PALMYRA – Daniel Brooks and his Waynesboro teammates have had the same goal since the start of the cross country season — make it to the Group 3A state meet.
The Little Giants took the first step in accomplishing that goal on Thursday, finishing third at the Conference 29 championships at Pleasant Grove.
The Little Giants boys were the lone team to move on to Tuesday’s 3A West meet in Blacksburg, but two individuals qualified. Waynesboro’s Grace Brooks, Daniel’s twin sister, finished second in the girls race, while Fort Defiance’s Fisher Wheeler placed 12th in the boys race to qualify for regions for the second straight year.
The top three boys and girls teams and the top 15 individuals move on to the 3A West meet.
Daniel Brooks gave his teammates a boost coming to the finish line. He passed Broadway’s No. 1 runner and two Western Albemarle runners in the last 100 yards for his fifth-place finish with a time of 17:43.
“It was a fast pace,” said Brooks. “I wasn’t feeling good in the last mile and I’m surprised that I was able to catch those three guys.
But it’s nice to get this race out of the way,” he added. “This is my last chance and I’m happy with how I did.”
The rest of the Little Giants made a big step up as well, as all five of their scoring runners finished in the top 30. They finished with 89 points behind Western Albemarle (33) and Turner Ashby (37), while beating out the Gobblers (97) for the final region berth.
Stuart Vailes was Waynesboro’s second runner in, placing 14th with a time of 18:07. Andrew Ledford cracked the top 20, placing 17th in 18:19, followed by Justice Allen and Tanner Dillet-Wion, who finished 26th and 27th, respectively, with identical times of 19:04.
“The course was muddy in some spots, so I was concerned about how the guys would react,” Waynesboro coach Julie Stevens said. “But they pulled it off and I’m excited for them. We’ve had a goal in mind all season and it’s been make it all the way to states.
“I’m so proud of the way they have worked,” she added. “We have so many seniors and it’s now or never for them.”
Grace Brooks was locked in a battle with Western Albemarle’s Zoe Clay for most of their race Thursday. Brooks had the lead for the first two miles, with Clay staying within striking distance.
However, Clay took the initiative in the final half-mile and took first with a time of 19:31, with Brooks finishing second in 19:44.
“I thought I ran well, and I knew that (Clay) was going to be tough to beat,” Brooks said. “She ran a great race. She really took off in that last half-mile and crushed it.
“I was a little disappointed with my time, because I wanted to PR,” she added, “but I still feel blessed because of the way I ran.”
Wheeler, a sophomore, turned in a strong effort for the Indians in the boys race as he hit the finish line in 18:00 to wrap up his trip to Blacksburg. He gave a lot of credit to his teammates for pushing him to succeed.
“I’ve been a lot more focused this year, a lot more competitive,” he said. “We’ve worked hard as a team to improve and it showed today.”
Fort coach Stephen Metcalfe also was pleased with his team, which finished seventh overall and also had freshman Ben Harlow finish 25th in 18:57.
“I think we did really well,” he said. “We’re extremely young with four freshmen, two sophomores and a junior in our top seven. Today was about gaining experience for the younger runners and having the seniors perform well.”
Fort’s top finisher in the girls meet was sophomore Gioia Corbin, who finished 20th in 22:22.
Team results: 1. Western Albemarle (WA) 33, 2. Turner Ashby (TA) 37, 3. Waynesboro (Way) 89, 4. Broadway (B) 97, 5. Monticello (M) 150, 6. Fluvanna County (FC) 160, 7. Fort Defiance (FD) 165, 8. Spotswood (S) 215.
1. Gannon Willcutts (WA) 16:15, 2. Jack Ehlenberger (WA) 17:04, 3. Bryan Miklos (TA) 17:29, 4. Seamus Otto (TA) 17:33, 5. Daniel Brooks (Way) 17:43, 6. Isaac Alderfer (B) 17:44, 7. Max Feuerlein (WA) 17:44, 8. Max Miller (WA) 17:47, 9. Addison Baugher (TA) 17:49, 10. Patrick Martin (TA) 17:50, 11, Seth Dye (TA) 17:58, 12. Fisher Wheeler (FD) 18:00, 13. Ezra Sawyer (B) 18:02, 14. Stuart Vailes (Way) 18:07, 15. Davis Greene (WA) 18:14, 16. Nate Bowers (TA) 18:14, 17. Andrew Ledford (Way) 18:19, 18. Will Koester (WA) 18:24, 19. Taylor Longnecker (TA) 18:29, 20. Aaron Vogeley (M) 18:30.
Team results: 1. Monticello (M) 43, 2. Western Albemarle (WA) 45, 3. Broadway (B) 104, 4. Fluvanna County (FC) 108, 5. Spotswood (S) 135, 6. Turner Ashby (TA) 140, 7. Waynesboro (Way) 171, 8. Fort Defiance (FD) 184.
1. Zoe Clay (WA) 19:31, 2. Grace Brooks (Way) 19:44, 3. Averi Witt (WA) 20:12, 4. Laura Habermeyer (M) 20:32, 5. Jessica Cantrell (B) 20:42, 6. Kate Walz (M) 20:46, 7. English Jackson (S) 21:01, 8. Gena Lewis (M) 21:05, 9. Jenna Hill (WA) 21:14, 10. Kristen Cabrera (FC) 21:16, 11. Saige Haney (FC) 21:20, 12. Renee Craft (M) 21:23, 13. Maria Vizcaino (M) 21:27, 14. Erica Grupp (WA) 21:29, 15. Rachel Moore (TA) 1:41, 16. Lindsey White (B) 22:04, 17. Ravyn Mongold (B) 22:13, 18. Al Santoro-Adajian (WA) 22:18, 19. Kylie Heald (WA) 22:20, 20. Gioia Corbin (FD) 22:22.