WINCHESTER — Just after the awards ceremony for Thursday’s Region 4C cross country meet at Kernstown Battlefield, James Wood sophomore Nathaniel Woshner loudly exclaimed, “See you at states!” as he grabbed Millbrook senior’s Chris Simonelli hand before pulling him in for an embrace.
It will be a moment those two and every other runner for their respective schools will get to enjoy for the first time.
James Wood placed second to qualify for the state meet for the first time since 2003 and Millbrook took third to advance to state competition for the first time since 2015. The Colonels (104 points) and Pioneers (111) finished behind only two-time defending national champion Loudoun Valley (16 points) in the eight-team meet.
All four area high schools will be represented at the Class 4 state meet at Great Meadow in The Plains on Nov. 16.
Sherando junior James Harris had the top non-Loudoun Valley finish by placing fifth in 16:23.5 to qualify for the state meet for the third straight year, while Handley senior Grayson Westfall placed 10th in 16:57.3. The top five individuals not on the top three teams advanced to states, and Westfall grabbed the last individual spot. Sherando placed sixth as a team with 128 points and Handley was eighth with 162.
James Wood finished only four points out of qualifying for the state meet last year. A Colonels team that only lost two members from their top seven from last year won its second straight Class 4 Northwestern District title last week and continued its strong season Thursday.
“The whole team is super-psyched,” said Woshner, who led the Colonels by taking 11th in 17:00.5. “We’re all really happy, and we’re going to celebrate.
“It’s just amazing. We couldn’t have a better team right now. We’ve got so much potential and I think we can get a good placing at states.”
The rest of James Wood’s scoring runners were sophomore Liam McDonald (18th in 17:18.5), senior Nathan Shade (24th in 17:35.0), junior Chris White (26th in 17:40.1) and sophomore Caleb Kemer (36th in 17:54.0).
“Both teams just did outstanding today,” said James Wood coach Mike Onda, whose girls’ team also qualified for the state meet. “They really performed when it counted. They’ve been working hard and doing everything they could all season.
“Last week it was very close [just two points separated the James Wood and Millbrook boys]. We just had to have confidence that we were ready and adequately trained and be mentally and physically prepared. They came out and did what they had to do. I’m very proud of them.”
While James Wood’s program had the longer wait to make the state meet, Millbrook had more of an uphill climb at the start of the season. The Pioneers lost six of their top seven runners and eight of their top 10 from last year but still found a way to Great Meadow.
“We weren’t really supposed to be this good by anyone’s opinion,” Pioneers coach Kevin Shirk said. “But they’ve worked hard, and not just in cross country season. It’s been a year-and-a-half in the making to get those kids to where they are. They put in good indoor and outdoor track seasons last year. They’re very deserving of this.”
Millbrook’s scoring five runners were Simonelli (12th in 17:02.8), sophomore Carter Johnson (21st in 17:25.8), junior Chance Crosen (22nd in 17:30.2), senior Silas Schroer (31st in 17:45.0) and freshman Nick Hayden (37th in 17:56).
“It feels amazing,” Simonelli said. “We felt bad after the two-point loss at districts, and we just wanted to get it done today and qualify.
“After losing our top six from last year, we knew we needed everyone to step up, and I think everyone did. Nick, his first race, he got like 20 minutes, and now he’s the fifth runner for us. And I couldn’t have ran like I have without Silas. He pushed me.”
Loudoun Valley senior Kellen Hasle won by 22 seconds in a time of 15:57.8. Hasle was third at last year’s state meet and is the top returning state finisher.
For more coverage of Thursday’s meet, see Saturday’s edition.