WINCHESTER — Members of the James Wood women’s cross country team expressed quite a bit of frustration as they sat and stood with some of their family members in a circle near the finish line after Saturday’s Judges Classic at Kernstown Battlefield.
After a few minutes, Colonels head coach Matthew Lofton addressed the group for the first time and immediately said, “Excellent job,” citing the fact that all seven girls had run under 22 minutes and 30 seconds. on the 3.1 mile course. .
Less than two hours later, the Colonels discovered what an incredible run they had in a place that will be very important in their future.
Led by sophomore Kate Konyar’s third-place finish, James Wood scored 100 points to edge runner-up Loudoun Valley (103) in the 29-school competition.
The immediate reaction of the Colonels’ runners was understandable. James Wood had not competed as a program at Kernstown Battlefield since 2019, which is before any of his current athletes were in high school. The course features two long uphill runs, so it’s not typically a place where runners improve on their previous times.
For example, James Wood placed third last week at the Oatlands Invitational in Leesburg, the site of the Class 4 state meet, and six of his seven girls ran slower times in the team’s victorious performance Saturday. Tuscarora was one of the teams that finished ahead of the Colonels at Oatlands, but the Huskies finished third on Saturday.
“The girls were frustrated with their time, and it’s one of those courses where you really can’t waste time,” Lofton said. “You have to get out of your competition, and for us to come out on top, it’s a little hard to say you had a bad race when you still won. I understand that, and I like that maybe they’re not happy with the competition. “This It means they will be able to run harder and hopefully better when the time comes at the regional meet.”
Fifteen teams will gather at Kernstown Battlefield on November 1 for the Region 4D meet. Only the top three teams and top five individuals outside of those three teams that day will advance to the Class 4 state meet.
Also in Saturday’s girls meet, Clarke County placed eighth (268 points), Handley was 14th (385), Sherando was 15th (395) and Millbrook only entered one runner in the varsity race and did not score.
In the men’s competition, James Wood senior Ethan Pratt-Perez finished second after fighting a fierce battle with Broad Run senior Tarek Benjamkadden as they emerged from the woods to face the downhill finale of the career. Benjamkadden clocked a time of 15 minutes, 57.4 seconds to beat Pratt-Perez by a full second (15:58.4).
Pratt-Perez led the Colonels to eleventh place with 252 points. Sherando ranked 12th with 267, Handley ranked 13th (274), Clarke County ranked 17th (424) and Millbrook ranked 21st (566). St. Albans (DC) won with 86 points and Charlottesville took second with 96.
The Coronel girls felt better about their performance after having some time to relax and reflect.
“I think we worked really well together today and were able to accomplish what we needed,” said junior Ruby Ostrander, one of three colonels who earned medals for placing in the top 20. close this year. It means a lot when we can win and place (high) in competitions, because we are like a family. “It’s a lot of fun for us.”
However, running a course like Kernstown Battlefield is no pleasure cruise.
“Just staying mentally well,” Konyar said when asked about the hardest part of racing in Kernstown. “It’s hard to go up the hill a second time and say, ‘I can do this.'”
Konyar is proving that he is capable of doing many things. She placed second individually at Oatlands behind a Class 5 runner. On Saturday, Konyar posted a time of 19 minutes, 22.9 seconds to finish only behind Charlottesville Class 4 sophomore Elaina Pierce (19 :00.5) and Herndon Class 6 junior Meghan Sullivan (19:09).
“She continues to impress me every week,” Lofton said. “She’s very talented and every week she finds out who she can beat. She’s hungry and she’s fast, and I don’t think she knows her limit. She just goes for it.”
James Wood’s depth is particularly impressive, as evidenced by the fact that the Colonels placed seven runners in the top 45 on Saturday, a feat only Tuscarora could match. To put that depth into perspective, the other four local schools combined to have just two running backs in the top 45. Other scoring runners for the Colonels were Ostrander (18th in 21:03.2), sophomore Alina Kieffer (20th in 21:06.5), sophomore Katelyn Palmer (27th in 21:15) and senior year Sarah Moss (36th in 21:46.4).
