Cross country runners train to run their best race as individuals and to get top places at the finish line to benefit their teams’ score. At the Virginia High School League State Meet last Saturday, George Mason High School runners were able to do both. Many athletes ran their personal best, and both teams were second in the state in the 2A group.
The girls took the starting line first, and headed off across the open field toward the tree line in what’s become a typical grouping: Blaise Sevier working with Kaitlin Kutchma and Grace Eye, and Mia Sawyer, Brooke Meinhart, Coral Gillette, and Lauren Meinhart pacing together just behind.
By the one-mile mark, Sevier moved up into the top 20 runners, and Kutchma and Eye ran strong about 20 runners back. With less than half a mile to go in the 3.1-mile course, Sawyer and Brooke Meinhart ran together, with Lauren Meinhart gaining ground and Gillette still passing for place.
The Mason girls ran hard to achieve the best possible place for team points. Sevier was eighth overall (19:52), taking another trip to the podium for recognition of the top 15 runners statewide. Kutchma was a minute behind in 22nd place (20:51) and Eye came in 32nd (21:16). Sawyer was on her heels (35th at 21:21) with Brooke Meinhart two strides back (37th at 21:29). Next in for the Mustangs was Lauren Meinhart in 45th (21:48) and Gillette in 52nd (22:12).
Off of the line, senior Truman Custer paired with junior Jackson Jost, with senior John Marshall off their shoulder. Custer and Jost ran well together throughout, spurring each other on to outstanding runs. Jost passed Custer at the wire to finish first for Mason in 17:07, 17th overall. Custer was inches behind in 18th (17:08).
The second group, 50 feet back at the start, ran a smart race sticking to their pace and picking off runners one by one. Seniors Austin Gogal, Preston Custer, and David Drawbaugh, and junior James Pala ran together through the one-mile mark. By the mid-way point of the race, Custer and Gogal started to move up.
Just past the two-mile mark, Custer passed Marshall to go on to his best finish of the season, third for the team in 34th (17:42), and Gogal sprinted into fourth in the last 100 feet for 35th (17:45). Marshall finished 44th (17:50) for place to edge out Floyd County. Drawbaugh, back from an illness that kept him out of Regionals, ran well and was 57th (18:18). The seventh man in for Mason was Junior Pala in 62nd (18:21).
A team score of 90 points for the Mustang girls placed them second behind the strong Maggie Walker Governor’s School team (23 points), and ahead of Floyd County High School with 99 points and Grayson County High School with 119 points.
The boys score of 118 just edged out Floyd County’s 123. The Mustang boys were second behind a record-breaking Maggie Walker team that had a course-low team point total of 21. Mason’s district rival, Strasburg High School, came in fourth with 135.
The new VHSL 2A group that competed last Saturday was made up of six teams of seven runners from the “East” region including Mason, and six teams from the “West.” There were also close to a dozen individual runners in each race who had qualified by time to compete at the state meet.