William & Mary men’s and women’s cross country teams both had confidence builders last Friday, winning the CNU XC Regional Preview races on Christopher Newport University’s home cross country course at Lee Hall. The meet attracted 23 teams and 334 runners, from Division 1 to D-III, and will be used later this season for the NCAA D3 Regional Cross Country Championships.
It will be the closest thing the Tribe cross country team has to a home meet this year, as the standard Eastern State Hospital course, used for decades, will not be permitted this year for high school or collegiate cross country meets. A sinkhole and road collapse developed in February on the road going to the race start and finish lines, and to the picnic pavilion. ESH authorities stated that no events will be allowed until VDOT repairs the road, which is a low priority since the damage is on a mostly unused part of the ESH campus.
Besides being a great tune-up for the upcoming invitational, CAA and NCAA regional cross country meets, the race was a validation for many of the W&M men’s runners, who redshirted last fall by running a number of Colonial Road Runners Grand Prix races, to prove their fitness and therefore to be invited to join the team.
They did, and are amongst the Tribe’s leading distance runners. It was also a continuation of the recovery from the problems of a few years back when former W&M athletic director Samantha Huge threatened to drop the men’s indoor and outdoor track programs, along with a number of other sports, hurting the recruiting process for all those teams. And it was a reunion of sorts for many of the top local high school cross country grads, who have moved on to college competition.
The men had a serious challenge from Lynchburg University, a nationally-ranked D-III program, but still prevailed by 35 points to 46. Far back among the 20 teams that scored with at least five runners were VCU (93), host CNU, tied with Washington and Lee (135 each), and Catholic (172) in the top six. Mary Washington was eighth (219), Virginia Wesleyan 11th (342) and Hampton 12th (378).
For the women, W&M dominated, coming within 1.5 seconds of a perfect 15-point score, and taking the top four individual places. W&M scored 16 points, followed by Lynchburg (54), Washington and Lee (98), VCU (156) and CNU (167) in the top five. Other area schools were Hampton in ninth (243), and Virginia Wesleyan in 14th (382), among the 17 schools that fielded a full team.
The top four women were Catherine Garrison (21:48.0 for the 6,000-meter course), Arianna DeBoer (22:06.9), Sofia Istnick (22:17.8) and Lucy Young (22:18.6). Jennifer Tsai just missed fifth place, 22:34.0 to 22:35.4, to a Lynchburg runner. The remainder of the W&M women’s team were Tessa Dobrinski (seventh, 22:45.4), Caroline Jones (11th, 23:00.7), Annika Griggs (13th, 23:06.9), Kelly Ann Sutterfield (21st, 23:45.1), Lillian Stephens (25th, 23:58.6), Emily Morris (26th, 23:59.4), Anna Cestari (38th, 24:43.5), Emily Graves (62nd, 25:40.4), and Megan Dougherty (70th, 25:57.7). There were 165 official finishers.
The men ran an 8,000-meter course, and a national-class Lynchburg runner, Frank Csorba ran a very impressive 24:16.7 for his comfortable 19-second win. W&M took three of the next four places, with Tyler Lipps second (24:35.5), Jacob Jones fourth (24:38.3), and Samuel Pritchard fifth (24:41.7), all well below five-minute mile pace. The remainder of the W&M men’s team were Nate Jennings (10th, 25:13.4), Luke Henkel (14th, 25:27.1), Stephen Larson (15th, 25:29.2), T.J. Corliss (21st, 25:37.2), Luke Ellwood (31st, 25:58.4), and Owen Lipps (52nd, 26:45.2). There were 166 official men’s finishers. William & Mary’s Tyler Lipps and Garrison were recently named the CAA Runners of the Week.
Many familiar names from Williamsburg area high schools were amongst those finishers. Jamestown High grad John Vogel, who started at Virginia Tech, but transferred to CNU (where he ran a 4:08 mile this spring) was 34th in 26:01.8. W&M student Max Stayton ran unattached and was 41st (26:17.5). Luke Tompkins, son of Jamestown coach Mark Tompkins, was 62nd for CNU in 27:08.9. Jamestown grad Rylan Flint, who ran two years for the University of Maryland, ran unattached and was 65th in 27:20.7.
Bruton High grad Jacob Lohr, running for Mary Washington, was 67th (27:31.6), and Walsingham Academy grad Michael Dye, also on the Mary Washington team, was 99th in 29:29.1. Two Southside runners, who have run numerous CRR races, were Draven Fernandez (who holds the all-time CRR 10K record for men 15-19 with a time of 33:14 and was coached by the CRR’s Roger Hopper at Salem High) was 29th in 25:53.0, running for Lynchburg. And Cooper Hurst, a Western Branch High star, was 35th in 26:03.2, also for Lynchburg.
The W&M runners were frequent competitors in CRR races from October through December last year. At the Weighted Angels 5K in early October on the Billsburg 5K course, Ellwood was third overall in 15:20, just six seconds behind seven-time CRR Grand Prix champion Roger Hopper, who PR’d that race. Henkel that race ran 16:12, Stayton 16:30, and Owen Lipps 16:39. At the Grove Trotter Chickahominy River Bridge Run 10K two weeks later, Ellwood was second overall to Hopper, 32:10 to 32:38, Joseph Taylor (on the W&M cross country roster this fall, but who did not run the CNU meet) was third at 33:31, and Owen Lipps ran 35:55.
At the Governor’s Land 5K in November, CNU’s Vogel was second overall to Hopper, 15:34 to 15:48, and Henkel was out-kicked by the CRR’s Adam Otstot, 16:04 to 16:05. Several weeks later, Rylan Flint was fifth overall at the Busch Gardens Christmas Town Dash 8K in 26:59. And finally, at the mid-December Jingle Jog 5K, also from Billsburg, but utilizing the Capital Trail course, W&M head coach Forest Braden won in 16:09, with Stayton third overall in 16:25.
While going over the CNU results, former Salem High coach Hopper (who retired this fall from coaching, to spend more time on his serious running career, with mileage as high as 150 miles per week), emailed, “Not a lot of Southside women to speak of, most of the fastest are from the Richmond area, especially the top W&M women. Men, though, is another story, Southside showing up! Tyler Lipps, second place in 24:35.5, is an Ocean Lakes ‘19 grad who ran 4:17 [1,600 meters] in high school. Luke Henkel, 14th in 25:27.1, is a Princess Anne ‘21 grad who ran 4:33 and 2:00 in high school. A few other Southsiders filed in after Draven [Fernandez], including Cooper Hurst, Western Branch ‘21 and Owen Lipps, Ocean Lakes ‘21.” Hurst holds the CRR’s Powhatan Creek Trail 5K age group record for men 15-19 with a time of 16:43 from 2020.
Tabb High coach Emily Honeycutt (a 4-time CRR Grand Prix champion) emailed that Poquoson High grad Libbey Miles ran for CNU, and is Steve Kast’s stepdaughter [Kast is one of the CRR’s top age graded runners, and will be the featured speaker at the CRR’s October club meeting], and that Tabb High grad Dawn Forest ran for Hollins. And finally that Lafayette High grad Ryan Koval ran for Virginia Wesleyan. Another Lafayette grad, Chris Smith, was in attendance with his VCU teammates, but did not compete at CNU. Koval was 93rd for the men in 29:11.7. Miles was 93rd for the CNU women in 27:26.4, and Forest was 131st for Hollins in 30:40.0.
Rick Platt is president of Colonial Road Runners.