Tucked in the back of Pole Green Park on a Saturday covered by clouds, cross country runners from 77 schools from across the region ran through the occasional raindrops as the Milestat.com Invitational was held in Hanover County for the first time.
While familiarity with the course and a short bus trip were advantages for in-county teams, the intense competition gave participants a tremendous idea as to how life will be during the postseason.
Atlee entered teams of runners in both the boys and girls top varsity divisions. The Atlee boys finished 16th out of 31 teams behind three other regional teams, Midlothian (second), Deep Run (sixth) and Maggie Walker (ninth). Nathaniel Hall led the way for the Raiders, with his time of 15:47 good enough for ninth place individually. The winner, Louis Colson of Thomas Edison High, finished in 15:21.
Lee-Davis’ boys team was also entered, with Grayson Morgan placing 48th (16:32) and Paul Adam 54th (16:39) out of 239 participants. The Confederates team placed 22nd.
On the girls side, the Raiders were led by Katt Grasberger, who finished 32nd at 19:15, followed by Chloe Bavin (52nd), who came in under the 20-minute mark at 19:53. Grasberger, familiar with the course, didn’t mind the conditions.
“You have to adapt. I like this cooler weather, it helps make me feel better,” Grasberger said.
“This (race) will definitely help us, having our conference meet here,” explained Bavin. “We already know the course really well, so it’s definitely an advantage to us. So we’ll use this to help us get better.”
When they return to Pole Green for the Conference 11 Tournament Oct. 31, they’ll again battle Mills Godwin, whose fourth place team finish was tops among teams from the conference and the entire Central Region. Katharine Benfer led the Eagles, placing fourth individually at 18:21 while placing three runners in the top 35 overall. The Raiders, as a team, were 17th out of 28 teams.
In the Varsity “B” division, for Hanover County, Patrick Henry’s Amy Dunham stole the show. Rachel Bloxom of Grafton High ran away from the pack, winning in 19:07. But Dunham took second, finishing in 19:42. As a team, Lee-Davis finished ninth in the division, Hanover just behind in 12th. The Patriots’ team finishes (22nd in girls, 27th in boys) weren’t acceptable to their coach.
“My team, as a whole, can run a lot better than what we did. I was expecting some better performances, but several things made the weekend very busy,” noted PH head coach Jeremy Dobrinski, pointing to homecoming festivities. “The good thing is we have time to refocus our attention.”
As for Dunham, though, Dobrinski was ecstatic.
“Amy had a great race, her final time at Pole Green. She is one of our more focused student-athletes and always steps up. She’s number one in the Conference (16) and what better way to end her cross country career than with an individual championship,” Dobrinski said.
The Patriots compete in the first-ever Conference 16 Tournament Meet Oct. 30 at 2 p.m. at Panaroma Farm in Charlottesville.
Hanover placed 16th in Varsity “B” boys team competition. On the girls side, Hawks sophomore runner Laurel Kalinowski ran a personal best of 21:18 for 50th overall, finishing second on her team to Annie Sadler who placed 18th. They placed the day, and the experience, in positive perspective.
“I feel like our team can make it to states, I am very confident with my girls,” Kalinowski said. “Personally, in this race, I set a goal, telling myself, ‘do this for states, pretend this is conference.’”
The Hawks will experience the Conference 20 Tournament for real Oct. 30 at Pocahontas State Park in Chesterfield, while Atlee and Lee-Davis race at the Conference 11 Tourney Oct. 31, at Pole Green.