Grafton boys, girls sweep region cross country titles

Jimmy LaRoue
Contact Reporterjlarouejr@vagazette.com

Grafton’s boys and girls cross country teams had their top five runners finish in the top eight overall, with both winning Region 4A championships Tuesday on the grounds at Eastern State Hospital.

The Clippers' boys took five of the top eight spots, including an individual win for senior Samahd Walters, finishing in 16:55. Price Owens finished third, three seconds behind Walters. Ryan Miller, Tristan Ruark and Grey Hasenbank came in sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively to give Grafton the win.

Walters led for most of the race, something unusual for him, and especially with a national standout such as Owens on the roster.

“I think it was a gutsy way to do it, pretty much from start to finish,” said Grafton boys coach Nick Valenti. “He said he was a little nervous at two miles because he said he had not been in that position before.”

Walters said he wanted to get out to the lead and keep up the momentum through the race.

“I just wanted to get out and toward the second mile, my legs started getting tight on me, and I started feeling Lafayette or Jamestown (runners) next to me, so I decided to kick toward the end, and I finished the race,” Walters said.

Grafton’s girls also took five of the top eight spots, as Kira Freedman (19:13) won the girls race, pulling away from Jamestown’s Thorin Jean at the two-mile mark to win by 28 seconds. Alexa Daley and Meredith Beaver finished third and fourth, respectively for Grafton, with Samantha Wanderer coming in seventh and Sung Park finishing eighth.

“We are riding some momentum,” said Grafton girls cross country coach Chris Sievers. “Everybody wants to do this. You want to get better as the season goes on, and right now we’re just at that point where everybody's at their peak. We’re feeling pretty good going into the state meet.”

Sievers praised Freedman’s effort. Her strategy was to let Jean do much of the work for the first miles.

That played out to plan, with Freedman running a stride or two behind Jean for the first two miles before making her move.

“Once we hit the second mile, I just wanted to go as hard as I could up the hill, on the hardest parts and push it through for the last point-one and win,” Freedman said.

Jamestown and Lafayette's boys teams will also make the trip to the state meet, as they came in second and third, respectively. In the girls race, Jamestown took second, and Smithfield third.

For both Grafton’s boys and girls, they are aware of their upcoming nationally renowned Loudoun Valley opponents. But they're still striving for a top-three finish.

Sievers has nine seniors who will want to go out on a positive note.

“It's going to be tough when we get to that state meet,” Sievers said. “Top three would be wonderful at this point.”

LaRoue can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342, by email at jlarouejr@vagazette.com or on Twitter @jlaroue.

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