Both George Mason High School’s boys and girls varsity cross country teams brought home hardware from the Bull Run District Meet at Rappahannock County High School on Wednesday. Hat and gloves were everywhere as wind and cold temperatures greeted hundreds of runners at the meet, but the weather did nothing to slow the Mason runners. The varsity boys placed first and the varsity girls placed second on a hilly course at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Mason got a good position off of the start in the boys race, the first of the afternoon. A group of three Mason runners were in the front pack, followed closely by the other four boys working together, steadily gaining ground.
Truman Custer led early, followed by Jackson Jost and John Marshall. The lead changed on the second hill, with Jost emerging from the woods on a long downhill run at the front of the pack. Jost finished first for Mason and third overall in a time of 17:29. Custer was in next for the Mustangs in fifth place at 17:36, followed by Marshall in 11th at 17:58. David Drawbaugh (15th at 18:13), Preston Custer (16th at 18:16) and Austin Gogal (17th at 18:19) were close behind. Julian Grippo finished in 30th place at 18:51.
The varsity girls race, the next of the event, saw the Mustangs competing without lead runner Blaise Sevier, who withdrew after warm-ups due to a recurring injury. But still Mason came out strong.
Kaitlin Kutchma and Grace Eye worked hard constantly through the race to improve position. Brooke Meinhart was at the back of the Mason pack at the start, but moved up steadily over the first mile to gain ground and be in third place for the team by the top of a long uphill at mile one.
Kutchma was first in for Mason and sixth overall with a time of 20:58. Eye finished next, 10th overall at 21:11, and Meinhart was 14th at 21:25. Three more freshmen ran well and finished down the final stretch to loud teammate and fan support: Coral Gillette (21:55), Mia Sawyer (22:02) and Anna Sawyer (23:03).
The depth and strength of the Mason teams were clear in the developmental race that followed. Runners not in the top seven for the varsity race were entered in this third and final race of the day, with boys and girls running together.
Mason boys took the top five places, with 12 finishing in the top 20. Breaking out the girls from the pack for scoring purposes, Mason had nine runners placing in the top 20 girl finishers, including first through seventh place.
Paul Sanders was first to finish the race, crossing the line at 18:39. James Pala was second at 18:42, Beamlak Hailemariam was third at 18:44), Justin Divecha was fourth at 19:00, and Kiran Menon was fifth at 19:06.
After a small break, the “red” jerseys kept coming: Andrew Hokaj (eighth at 19:31), Noah Saberhagen (10th at 19:40), David Matz (14th at 19:51), Nathan Sese (16th at 20:06), Charlie Field (18th at 20:07) and Ryan Calabrese (19th at 20:09) were all in the top 20.
Jockeying for position among the boy runners, the girls did well, with eighth-graders Logan Funk in first place (21:01) and Estelle Timar-Wilcox in second (21:08). Senior Lauren Meinhart was third (22:21), Lucy Hoak fourth (22:48), Emma Smith fifth (22:50), Julia Ferris sixth (23:27), and Megan Jenkins seventh (23:33), capping off a great sweep of Mason runners. Sarah Coppock in 12th place at 24:16) and Emma Hannan in 13th place at 24:25 made for a total of nine girls in the top 20.
The Bull Run District Championship trophy was awarded to the Mason boys. Mason had 50 points to Strasburg High School’s 62. Central-Woodstock followed with 78, then Warren County with 120.
The girls placed second with 74 points behind Central-Woodstock with 66. Strasburg had 85 and Warren County had 100.
The Bull Run District is in a transitional stage with the realignment of the VHSL and the meet was a chance to maintain and revisit long-standing rivalries. The chance to advance in post-season will be determined by the results at next week’s Conference Meet at New Market Battlefield on Wednesday, Oct. 30.