Cross Country Team Ninth in State
The Collegiate boys cross country team closed out its season on Friday, racing to a ninth place finish at the state meet at Woodberry Forest.
“This year the team made a solid impact at state,” Coach Rob Tupper said. “The runners put in a hundred-and-one percent effort on that course and had nothing left when they finished.”
Steve Turack and Chad Hengesbach led the way for the Oaks, who nailed down the ninth spot in a field of 29 schools in Division 2 at the Virginia Independent Schools State Championships.
“The Division II teams were faster in some cases than Division I, including the top two runners overall,” said Coach Tupper, who was assisted this season by Latin teacher Mr. Richard White, as well as recent Collegiate graduates Devin Tupper and Ian Woodhouse, from the Class of 2011.
Steve Turack finished 38th overall in the field of 282 runners, running a 19:11 over the tough five-kilometer (3.1 mile) course. Chad Hengesbach, who battled pneumonia and knee troubles all season, took 56th in a time of 19:40.
Connor Hopkins (19:47) was close behind in 64th place, while David Baldwin (20:00) finished 73rd and Rex Zhang (20:40), in 112th place, rounded out the scoring.
Chandler Branton (21:43) and Harrison Fuller (21:44), making their state debuts, finished 148th and 151st respectively.
“As a team they ran fast,” Coach Tupper said. “Their form was good and they all had a solid finish.
“Coming into the finish, each of them pushed the limits and held people off or passed runners. As a coach, you can not ask for anything more, it was very impressive what they did at state.”
Natalie Batzel – who finished 17th at state a year ago in the girls race – was unable to compete due to a lingering calf problem, while on the boys side, freshman Frankie White, the Oaks No. 5 runner for much of the season – was sidelined by illness, and senior Jakob Gray was forced to scratch from the race due to injury.
It was the fourth straight season – and eighth time in nine years – that the Oaks cracked the Top Ten in the team race.
Veritas won the title for a third consecutive year, while TCIS schools Peninsula Catholic and Walsingham, for their part, finished second and third overall in the team race.
The Oaks bid farewell to the senior quartet of Steve Turack, Connor Hopkins, David Baldwin and Jakob Gray, who played key roles on Collegiate squads that finished eighth, sixth, fifth and ninth statewide over the last four years.
“This senior group of runners was very giving of themselves to the younger members of the team – real mentors,” Coach Tupper said. “It did not matter if there was one year or five years that separated them.
“During practices or at the meets, these seniors made everyone feel like family and really encouraged them to succeed and develop. The runners are normally a real tight group and take care of each other, but this group took it to the next level and looked out for each other all the time and was very inclusive.”
The seniors will be difficult to replace, but there’s every reason for optimism about the future.
“Next year with returning runners like Rex Zhang, Chad Hengesbach, Frankie White, Harrison Fuller, Chandler Branton and Chas LeHew to lead the way we should be very solid,” Coach Tupper said.
“We will, of course, need to do an active recruitment to deepen the lineup but I feel that with this talent and what they learned this season, these runners will carry the team into another successful year.”