FISHERSVILLE – Wilson Memorial’s cross country teams had a banner day on their home course on Thursday at the Conference 36 meet, capturing both the boys and girls runs.
Meanwhile, Robert E. Lee finished second in the girls’ competition and third in the boys race to earn a berth in Wednesday’s 2A East Regional which will be run on the Panorama Farms course outside Charlottesville.
Although no other local team qualified for the regional, Buffalo Gap’s Tiffany Simmons and Marybeth Strickler punched their tickets to the next round by finishing as members of the top 15 individual runners in the girls’ competition.
Wilson runners captured five of the first eight places among the 43 competitors to easily defend its Conference 36 title.
It’s 23 points easily outdistanced East Rockingham’s 51. Lee with a 58 and Page County with a 122 were the other two teams to qualify for the regional. Nelson County (156) and Stuarts Draft (161) followed. Buffalo Gap had just four runners in the race and did not qualify as a team.
The Green Hornets were led by senior Austin Wood who crossed the line with a personal best 17:01 to easly outdistance second place Braeden Wallace of East Rockingham by 25 seconds.
Other counters for Wilson were Vincent Leo third in 17:37, Kyle Bryant fourth in 17:41, Landon Boxley seventh in 18:07 and Justin Stewart eighth in 18:13.
Medaling by finishing in the top 15 was Jeremiah Sanders who was 12th in 18:37.
“That was my best ever,” Wood said of his 17:01. “It was my personal best by almost a half-minute. Vincent Leo helped me pace the first full mile.”
After that, Wood pulled away as the lone front-runner.
“It’s hard to run when you are out there by yourself,” he said. “It’s harder than running with actual competition.”
What most people thought would be Wood’s competition was Lee’s Jacob Warner who had beaten the Wilson senior earlier this year.
But Warner who was running ill, finished 13th in 18:51.
“I’ve been sick the past week and could hardly practice,” Warner said. “I was just out of energy. Hopefully for the regional I will be back where I’m supposed to be, and maybe even better. I’m really proud of our team. I’m glad they pulled through.”
Veteran Wilson coach Steve Geiman was pleased for his runners.
“They ran awesome,” he said. “We’ve worked hard and competed every single day in practice. We made a pledge to each other of no excuses, and no off-days.
“They are like an autopilot. It’s an ideal group to work with. They come out to run as hard as they can run. They don’t leave anything on the course.”
While Wilson placed six runner in the top 15, Lee had four in the medal group.
Oliver Wilson-Cook led the way in fifth in 17:48. Then came Alex Lightner ninth in 18:23, Warner 13th and Henry Goodson 15th in 19:03. Just missing a medal were Tenor Nay 16th in 19:05 and Calvin Siemers 17th in 19:10.
“Our goal was to finish third or fourth,” Lee coach David Marino said.
“Warner had a respiratory infection and didn’t have one of his better days, but gave his best while Oliver Wilson-Cook broke into the 17s, and that was his goal for the season. And Lightner really ran a strong race.”
Buffalo Gap had four runners in the race. Top finishers were Seth Peters in 25th place and Camron Ray who was 26th.
Of Stuarts Draft’s five competitors, Evan Burgener was 23rd and Nick Lasam 24th.
Wilson captured the girls’ meet by placing its five counters among the top 16 finishers in a race that drew 46 competitors.
The Green Hornets outdistanced second place Lee 52-68 while Nelson County was third with 88 and East Rock fourth with 90.
Not qualifying for the 2A East Regional were fifth place Buffalo Gap (115), sixth place Page (143) and seventh place Stuarts Draft (144).
Leading the way for the Green Hornets was Natalie Prye who crossed second in 21:04. McKaila McCray was ninth in 22:27, Lauren Clayton 11th in 22:34 and Olivia Farley 14th in 22:47. Just out of the medal group was Spencer Tuttle who crossed 16th in 22:56. Although their scores didn’t count, Emilie Miller was 19th and Erica Sanders 21st.
Winning the race was East Rockingham freshman Jasmine Shelton who completed the 5k run in 20:49 which was 15 seconds in front of Wilson’s Prye.
“It felt good today, but I wasn’t in my game,” Prye said.
Wilson coach Gary Kessler was very pleased with his runners.
“For the first time, they made some history today by winning both the district and conference. I’m happy with it.
“We knew (Shelton) was tough, but Natalie ran a personal best on this course.
“We stress that all seven count,” Kessler added. “Five determine our score but six and seven determine the other teams scores. And these girls wanted to make history.”
For Lee, Sophie Kozlowski led the way with a third place finish in 21:39.
“I definitely wanted to be in the top five,” the Lee sophomore said. “I’m happy with it.”
Also counting for Lee were Brette Linkenhoker fifth in 21:54, Haley Corbin 18th in 23:10, Kitty Tillen 20th in 23:19 and Savannah Corbin 22nd in 23:28.
“We did really well,” Lee coach Nate Lawrence said. “With four in the top 20 I’m pleased with the outcome.”
For the Bison, Tiffany Simmons crossed seventh in 22:22 and Marybeth Strickler 15th in 22:50 to earn regional berths.
“Tiffany is a freshman and she really did a good job,” Gap coach Amelia Coltrane said. “And I’m happy with Marybeth’s 15th place. She’s just a sophomore. Our goal was to make it as a team, but it wasn’t met.”
Stuarts Draft had six runners in the race. Top finisher was freshman Hannah Chatterton who was 17th.