LEESBURG — Technically, sophomore Madison Murphy was the only person competing for Millbrook in Saturday’s Class 4 girls’ cross country state meet.
She wasn’t alone on Saturday at the Oatlands course, though, and her support group played a major role in Murphy keeping her run of stellar duplicate postseason performances going.
Murphy — who last week took second in Region 4C for the second straight year — passed Loudoun Valley sophomore and Region 4C champion Scarlet Fetterolf with about a quarter-mile left in the 3.1-mile race to place fourth in Class 4 for the second straight year.
Murphy recorded a time of 19 minutes and 23 seconds in once again earning All-State status (Top 15). She gave one of her teammates, junior Becca Edlich, credit for making that possible. Edlich was a spectator at Saturday’s race.
“When she yelled, ‘Finish strong! You got this!’ I was able to make my move [to pass Fetterolf],” said Murphy, who beat Fetterolf by five seconds. “She cheered me on across the finish line.”
Murphy and Edlich jokingly like to use lines from the Netflix series “Cobra Kai” — which features several actors playing their characters from the 1980s “Karate Kid” movies — to pump each other up.
With Murphy running without any teammates on Saturday, she didn’t need any unique motivation to spur her — just the presence of the people who continually support her, like family members, Edlich and former teammate Katie Borland, a 2020 Millbrook graduate.
“Having [Edlich and Borland] here was really nice and a lot of fun,” said Murphy, who started her postseason this year by repeating as Class 4 Northwestern District champion. “It took a lot of the stress away.”
The hilly Oatlands course seemed to create stress with a lot of runners on Saturday. Murphy certainly handled it better than most.
Murphy settled toward the back of the lead pack early on in hopes of saving her energy for the last mile. Murphy and Fetterolf were side by side for much of the second mile, but Fetterolf began to pull away some as they approached the two-mile mark.
Fetterolf still led Murphy as they climbed up the large hill leading to the 2.5-mile mark. A lot of runners had exhausted looks on their faces while trying to run that hill. Murphy’s face was the epitome of determination even though she said it took a toll.
“I was feeling a little rough,” Murphy said. “I came out here on Wednesday to check out the course [for the first time]. I knew that hill was going to be difficult, especially with it being a little warmer today. But when we got to the top of the hill and ran the curve, I started to gain momentum and feel better.”
Eventually, Murphy passed Fetterolf and pulled away from her. Fetterolf’s junior teammate, Ava Gordon, won her second straight title and won by six seconds in 18:49. (Gordon did not run at the region meet). Gordon and Fetterolf were two of five Loudoun Valley runners who placed in the top 13 to give the Vikings their third straight state title with 33 points, 26 more than runner-up Blacksburg.
Individually, taking second was last year’s fifth-place finisher, Hanover sophomore Alli Cryster (18:55). Jamestown junior Caroline Bauer, who was 68th last year, placed third in 19:12.
Millbrook coach Jamie McCarty said Murphy couldn’t have executed a better race.
“It’s not often in this sport where you make a plan and you can actually stick to it,” McCarty said. “Everything we talked about kind of played out. We talked about being patient early, because we knew this downhill part was going to be fast. She was smart and she laid back.
“She knew the second half of the course was where the race was going to start. She did a great job. When you’re smart and you can race like that, that’s why you finish fourth in the state.”
Murphy said she was definitely glad to have that finish.
“With this year being so crazy with training [due to COVID-19] and not knowing what to expect with racing on this course, I pretty much did what I was hoping for,” Murphy said.