James Wood's Farinholt, Beatty sign to run at college level

WINCHESTER — In 2019, Lauren Beatty and Elena Farinholt had two of James Wood’s top three performances at the Region 4C meet as the Colonels girls’ cross country team earned its first state meet berth in 33 years.

Two months ago at the Class 4 Northwestern District meet, they had two of the top three performances to help James Wood to its first district championship in 19 years.

Nine days later at the Region 4C competition, they grabbed two of the five available individual state meet berths.

It’s been quite a journey for the two girls who first met 10 years ago at Sacred Heart Academy, and they couldn’t be happier that they got to share another major milestone in their lives with each other on Monday.

In a ceremony in James Wood’s library, Farinholt signed with NCAA Division I George Mason University in Fairfax and Beatty signed with NCAA Division II Converse College in Spartanburg, S.C., to continue their careers in cross country and track & field.

Farinholt will have a spot on the team as a preferred walk-on with George Mason, while Beatty will receive a full athletic and academic scholarship from Converse.

“Lauren has been with me all four years of high school, and we’ve trained together,” said Farinholt after the ceremony attended by a couple dozen teammates, coaches, friends and family members. “Now that we’ve signed to college together, I just know it will be a bond forever, her and I. Doing it together was really exciting and made me really happy.”

Beatty and Farinholt have been two of the area’s best cross country runners throughout their careers.

This past fall, Beatty earned All-State honors by placing 13th in Class 4 and also earned All-Region 4C (ninth place) and All-Class 4 Northwestern District (third) honors. She recorded a season-best time of 18 minutes and 47.7 seconds over 3.1 miles in placing ninth at the Third Battle Invitational on Oct. 16. Farinholt placed 35th in Class 4, 13th in Region 4C in a season-best 19:36 and eighth at the Class 4 Northwestern District to earn all-district honors.

Beatty is also an All-State performer in track. She placed seventh in the 1,600 meters at the Class 4 meet in the spring and had a season-best time of 5:18.87 in that event.

“I’m super proud of these two,” said James Wood cross country coach Matthew Lofton, who pointed out how hard both have worked during the ceremony. “I couldn’t be more excited for them. Best of luck to you both.”

During the ceremony, both Farinholt and Murphy talked about the relationships and family atmosphere that have made their time at James Wood so enjoyable, and they feel like they’ll get to experience similar situations at their new schools.

Farinholt first contacted George Mason at the end of the summer and spoke with Patriots assistant Tony Mihalich. She’s been in regular contact ever since. She made a visit to George Mason in September.

“When I walked onto the campus, I really felt like I could see myself living there,” Farinholt said. “Everybody there was super nice. Just walking around the campus, people would say “Hi.” It just seemed like a very friendly environment.”

Farinholt liked the training plan that Mihalich had for her. After she received her official acceptance from George Mason on Nov. 10, she zeroed in on the Atlantic 10 school, which placed fifth in the A-10 meet and 14th in the Southeast Regional in cross country this year. The Patriots placed second at the A-10 outdoor track meet. Farinholt was also considering the University of Windsor in Canada, just outside of Detroit.

Farinholt will major in criminology at George Mason and possibly minor in psychology.

Farinholt used to play soccer, but when the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 high school season it made her realize how much she enjoyed running.

“I didn’t have the love for soccer like I did running,” Farinholt said. “When COVID started, I decided I was just going to focus on running. I just grew a love for it like I never had before, and I thought, ‘I want to do this in college.’”

Farinholt said former James Wood assistant coach Liz Mumaw, now at Handley, played a big role in growing her love for running, and she’s enjoyed working with Lofton the past two years.

“The coaching staff at James Wood has really helped everybody form a bond with running,” Farinholt said. “They’re just amazing.”

Beatty said Converse College head cross country coach Mark Rennix reached out to her about two months ago. She went on an official visit to Spartanburg on Nov. 20.

“I liked the teammates,” said Beatty, who also relates well with Rennix. “All the connections and how joyful they were to meet new people and be around me. They wanted to do nothing but be around me. ‘Hey, can we go pick her up? Hey, can we do this more?’ Down there, I’m not just going to be another person on the team. We’re all family, which is really nice, because I’m definitely going to miss the family here.”

Rennix offered Beatty the scholarship package on that trip. She was not expecting a full scholarship, which made Converse even more attractive.

“I was like, ‘Woah,’” said Beatty with a laugh. “I didn’t even know that was a thing for a runner like me. I only thought that was for state champions or something like that. It’s definitely something special.”

Beatty will go to Converse with a significant amount of college credits already, so she will pursue a biology and pre-med bachelor’s degree and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. When she graduates, she will attend Sherman College of Chiropractic, which is in Spartanburg County in South Carolina, to get her doctorate.

“[Converse] took me to Sherman for a tour while I was there,” Beatty said. “They just care me about as a person.”

Beatty also considered the University of Tampa, a Division II school in Florida. But the scholarship package from Converse, her comfort level with the school, and the fact that it’s closer to home made Converse too good to pass up. About a week after her trip, Beatty gave her commitment.

Converse placed third in the Conference Carolinas and 17th in the Southeast Region in cross country this fall, and placed fourth in the conference in outdoor and seventh in indoor in track last year. Beatty figures she might run anything from 800 to 10,000 meters in track depending on what the coaches think is best.

Beatty is still working her way back to the runner that she was before she fractured her femur last November. She hopes to get back there sooner rather than later, but going to Converse will be a great opportunity for her to continue to develop.

“I’m not having the same times as I had before I broke my hip,” Beatty said. “I’m still working towards that every day. It’s something that I’ll never, ever stop working for.”

Beatty is glad she got to share Monday’s signing with Farinholt, and she’s looking forward to seeing what’s in store for her other female and male teammates. Nathaniel Woshner signed with NCAA Division I Duquesne last month.

“Elena is one of my best friends,” she said. “There’s so many good memories between us. We’ve known each other for forever and a half.

“And this whole team, we all just bring each other up. I can’t wait to see where everybody else goes and how they all do. I know we’ll all stay in touch. It’s something we’ll never let go.”

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at
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