WINCHESTER — If James Wood freshman Kate Konyar and Sherando senior Emma Ahrens tried to connect their running shorts together at the hip with Velcro, it simply wouldn’t work because of their height differential.

But Frederick County’s only two All-State cross country runners last fall were practically inseparable on Friday in the 3,200-meter run to set up a memorable finish, more than three minutes of suspense, and a fitting hug.

The longest race of the day was the closest, with Konyar edging Ahrens in a sprint to the finish by just two-hundredths of a second after the duo was just a few steps from each other throughout the race. Konyar recorded a time of 11:22.45 — nine seconds better than her previous best time — and Ahrens finished in 11:22.47, just seven-tenths of a second off her personal record.

The race was one of the many highlights for local girls’ teams, even though the top two spots in the team standings went to Fauquier (152.5) and Kettle Run (143.67).

Winchester/Frederick County won eight of the 17 events, with James Wood capturing two as part of a third-place finish with 119.83 points. Handley’s Elizabeth Imoh (three) and Emeryce Worrell (two) combined for five wins to lead the Judges to fourth place (95). Sherando was fifth (63) and Millbrook was sixth (52) in the seven-team meet.

The top eight individuals and top four relays in each event on Friday, as well as those with qualifying times and marks, advance to Thursday’s Region 4C meet at Millbrook.

After one lap in the 3,200, Kettle Run’s Maria Gayton was in between Konyar (first) and Ahrens (third). But at the 600-meter mark it was clear it was going to be a two-girl race, and as the race wore on it was evident that if either one separated from the other, it would probably be on the last lap.

Konyar led for the first mile, but Ahrens grabbed the lead at the start of the second mile.

“My strategy was to sit back, because I can go out too fast,” Konyar said. “[When Ahrens took the lead], I was going to let her take the wind, try and sit back and kick at the end.”

Konyar took the lead back on the seventh lap. As they entered the eighth and final lap, neither one had led by more than a couple steps since the second lap, and they had sometimes run next to each other.

With 200 meters to go, Ahrens began charging on the outside, and it was evident neither runner was going to back off in pursuit of the title. The intensity they shared was written all over their faces as they bounded down the final 100 and spectators cheered them on.

“I was like, ‘I’m not just going to let this one go,’” Konyar said. “It took everything. It felt like a sprinting race.”

Konyar said she stuck her head out as neared the finish line. At that point, both runners were congratulated by coaches and teammates, but everyone had to wait a few minutes for the last person to finish the 3,200 before the results could be displayed on the electronic scoreboard.

After Konyar’s narrow win was official, Ahrens started making her way toward Konyar, then Konyar walked toward her. They embraced after a battle everyone who watched appreciated.

“She’s a great runner,” Konyar said.

“What a gutsy performance,” said James Wood coach Abeeb Badmus of Konyar. “I’m very happy for her.”

Sophomore Olivia Boyce also starred for the Colonels. She won the long jump by 13 inches with a mark of 16 feet, 0.5 inches, took third in the triple jump (31-7.5) and ran with Ellen Kiesewalter, Megan Vreeland and Macey Payne to place third in the 4x100 in 51.58. Freshman Tenley Mattison did well in the jumps also, taking second alone in the triple jump (33-0) and tying for second in the long jump (14-11.5).

“Olivia is one our captains and works very hard,” Badmus said. “Tenley also works hard in practice, and it shows.”

James Wood also led by its 4x400 team of Omaie Aarami, Kiesewalter, Mallory Juvinall and Quetzai Angel-Perez (second in 4:17.12), Quetzali-Perez in the 800 (third in 2:24.43), Ruby Ostrander in the 1,600 (third in 5:30.91) and Alina Kieffer in the 3,200 (third in 12:21.09).

Imoh didn’t set any PRs on Friday, but she continued her mastery of the Class 4 4 Northwestern District. In three years at the outdoor district meet (there was no season when she was a freshman in 2020 due to COVID), Imoh won eight of 10 individual events and was a perfect 6-for-6 the last two years.

On Friday, Imoh won the high jump with a mark of 5-0 to win by two inches, captured the 100 hurdles by 1.71 seconds in 15.67, and took the 300 hurdles by 2.07 seconds in 45.93.

“The 100 hurdles was little tough towards the end,” Imoh said. “I think I did a good job of staying low at the beginning, and then I started floating a little bit, so that was not what we wanted there.

“The 300 hurdles, my goal was to really attack. I think there were only two hurdles I remember really stuttering to. The race can always be smoother and can always go faster than that.”

Imoh also anchored Handley’s 4x100 relay. The team that also includes Alivia Ricci, Worrell and Madison Hobson had a problem with the first exhange and wound up finishing second behind Kettle Run. The Judges finished in 51.29 and the Cougars ran 50.53.

Worrell and Millbrook sophomore Jada Arrington were the top two finishers in both the 100 and 200. Worrell had a 12.42 to Arrington’s 12.70 in the 100 and a 25.38 to Worrell’s 26.12 in the 200, with her strong starts making a big difference in both races.

“I think my start is my strongest part, so I feel as long as I get that down, I feel like the rest of the race just falls [into place],” said Worrell, who along with Hobson and Ricci played an 80-minute soccer game against Kettle Run the day before Friday’s meet.

Also for Handley, Znyah Johnson placed third in the high jump (4-8) and pole vault (7-6).

Ahrens helped Sherando win the 4x800 by almost 18 seconds in 10:12.23. Ryleigh Combs, Gracie Defibaugh and Eva Winston (second in the 1,600 in 5:24.26) also ran on the relay. The Warriors were also led by Sarah Starling (third in both the discus, 105-10, and shot put, 33-0) and Mercedes Silver (third in the 300 hurdles, 49.64).

Millbrook coach Joe Hall said the Pioneers decided to hold Arrington, last year’s district champion in the 400 and a state qualifier this year, out of that event to give her some rest.

“She’s run a lot of meets where she’s run all three events,” Hall said. “We’re kind of trying to taper back a little bit, kind of get her fresh for the state meet.”

Hall was pleased by the performance of the 4x800 team, which took second in a season-best time of 10:30.03. That team featured Emma Gressley, Caroline McCurry, Caydence Bayne and Madison Murphy. The Pioneers were also led by Savannah Florek, tied for second in the long jump (14-11.5).

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at

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