WINCHESTER — When Sherando’s James Harris spoke enthusiastically about his cross country goals for his senior year following his Class 4 All-State performance as a junior in the fall of 2019, he never could have imagined his senior year turning out the way it has.
The COVID-19-delayed cross country season might have effected Harris’ training this year, but it hasn’t stopped the three-sport athlete from doing all the sports he loves while still being one of the best runners in the area.
Harris placed sixth in a time of 16 minutes, 42.1 seconds to qualify for regionals at Saturday’s Class 4 Northwestern District meet at the Third Battle of Winchester course. The Region 4C meet will take place on April 13 at Morven Park in Leesburg.
In the fall of 2019, Harris placed second at the Class 4 Northwestern District meet, kicking off a postseason that ended with him placing 12th and earning all-state honors at the Class 4 meet.
Because of COVID-19, this year has been a lot different. Harris also plays basketball and baseball, and because Frederick County delayed its winter sports season until after the Virginia High School League winter season, the basketball and cross country seasons both started on March 1 in Frederick County.
The basketball season is over, but Harris is currently prepping for the baseball season that starts later this month. Juggling three sports has made it difficult for Harris to put in the type of mileage that he put in during last year’s cross country season. Harris said he put in 40 to 50 miles per week during the regular season and 20 to 30 miles during the postseason in 2019, and now 20 to 30 miles per week has been the norm.
“With my training, I try to stay consistent and try to go on runs when I can,” Harris said. “When I also had basketball going on, I was maybe running twice a week the last couple of weeks. I’d go three miles if I wasn’t too sore.
“It’s a big difference from last year [with mileage], but I’ve had to save my legs as much as I can with everything I’ve been doing. Next week, I’m going to eat well, sleep well and hopefully do well against Loudoun Valley and the other top competition today.”
On Saturday, Harris said he fell off from the top five runners after the first half mile. Harris was never too far behind the group, though, and he nearly beat City-County champion Nico Schianchi of Handley for fifth. Harris finished eight seconds behind James Wood’s Chris White for fourth and was outkicked in the final stretch to finish two seconds behind Schianchi.
“I think he’s done really well juggling everything,” Sherando coach Megan Roberts said. “Hopefully we can take the next [seven] days and have him focus on cross country and get him ready for regionals. It’s going to be more hilly of a course, and it rolls, and that plays to his strengths. I’m looking forward to seeing him race there.”
Harris hasn’t recorded the types of times he ran last season, when he a personal record of 15:57 on the Third Battle course and ran 16:13 at the state meet. But he loves all three sports that he competes in, and he didn’t want that to stop this year.
“It’s my last year, senior year, and wanted to go out with a bang,” Harris said. “I wanted to do all three sports like I usually do. Hopefully, I can run in college or play baseball in college. I’m still trying to decide with that.”
Handley After Saturday, Schianchi is definitely looking forward to the Region 4C meet.
James Wood coach Matthew Lofton noted that his top two runners on Saturday, Nathaniel Woshner and Chris White (first and fourth, respectively), hadn’t beaten Schianchi in any meets this year. And when all local teams came together for the City-County meet on March 24 at James Wood, it was Schianchi who bested the entire field by nine seconds.
Schianchi certainly had a strong race on Saturday, taking fifth in 16:40.4. It wasn’t a performance he was happy with, though. Schianchi finished 28 seconds behind third-place runner Nick Hayden of Millbrook despite taking an early lead.
“I tried to go out hard and get a margin in front,” Schianchi said. “That worked the first mile, but I think I went out too hard, and they caught me at a mile and a half.
“I’m going to go back into training, and hopefully I’ll get a better race [at regionals]. I personally don’t think I run really well on gravel [which makes up a significant part of the Third Battle course], and maybe it was a bit of that. But I think I just had a bad race.”
Schianchi is one of three Judges who will compete in the regional meet. Handley coach Mark Stickley was hoping to take his entire team, but the Judges’ 67 points were 10 behind Millbrook.
“We knew it was going to be tight with us and Millbrook,” Stickley said. “Overall we did well, but they ran a little better than we did.”
Stickley was pleased with the performances of sophomore Max Ware (ninth in 17:04), who will join Schianchi at the regional meet, and freshman Will Pardue (20th in 17:50.9).
“Max and Will ran out of their minds today,” Stickley said.