the individual girls’ title in 18:23, 13 seconds faster than Blacksburg junior Kaitlynn Wolfe.

With temperatures in the mid-30s and the course muddy from Friday, conditions were not ideal on Saturday. Athletes ran through the rain in the Class 1, 2 and 3 state competitions on Friday.

Freshman Lina Guerrero navigated the 3.1-mile course best for Millbrook. She barely missed out on all-state honors (Top 15) by taking 16th in 19:49. Guerrero passed several runners in the last half-mile, but she was unable to beat out Dominion’s Kaitlin O’Neill while they surged to the finish line side-by-side in the last 50 meters.

Other scoring runners for the Pioneers were senior Maddie Lloyd (20th in 19:59), senior Kaycee Cox-Philyaw (22nd in 20:05), freshman Madison Smith (30th in 20:22) and senior Emily Muldowney (31st in 20:23).

Guerrero said she felt nervous about competing in her first state meet, but she certainly handled herself well.

“I was really cold,” Guerrero said. “Other than that, I was feeling pretty great. Any time I had to run through water [through the creek or on the course] and got splashed with water, it gave me a shock and made me go faster every time.

“I think I did better than I was hoping for actually. I passed four [people] maybe [in the last half-mile]. I tried to pass a couple of people in the end, but it didn’t work out.”

Cox-Philyaw didn’t run quite as well as she wanted to, but she finished 51 spots higher and 62 seconds better than she did at last year’s state meet at Great Meadow.

And while Cox-Philyaw said she struggled the second half of the race, it wasn’t noticeable like it was at the Region 4C meet, when she took 22nd in 21:20 at the Oatlands Plantation. Cox-Philyaw said she didn’t get much sleep that week, and added the seven bottles of water that she drank earlier that day might have been too much.

“The first mile and a half I felt pretty good,” said Cox-Philyaw of the state meet. “And then my legs started getting tired and I tried to push through it the rest of the way. The race didn’t really go as planned, but I think this was a pretty good race to go out on. I’m really happy with our team. They did really good.”

Other Millbrook competitors on Saturday were freshman Rebecca Edlich (38th in 20:33) and senior Sophie Edlich (47th in 20:55).

James Wood’s Konyar continued her consistent showing at Great Meadow. As a freshman, she placed 10th in 19:06. Last year, Konyar was eighth in 19:14.

Konyar said the mud made it difficult to perform at her best, but she was pleased.

“Coming to states, as long as I do well and I enjoy my race, I’m not super-worried about what place I’m going to come in,” she said. “I wanted to do a little better, but I feel like I still did awesome. I placed ahead of all the local people from our region. And I placed better than what I was ranked [coming into the race], so I can’t be upset with it.

“When I come to states, I just kind of go out with the lead pack and see what happens. I felt great through the two-mile, and then the last hill kind of hit me at the end. But I made it here for a third time and placed all-state for the third time, so I can’t be upset with that at all.”

Konyar’s freshman teammate Elena Farinholt placed 29th in 20:17.

Sherando sophomore Molly Robinson added to the large pack of local girls who placed in the 20s and 30s, taking 33rd in 20:26.

Sherando’s Harris paces local boys

The Loudoun Valley boys scored 16 points, one over the minimum, to capture their fourth straight state title. Midlothian was second with 97 points. The Vikings claimed five of the top seven spots, with Sam Affolder (15:30) beating teammate Jacob Hunter by 27 seconds to defend his state title.

Sherando had the top two local finishers in the boys’ meet. Sophomore James Harris placed 25th in 17:11 and junior Ty Waits was 27th in 17:15.

Harris finished 23rd in 16:51 last year. His chances of trying to improve on that time took a hit almost immediately on Saturday.

“People were pushing at the beginning, so it kind of made it rough for me,” Harris said. “Since Loudoun was here, a lot of people were trying to go out with Loudoun Valley. I was [lined at the edge] at the start. I tried to go out pretty quick, but with everyone moving their arms around I got pushed and almost fell [within the first 100 meters]. Then I just tried to get up to the front, but then everyone just kind of collapsed on me, and I had no way to move around.”

Harris didn’t get the time he wanted Saturday, but he kept the performance in perspective.

“I still have two more years to do what I want to do, and get better, so we’ll see what next year brings,” he said.

Waits was hoping to get under 17 minutes, but he enjoyed his first state meet experience.

“Even though it was really cold, I loved every second of racing out there,” Waits said. “I felt really strong throughout the race.”

Sherando coach Megan Roberts said Saturday’s competition is one all of her runners can build off of.

“For Molly and Ty, it was their first time at the state meet, so it was kind of a learning experience for them,” she said. “I think they’re very determined to make it back again next year and move up in the pack, and the same for James. With the conditions what they were, I think they ran well.”

Millbrook senior Brad Hambrick took 35th in 17:24.

“Brad is a good, solid, consistent performer, which is why he made it here,” Shirk said. “Regionals was a kind of a tough day with the weather and the course, but he made it through because he’s a good, tough, consistent runner. Today, I thought he ran really well. And he stacked up well with the guys we know from our region.”

James Wood senior Ethan Pierce took 52nd in the 104-runner field in 17:42.

“It was tough out there for a lot of folks, I think, but Ethan ran well,” Colonels coach Mike Onda said. “I’m really proud of what he’s done this season.”

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