by Matthew Hochberg
Although there are a few more weeks before fall officially begins on the calendar, those seemingly endless days of summer have already come to a screeching halt for students. With the start of the school year now upon us, high school sports are revving up.
George Mason High School’s fall teams have either already begun regular season competition or will be starting shortly. With a fair share of Mustang teams looking to improve on their success from last season, there is much to be excited about – especially if you run cross-country.
The Mason girls’ team is already one of the most successful running groups in the state and there are no signs of letup this year. Can the fellow Mustangs catch up?
One year after winning district and conference championships, finishing as runner-ups at regionals and placing fourth in states, it is fair to say the girls’ cross country has high expectations.
“We want to finish top-two at states this season,” head coach Jeff Buck said. “The girls are very talented.”
And that might be an understatement.
Estelle Timar-Wilcox, who led the team and earned her second consecutive All-State honor last season, will be returning. The junior, along with veteran teammates Logan Funk, Linnea Skotte and Sophia Matton will be attempting to lead the club back to one of the top two spots in states, a place George Mason had been awarded eight consecutive years before last season’s fourth-place finish.
The boys’ team, meanwhile, is looking to make some noise come their postseason. “Our goal is to make it back to states as a team,” Buck said. “We have some really good seniors with great experience and a lot of depth.”
Led by senior Ryan Henderson, the lone runner to make it to states last season, the boys’ team has 10-12 runners vying for seven spots in what is expected to be a tightly contested competition throughout the year.
Henderson qualified for states by time before finishing in 66th place in 18:18, just 14 seconds off of his personal record.
Both the girls’ and boys’ first invitational is Saturday, September 10 against Handley.
After three 18-hole matches and three 9-hole matches already this year, the golf season is in full-swing for the Mustangs. Despite struggling so far, with a roster that includes just four players with previous experience in matches, head coach Chris Carrico is staying positive and is pleased by the leadership from the seasoned golfers.
“Everyone helps each other and works with each other on managing games,” he said. The older guys “are the nuts and bolts here.”
Led by junior George Gilligan, the one George Mason player to make it to regionals last year, the other experienced golfers include Jack Goggin, Nick Wells and Will Gaskins.
Gilligan, who received Second Team All-District and Second Team All-Conference awards last year, is hoping to build from his previous success for this season.
The Mustangs’ next match is Thursday, September 8 against Woodson.
Head coach Tony Green and his football team will try to carry last season’s momentum into the new year. The squad went 7-3 in the regular season before winning their first-ever playoff game in school history, capping off a memorable season.
Although the team has lost talented seniors from last year, including key four-year starters, Green is confident in the upper-classmen stepping up and showing the younger players the ropes.
“The seniors are growing into their leadership roles,” he said of the two current four-year starters and a few others. “And the younger guys are beginning to follow the lead.”
With a heavy mix of experience and youth infused into the football program, Green expects much of the success to be dependent on their chemistry. “We will be a good football team. But it also depends on how we jell”
The Mustangs opened their season with a 34-0 win against Rappahannock County High School on Friday, September 2. The home-opener is Friday, September 9 against Sidwell Friends.
With the team in just its fourth year of existence on the varsity level, head coach Amanda Crider and her players have already seen tremendous success. After finishing with a record of 15-4 last year, advancing to the conference finals and to the first round of regionals, Crider sees this season as the most exciting one yet in Mason’s young but promising field hockey future.
“It’s special,” she said of her current 4-0 squad. “Our current seniors were freshmen when we started.” Those four seniors are Manon Diaz, Maeve Donnelly, Hannah Hiscott and Korinne Wills.
Despite great records and impressive play, Crider was hesitant to reveal any sort of on-field goals. “We look for character goals. Are we growing, growing together, as a team?”
George Mason played Pope John Paul the Great Catholic on September 6, but results of the game were not available at press time.
Mason’s girls’ volleyball is coming off of a successful 14-6 season, which ended in a regionals loss against Stuarts Draft High School. One of last year’s highlight victories was an intense four-set victory over rival Clarke County in September. The team is experienced, returning four seniors and eight juniors.
The Mustangs are 1-1 so far on the regular season, with a 3-1 loss to Riverside High School to start the season on Thursday, Aug. 25 and a 3-0 win over Strasburg High School on Tuesday, Aug. 30. Their next match is today against William Monroe High School.
The cheer team has yet to begin competing in tournaments, but first-year head coach Alli Cray is still excited about the season ahead.
“We’ve just been getting geared up to start. Cheering on the football and basketball teams, including in the playoffs, was great last season,” she said.
With the football and basketball teams including varsity and junior varsity rosters, the cheerleading team has also been able to expand to two teams. Eighth graders are eligible for junior varsity, allowing younger girls to gain cheering experience before beginning high school.
Cray said she hopes the team will participate in cheer competitions in future seasons.
Coaches from the volleyball team could not be reached for comment.