High school runners tune up at York River State Park 5K

Three years ago, Yorktown’s Kasandra Aulenbach, then 14, ran a 21:19 at the York River State Park 5K to break the race 14-and-under age group record of 21:46 set by Lauren Blanks from Tabb High and Yorktown the previous year. That record lasted until 2017, when last year’s women’s winner, Katherine Sasse, 13, of Richmond, ran one second faster for the 3.1-mile course.

Now 17 and a rising senior at Tabb High, Aulenbach no longer could break her 14-and-under record, but took aim at the race’s 15-19 record, which had progressed gradually from 20:26 (Gloucester’s Emily Webb in 2005) to 20:23 (Warhill’s Hannah Hrncir in 2015) to 20:20 (Walsingham’s Delaney Riggs in 2016), with an adjusted time from 2014 also on the boards (19:44 by Lindsey Blanks of Tabb High, adjusted from a 20:47 on a long 3.27-mile course).

Aulenbach demolished all of those records with an impressive winning time of 18:52, the second fastest women’s time in the 15-year history of the Colonial Road Runners Grand Prix race. Only William and Mary All-American and women’s coach Kathy Newberry ran faster, the course record a 17:11 from 2006.

More than two minutes back were Emily Honeycutt, 27, of Newport News (Aulenbach’s Tabb High cross country coach) in 21:00, and Jessica Riggs, 41, of Williamsburg (Delaney’s mother) in 21:31.

Another record broken was the turnout. Organized by the Walsingham Academy cross country team to benefit the Walsingham Academy Athletic Booster Club, the race had a huge turnout, with 301 finishers in the 5K and an additional 13 in the one-mile fun run.

Since Walsingham took over the race in 2016, the 5K finisher totals have increased from 147 in 2016 to 269 last year to just more than the 300-runner barrier this year. Credit goes to Courtney Moulton, Event Coordinator for Walsingham, and Trojan cross country coaches Rich Higgins, Cher Lobash, Frank Faykes and Mike Sheedy.

The main reason for the turnout was the large number of high school runners, who used the race as a tune-up for the upcoming cross country season.

There were 43 boys and 34 girls in the 14-and-under age category, and 38 boys and 18 girls in the 15-19 age category, a total of 133 runners. There were runners from public schools New Kent, Tabb and Warhill, and private schools Hampton Roads Academy, Summit Christian, Veritas and Walsingham.

In the unofficial team scoring for the scrimmage competition, the Walsingham boys were by far the best, with Veritas second. For the girls New Kent edged Veritas for bragging rights.

The top three men overall were William Thompson, 25, of Williamsburg (17:05), Patrick Johnson, 16, of Quinton (17:38) and Walsingham’s Patrick Murphy, 17, of Williamsburg (17:46).

The top five boys for Walsingham and their nucleus for the cross country season were Murphy, Jack Shonka (19:21), Jake Falcone (19:42), Ethan Ricker (19:43) and Mathew Brause (20:00).

For the Walsingham girls Emma Lobash, age 14, was fastest (23:39), although Frankie Riggs and Clare Kinney, who did not run, will be 1-2 for the team.

Aulenbach now runs for Tabb High (with Honeycutt as coach) and the Growing Runner Track Club (with Williamsburg’s Drew Mearns as coach), but would like to compete in college next year while pursuing a degree in Engineering.

Last spring she ran 5:17 for 1,600 meters and 11:36 for 3,200 meters for Tabb, then had a 7:35 for the 2,000-meter steeplechase for Growing Runners at the USATF regional track meet. On the roads this past year she ran a 19:37 at the CNU 5K and a 41:40 for the Game Day 10K.

However her 18:52 at York River shows she’s capable of much faster. The York River State Park course has a long, one-mile gradual uphill on the park entrance road, then has a combination of grass, dirt and gravel travels for the next two miles before an uphill finish. The course definitely is not flat and fast.

On an age graded basis, as compiled by CRR statistician Jim Gullo, Aulenbach was the best with a national-class 80.13%. There were a total of 20 runners above the 70% regional-class level.

Of those, above 75% were men’s runner-up Patrick Johnson (77.67%), Paul Pelletier, 53, of Williamsburg (19:46, 76.45%), James Kastelein, 16, of Richmond (17:56, 76.37%), Walsingham’s Murphy (76.03%), Jason Miller, 41, of Williamsburg (18:12, 75.56%), men’s winner Thompson (75.51%) and Greg Lynn, 44, of Hayes (18:45, 75.04%).

Thompson, now stationed at the Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, was victorious in his first CRR race. A native of Bagdad, Ky., he started running 10 years ago as a high school junior.

In 2010, he went to VMI, where he was on the cross country and track teams, with PRs of 4:27 indoors for the mile, 15:19 for 5,000 meters and 31:36 for 10,000 meters.

After graduation he was commissioned in the Marine Corps, deployed twice to the far east as a platoon commander then as a Rifle Company Executive Officer, but got out of shape running-wise.

He started training somewhat seriously again two years ago, and since has run a 1:17:45 for the half marathon and 56:23 for the 10 miler.

Platt is president of Colonial Road Runners.

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