THE PLAINS — It was a grind, but James Wood senior Nathaniel Woshner and Millbrook junior Madison Murphy added to their haul of All-State medals at Saturday’s Class 4 state cross country meet at Great Meadow.
Woshner placed 14th in the boys’ race after placing 13th as a junior. Murphy — who placed fourth in each of her first two state meets — grabbed the final All-State spot in the girls’ race by placing 15th.
Woshner came into Saturday hoping to place in the Top 10. But the first-mile pace was slower than a lot of people expected and that made for some taxing adjustments.
“I got out way too early,” said Woshner, who finished in 16 minutes and 14 seconds over 3.1 miles. “I figured something was up, because it was a pretty slow race. Everyone went out really slow. It was very tactical. I just went out too soon.
“I started to fade once I hit the two-mile, and once I got up the hill, I knew I wasn’t going to have a good finish.”
Still, not many people can say they’ve earned two state medals.
“All-state’s better than nothing,” said Woshner, who will run for NCAA Division I Duquesne University next year. “I wanted to get top 10, but top 15 in the state is still really good. I’m happy I got that.”
James Wood coach Matthew Lofton felt the large pack that stayed together for so long made it difficult for Woshner to run the race he wanted to.
“It’s kind of tough when there’s a big pack to kind of put yourself in a position to where you think you should be finishing, because you can maybe get boxed in,” Lofton said. “When that pack finally breaks away, now you have to work your way up. Even though you’re in that pack, it spreads out, and if you’re not ready, you’re kind of going to find your place a little bit further back than what you wanted.
“I think that’s what happened to him. He was in the mix when it was slow, and then when it broke free he just wasn’t able to counter.”
Murphy ran on Great Meadow’s state course for the first time since she set a record for area high school girls on the course as a freshman with a time of 18:22. On a day when it was cool, windy and muddy, Murphy finished Saturday’s race in 19:20.
“I don’t remember this course being that hard,” Murphy said.
Murphy managed to say that with a smile after a taxing race.
“Around the two-mile mark, my chest started hurting,” Murphy said. “I tried to give it everything I had. At the finish, I was done. I was on empty.”
Murphy wanted to make All-State again, and she did that by barely edging out Jefferson Forest senior Shauna Skow. They both recorded times of 19:20.
“This year’s been hard with my injuries,” said Murphy, who had to battle through thigh and knee pain in September and October. “When I crossed the finish line, it was hard because I was on empty and wasn’t where I wanted to be. But it meant a lot to have lots of people cheering me and supporting me. The fact that I was on empty and I gave it my all, that’s all I can ask for.”
Millbrook coach Jamie McCarty said the effort from Murphy was there on Saturday, but he noted that it’s been tough for Murphy to get back to the fitness level she’s accustomed to having because of her injuries.
“She’s definitely not 100 percent yet,” McCarty said. “She went out there and had a good day. Not a great day, because I know she was disappointed. But she went out and ran as hard as she could.”
James WoodLofton was hoping that the Colonels could finish higher than ninth in the boys’ race, but Saturday was a day where things didn’t quite work out for the team.
“Any team can win, but you just never know how these other kids on other teams are going to compete on the same day,” Lofton said. “Team-wise, for five to seven athletes to be on their best on the same day, it’s tough sometimes. I think today was one of those days where it didn’t click, unfortunately.”
Lofton said the Colonels certainly would have liked to have beaten Handley. James Wood won the Class 4 Northwestern District title on a tiebreaker over the Judges, but took third while Handley placed second at the Region 4C meet. The Judges placed sixth on Saturday.
“Props to Handley for getting us,” Lofton said. “I just wish we would have had a better day. That’s just how it goes sometimes.”
In addition to Lauren Beatty (13th on Saturday to earn All-State honors), the Colonels also had senior Elena Farinholt compete in the girls’ race on Saturday. She placed 35th in 20:24, another example of how strong Region 4C is. Farinholt placed 13th at the Region 4C meet, and she placed 13th among Region 4C runners on Saturday.
Farinholt said it meant a lot to run at the state meet as a senior. She qualified individually as a freshman and went with her team as a sophomore, but no one from the Colonels made the reduced state field created by COVID-19 in the spring.
“It was special to me to make it, because I’ve worked hard this season,” said Farinholt, who was also glad to run with Beatty. “I felt OK today. I could tell from the beginning my body wasn’t completely in it for a phenomenal race. I was there mentally, but not as well as I could have been.”
“I think she ran really well,” Lofton said. “She was kind of about where we thought she would be. [Class 4] is just a tough classification.”
Both Beatty and Farinholt plan on running in college. Beatty is looking at Ohio State and Converse College, and Farinholt is considering George Mason and a college in Canada.
MillbrookJunior Nick Hayden was the only other runner for the Pioneers who competed on Saturday. The Class 4 Northwestern District champion finished third among local runners and 23rd overall in 16:32.
McCarty said Hayden told him that he could tell early on that he was going to have a difficult race.
“He knew early he just wasn’t feeling right,” McCarty said. “That’s the unfortunate thing about this sport sometimes. You can have really good days, and other days you think you’re ready to go and it turns out to be a little bit less than you expected.
“It wasn’t for lack of trying. Unfortunately, he had a bad day. That happens. He’d been really consistent everywhere we’ve been, and unfortunately, this was kind of the one that got away from him a little bit.”