Millbrook girls defend district cross country title

WOODSTOCK — After the conclusion of Millbrook’s Third Battle Invitational on Oct. 19, Millbrook coach Kevin Shirk knew he’d need stronger performances from his No. 4 and No. 5 runners if they wanted to win the Class 4 Northwestern District.

Sophomores Angela Dojcak and Maria Mejia Villalon certainly rose to the challenge on Tuesday at Fairview Park.

Freshman Madison Murphy won the race by a dominating 42 seconds and Dojcak and Villalon rounded out a Millbrook performance that saw each of its top five runners earn all-district honors for placing in the Top 15. The Millbrook girls were the only team of either gender in Class 4 on Tuesday that had five runners earn all-district.

That all added up to a point total of 38 for Millbrook, which was 27 better than the James Wood team (65 points) that defeated them at Third Battle.

Shirk said based on season-bests on paper, both James Wood and Sherando (third with 71 points to qualify for regionals) had the potential to have many of their runners place in front of their No. 4 and 5 runners. Shirk said he felt James Wood had a 15-point edge coming in based on season-bests.

“Our No. 1, 2, and 3 all finished about where we hoped,” Shirk said. “Lina [Guerrero], we were really happy to see her squeeze in for third. But our No. 4 and 5 just ran phenomenal races today. They really just stepped it up.”

The top four teams and top 15 individuals in the competition advanced to the Region 4C meet on Nov. 7 at Kernstown Battlefield. Fauquier took the fourth spot with 82 points while Handley, which will send two individuals to the region meet, was fifth in the eight-team meet with 124 points.

Murphy (a time of 17:59.1 over three miles) had plenty of time after her race was over with to watch her teammates finish with high places themselves. Guerrero finished in 19:04.2, sophomore Becca Edlich was seventh (19:33.9), Dojcak was 13th (20:21.8) and Villalon was 14th (20:22.7).

“I am ecstatic,” Murphy said. “We did amazing today. I couldn’t be more proud. We wanted to make sure we were strong the entire way through and we definitely did that.”

Murphy said she was nervous for her first district meet, but she didn’t show it. She had a lead of more than 100 meters by the time she entered the third mile.

“I wanted to come out strong and support my team,” said Murphy, who uttered a good-natured “I’m dying” upon crossing the finish line. “I wanted to get out to the very front and tried to keep a really strong pace.”

Defending district champion Kenzie Konyar was the one who took second behind Murphy in a strong 18:41.7, which was almost a minute faster than what she ran on the same course for the first meet of the season in August.

“I felt pretty good about my race,” Konyar said. “I felt we had a pretty good shot of going to regionals as a team, so I kind of wanted to see what I can do and go out with everything I had.”

Other scoring runners for James Wood were sophomore Lauren Beatty (fifth in 19:13.5), freshman Quetzali Angel-Perez (15th in 20:28), sophomore Elena Farinholt (18th in 20:39) and sophomore Isabella Newman (25th in 20:48.5).

“Overall, I was happy,” Onda said. “We knew Millbrook was going to come back strong [from Third Battle]. I knew the other week might not have been an accurate picture of where they stood and I knew how good Coach Shirk was with getting his folks at their peak in postseason.

“Some of our runners admitted that the heat got to them more than they expected. But I’m feeling confident going into next week.”

Sherando had an excellent performance given that the team’s No. 1 runner Molly Robinson had to drop out during the middle of the race. Warriors coach Megan Roberts said Robinson felt dizzy.

The Warriors’ scoring runners were the freshman trio of Eva Winston (eighth in 19:54), Ryleigh Combs (ninth in 20:02.9) and Emma Ahrens (10th in 20:07.7), sophomore Karli Brown (20th in 20:41.6) and sophomore Julianna Duke (24th in 20:48.5).

“[The freshmen] all passed Molly and saw she was down, and they knew more than ever they had to go and step it up,” Roberts said. “With all of them being in a pack together, when one goes, they all go. We’re so much stronger for having that [pack].”

Handley’s individual qualifiers for the Region 4C meet are senior Kendall Felix (11th in 20:19) and freshman Sarah Roberson (12th in 20:19.6). The Judges other scoring runners were Peyton Duvall (28th in 21:13.8), Mikayla Freimuth (35th in 21:33.8) and Jordan Lill (45th in 22:28.2).

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