The last time that the Western Albemarle girls didn’t have a girl finish in the top three among individual runners in the Ragged Mountain Cup, it was a disappointing start — or at least by their standards — to the year as their top four runners combined to finish third. That was in 2015. History repeated itself this year at the 2018 RMC. No Western runner finished in the top three and a Western team took third. But that was the second four runners for the Warriors. Western also took first place as team, with four top-10 individual splits to display an uncanny amount of depth on Wednesday.
“We weren’t really sure what to expect going into this but we had prepared, trained for the heat coming into this the last three weeks,” said Western coach Katie Pugh. “It’s hot for everyone so we told them to replace any negative thought with a positive one. But we are really surprised with just how many different girls ran so great today. It shows just how synced these girls are.”
With a Ella Taylor, Kate Ratcliffe, Jenna Stutzman and Alys Santoro-Adajian running for Western’s “Warriors For Win” relay, Western took home the championship trophy with a combined time of 52:09 to best Albemarle’s “Captain Crunch” relay team of Elly Zarazyski, Beth Shifflett, Meme Zarzyski and Arianna DeBoer by 1:12.
“We never go into the season expecting to win or do this because its so early in the season and you haven’t done a lot of interval work or speed work but it really sets the tone for the rest of the season and we really have to thank Mark Lorenzoni for the work he does to put this meet together with his family,” Pugh said. “We only get to come out to Panorama Farms twice a year and we really love it out here.”
The Warriors’ “Banana Patch” relay squad took third as Sterling Hul, Caroline McGahren, Emily Winder and Charlotte Thomas Clark, finished ninth, 14th, 16th and 22nd as individuals giving Western eight total runners in the top 22.
But on the individual level, the RMC had a different vibe after a glut of Western and Albemarle individual champions that has dominated the meet, only St. Anne’s-Belfield’s Maddie Hunter has won an individual championship to break up that run and that was in 2015. This year Fluvanna County’s Emily Smeds had the top split among the girls at 12:31. Running the opening leg for her squad, she’s the first ever individual champion for the Flucos. The previous best for a Fluvanna girls cross country runner at the RMC was Nicole Douma’s second place finish back in 2013.
“I went out and wanted to just give my team the best start that I could,” Smeds said. “I was suprised (by the win) but you always have more energy than you think you do. I was just telling myself to finish strong or else I was going to regret it later.”
Coming in second was Louisa’s Sarah Seay who was close behind Smeds at 12:39. Seay is the highest Louisa finisher since Hannah Best also took second place back in 2009. Albemarle’s Zarazyski took third at 12:51. The other top ten finisher outside of the Western pack was Monticello’s Lilly Linneweber who took eighth place.
Western and Hawkes dominate field again
As last year’s individual champion, Western’s Joe Hawkes was the favorite coming in and he did not fail to deliver. Running as the anchor for the Warriors, Hawkes started his leg with his team trailing Albemarle by six seconds. He finished with by breaking the tape with a 30 second lead to give Western’s “WAHS Heat” relay squad the championship trophy, the sixth-straight for the Warriors.
“Throughout the summer I was thinking I’d come out and get a really fast time here but as it turned out (training wise) with all the heat and everything lately, my coach (Lindy Bain) and I talked about being a little more chill,” Hawkes said. “It was kind of nice having someone to chase. Last year I didn’t have anyone, I was just running by myself. This year I had someone to compete with. I knew (Albemarle’s Harris Naseh) was going to be fast.”
Hawkes’ individual split of 9:53 was the third fastest in RMC history, only behind Albemarle’s Adam Visokay’s 2011 time of 9:52 and Western’s Tyler Stutzman’s time of 9:42. That gave him the 2018 individual title for a second straight year.
Hawkes’ relay teammates had awfully good days too with Joseph Taylor placing second, Jack Eliason third, and Stuart Terrill putting a quality 11:18 split together.
That was enough to edge Albemarle’s combination of JD McKnight, Harris Naseh, Cutter Huston, Will Mackenzie, and who had respective finishes individually of fourth, sixth, seventh and 11th. Woodberry Forest placed third as team with Ray Flectecher coming in fifth, Henry Clark in eighth, Parker Watt at 14th and Cylus Garza placing 30th. Western, Albemarle and Woodberry had all nine of the top nine individual splits.
Rounding out the top ten individual finishers was Orange County’s Ethan Petty John who was 0:50 off of Hawkes’ first place time.