It was senior night at Montpelier for the Orange County High School cross country teams and while eight seniors were honored, underclassmen stole the show once the racing started.
Freshman Ethan Pettyjohn won the boys’ race and sophomore Mary Oelrich won the girls’ race for the homestanding Hornets.
After honoring seniors Hunter Gilliam, Griffin Floyd, Luke Wilson, Tyler Trask, Paul Gordon, Josiah Koehler, Alden Carter and Jenna Faulconer, the girls took the course for the first race of the afternoon. Oelrich pulled away from the field with a 21:44 run over the 3.1-mile course to win by a minute.
“I’d been telling her for a couple of weeks that she had a run like this in her,” head coach Matt Gilliam said of her victory. “A lot of the crowd was a little surprised when she was the first girl to make an appearance at the finish line, but I wasn’t. I had felt this run coming. I’m very excited for her. Most people don’t understand how hard it is to win a cross country race. Even in the smaller meets there are dozens of kids and only one gets to win. Most runners never get to experience first place.”
After Oelrich, Eastern View placed the second runner exactly one minute later. Two junior varsity runners finished next (middle-schoolers can race, but they don’t score as varsity runners), with Orange’s Olivia Knights running a personal record of 23:14 to finish fourth. After one more Eastern View runner, Faulconer came across the line to claim sixth place with a time of 23:56. Another Eastern View runner took seventh before Carter came across in eighth place with a time of 24:28. Gracie Steigler was 11th with a 25:00 run and Daisy Floyd was the final Orange scorer at 25:28 to take 13th. The team finished just behind Eastern View (27 points) with a total of 31 points. Spotsylvania was third with 69 points as they only got one runner in the top 13. Kylie Trask (25:58) and Kassidy Rose (28:25) were the displacers for the team. Seventh-grader, Abbey Murray had a promising first run for the team with a time of 26:00.
Gilliam was pleased with the girls overall. “Last week we went to Monticello and the course marshals sent the girls the wrong way, so they all ran extra distance and didn’t have their times count, so it was good for them to come back with some strong runs today. We’re starting to peak at the right time of year and I think we will surprise some teams at districts and regionals.”
On the boys’ side, watching Pettyjohn win races is becoming commonplace, but the excitement of having an elite runner who is just a freshman is apparent for all who were there.
“We felt like Ethan would win this one, but he’s really trying to make his mark, and he really wanted to break 17 minutes (he ran 17:03 at Fork Union),” Gilliam noted.
Pettyjohn did just that as he finished well ahead of the rest of the field in a course record time of 16:57. He is the first Hornet to go under 17 minutes since Logan Collins in 2007 and only the third in school history to pull it off. The other two, however, were seniors when they turned the trick. It was the third time Pettyjohn won a race this season, including last week at Monticello High School.
After Pettyjohn came in, Bobby Lee ran a new personal best of 17:50 to take third and Chance Bowers ran a season-best time of 18:09 to take fourth and all but mathematically guarantee the victory for the Hornets. Floyd (19:03) and Trask (19:19) made it official as the team won with 34 points to Eastern View’s 38 and Spotsylvania’s 59. Jarious Faulkner and Wilson were the displacers with times of 19:39 and 19:55, respectively, which meant the Hornets got all seven runners in under 20:00 for the first time this season. Almost all of the rest of the Hornet boys had new personal records on the day including Thomas Bower, Latham Browning, Ryder Rose, Jackson Garnett, Paul Gordon, Andrew Horn, Aaron Ratcliff, Conner Stettler and Adam Dorsey.
The teams will have their final regular season meet on Saturday as they travel to Winchester to run in the Third Battle Invitational.