LEESBURG — Madison Murphy’s debut high school cross country season was one of the best ever produced by a girl from Winchester or Frederick County, and now she’s writing one heck of a sequel.
Murphy placed second in the ultra-competitive Region 4C meet for the second straight year on Tuesday at Morven Park and will be the only local girls’ runner who will compete in the Class 4 state meet.
The top two teams and top three individuals outside those two teams will compete in the state meet at the The Oatlands in Leesburg.
Sherando, the only local school to qualify as a team for Tuesday’s girls’ meet, placed fourth. Warriors sophomore Emma Ahrens finished ninth overall and fourth among individuals not on Loudoun Valley (31 points), the two-time defending state champs, and runner-up Tuscarora (53).
Murphy’s postseason is playing out similar to the 2019 season, as she also repeated as Class 4 Northwestern District champ this year. In 2019, Murphy went on to place fourth at the Class 4 meet with the fastest state time at Great Meadow in area history.
Just like at last year’s Region 4C meet, Loudoun Valley junior Ava Gordon did not run (Gordon won last year’s state title).
The Vikings’ Fetterolf family again kept Murphy busy, though. Last year, Murphy edged Ricky Fetterolf, a senior who placed second in Class 4, by three seconds. This year Murphy (19:10.3) beat third-place Ricky by 16 seconds, but sophomore Scarlet Fetterolf captured the 3.1-mile race in 19:02.1.
Murphy was told in advance that Gordon wouldn’t be running, so her goal was to run with the Fetterolfs. Early on Fauquier freshman Cassidy Scott tried to set the pace, but Murphy and Scarlett weren’t too far behind and eventually took over. Murphy said Scarlett started to pull away at the start of the second mile.
“Toward the end I started narrowing the gap a little bit, which was my goal,” Murphy said. “If that were to happen again, hopefully next time I can close the gap even more.”
Millbrook came out to Morven Park on Saturday to run the grassy course for the first time. Even with that experience, Murphy wasn’t sure to expect on Tuesday.
“Running in grass is not always an easy thing to do,” Murphy said. “It was wet when we came here. Considering I haven’t been here before, I’m pleased with how I did.”
Pioneers coach Jamie McCarty said Murphy ran a great race.
“To put yourself in that position in a regional meet to have a chance to win shows how resilient she is,” McCarty said.
Sherando would have had its work cut out for it to advance to states even if everything went perfectly on Tuesday, but the Warriors were short-handed. Senior Molly Robinson — a University of South Dakota signee — was unable to run on Tuesday due to illness.
The Warriors scored 92 points, 27 behind Northwestern District champion Fauquier (65).
Ahrens led the way with a time of 20:27.3, which was 19 seconds behind the final individual state qualifier, Kiki Wine of Fauquier. A sophomore, Wine finished 16 seconds ahead of Ahrens at the district meet.
The Warriors were also led by sophomore Eva Winston (10th in 20:30.9), sophomore Ryleigh Combs (36th in 23:57.3), freshman Addy Wallin (37th in 24:20.7) and senior Mary Toomey (38th in 24:27.5).
“I’m proud of what [the team] did,” Sherando coach Megan Roberts said. “I think not having Molly kind of mentally threw them a little bit. But I think they went out and raced pretty well considering.”
Roberts thought the Warriors ran good times given the wetness of the course, which Ahrens said was a challenge.
“We weren’t really anticipating all the mud,” she said. “It didn’t feel great, the course. It was just kind of rolling, and your legs were just kind of tired the whole time.”
Overall, Sherando was pleased with its season as a whole.
“Everyone worked really hard,” Ahrens said.
“I’m happy that we are back together running,” Roberts said. “We’re one of the few Frederick County teams that got a postseason. Having that end goal to work towards kind of helped, rather than just having regular-season meets.
“And for some of our younger runners to experience what it was like to go into the postseason and prepare for that was big for us.”
Individually, Millbrook also had strong performances from juniors Lina Guerrero (21st in 21:10.4), Angela Dojcak (24th in 21:46) and Becca Edlich (29th in 22:05.9).
Dojcak got to compete because James Wood junior Lauren Beatty decided not to participate. Beatty competed in her first cross country race since November at the district meet, a hiatus caused by a fractured femur.
“She knew she wasn’t in shape to probably make it to the state meet,” James Wood coach Matthew Lofton said. “I thought it was a very grown-up decision to not race and save herself for track.”