“They trained very well together, they get along well,” Lofton said. “It’s a good, cohesive team and it’s great to see all their hard work paying off.”
Konyar said the Colonels are determined to return to the state competition and improve on last year’s seventh-place finish.
“We all bonded really well and we’re really excited to go to states, because we think we have a good chance to do really well,” Konyar said.
Pratt-Perez broke away from a group of four that included Handley senior Will Pardue with about a half-mile left, and was the first person down the hill. However, Benjamkadden did not allow him to separate and, when they reached the final stretch, he was able to pass Pratt-Perez.
“I thought I was going to defend myself against Tarik, but he’s a great runner,” said Pratt-Perez, who finished on his back shortly after crossing the finish line, then received a hug and high five from his mother while in the floor. “I would have preferred to be first (today), but I’m pretty happy with what I’ve been doing (this season). I’m glad regionals are here. It’s a tough course, but it felt like a real cross country race.”
Pratt-Perez finished second to Pardue (fourth Saturday in 16:13.9) at Oatlands the week before. So beating him and performing as well as he did on an unfamiliar field is a good sign for the future. Junior teammate Eli Clark, who earned All-State honors last year and placed 12th on Saturday in 16:47.7, walked up at the beginning of Pratt-Perez’s interview and said, “You might want to get your autograph, because it’s going to go far.”
Other scoring runners for the James Wood boys were sophomore Thomas Newman (38th in 18:00.1), senior Will Simko (86th in 18:49.7) and freshman Zachary Harrington (119th in 19:38.5).
“Ethan had another great race today,” Lofton said. “We finished ahead of all the local competition and I think that’s a very good motivation for us. I told them the goal should be to be the best local team. We may not be in front (of everyone in a given match).” “I like the women’s team, but let’s be the best local team.”
Clarke County Women’s Scorers: 31. Teya Starley 20:31.6; 56. Abigail Cochran 22:55.6; 59. Molly Husted 11:03 p.m.; 64. Aubrey Wagner 23:13.5; 65: Saniyah Caldwell 23:13.6.
Handley Girls Scorers: 33: Ella Warren 21:36.9; 76. Evelyn Mullins 23:42.3; 90. Audrey Rinker 24:03; 94. Ellie Bessette 24:19.7; 101. Bella Balio 24:45.9.
Sherando Girls Scorers: 54: Addy Wallin 22:51.2; 55. Mine Adams 22:53.8; 84. Avery Ryan 23:53.7; 97. Olivia Lee 24:25; 113. Natalie Clark 25:12.5.
Millbrook Women’s Scorer: 63. Caroline McCurry 23:13.2.
Sherando boys scorers: 14. Dylan McGraw 16:59.1; 35. Ryan Maki 18:05.4; 47. Brock Smith 6:15 p.m.; 70. Jed Bell 18:40.9; 104. Sebastián Berríos 19:27.
Other scorers for the Handley boys: 10. Will Thomas 16:45.1; 73. Noah Meleason 18:43.3; 84. Finnish Massacre 18:55.3; 108. Halston Wright 19:29.9.
Clarke County Men’s Scorers: 56. Landon Horton 18:23.7; 75. Matthew Lisk 18:44.4; 79. Jackson Ellis 18:46.7; 101. Matthew Stroot 19:19.8; 123. Jacob Kitner 19:55.9.
Millbrook Boys Scorers: 93. Elijah McGee 19:10.6; 94. Steve Luna-Pleitez 19:10.7; 122. Bennett Weis 19:53,8; 129. Caden Treiber 20:02.3; 142. Graham Davidson 20:24.5.
For more coverage of Saturday’s match, pick up Tuesday’s edition of The Winchester Star.