Both the Mason boys and girls cross-country squads were the top teams at the Conference 35 championship meet last Wednesday at New Market Battlefield.
Not only did both teams bring home first-place trophies, but both teams had all seven of their runners place among the top 20 finishers. The boys team had five runners who took home All-Conference medals for being among the top 15 finishers in their race, and the girls did them one better with six All-Conference runners.
The boys team was the first to run last Wednesday. Familiar with the slightly longer than standard 5K course from an invitational meet earlier in the season, the team started up the first long climb at a steady clip.
Truman Custer, Jackson Jost, and John Marshall worked together, passing other runners until they were all in the top 10 by the halfway point. Custer led at several points during the race, and finished second overall at 18:20, less than four seconds behind the lead runner. Jost came in fourth (18:45) with a strong sprint uphill to the finish. Third in for Mason, ninth overall, was Marshall (19:24) with a surging David Drawbaugh close on his heels (10th at 19:28). Preston Custer conquered the hilly course that had challenged him in September to finish in 13th at 19:38. James Pala (17th at 19:56) and Beamlak Hailemariam (19th at 20:05) consistently moved up through the pack of 50 runners to secure their place in the top 20.
The girls team raced next and let the other teams’ sprinters take the first hill, then efficiently picked them off one by one. Blaise Sevier was leading before the mile mark and never let up. She finished first with a time of 21:26, three seconds ahead of the host Stonewall Jackson’s top runner who challenged constantly on her home course. Grace Eye worked with Sevier through the first half then had to find her own pace, running alone to a strong third-place finish at 22:16. Running well throughout, Kaitlin Kutchma was close behind (fifth at 22:24), followed by Brooke Meinhart (seventh at 22:50). Coral Gillette (23:15) and Mia Sawyer (23:26) also took All-Conference medals home with their 11th- and 14th-place finishes. Lauren Meinhart raced well (19th at 23:48) to complete the meet with all Mason girls runners finishing in the top 20.
The Mason boys team had 36 points, to Strasburg High School’s 46. Clarke County High School finished third with 75 points, and Madison County High School was fourth with 115.
The Mason girls team was more dominant, finishing with an impressive 27 points ahead of Strasburg’s 83, with Clarke at 91 points and Madison County at 115.
With the VHSL realignment, the new Conference 35 is made up of eight schools from Bull Run and Shenandoah districts. These top four teams advance to the regional meet Wednesday, along with the top four schools from 2A East schools in Conferences 33, 34, and 36.