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CROSS COUNTRY

Atchue, Rutherford, Lamanna join Blacksburg teams as state cross country champs

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Timesland runners hauled in two team titles and three individual crowns at the Class 4 and Class 6 state cross country championships Saturday in Leesburg.

Blacksburg High School swept the boys and girls team titles at the Class 4 meet.

“Very, very excited and thankful,” Blacksburg coach Stephen Howard said in a phone interview. “This group of kids, … they’re the hardest-working group that I’ve ever encountered.”

Blacksburg senior Conner Rutherford won the Class 4 boys individual title, with Jefferson Forest junior Zoie Lamanna winning on the girls side.

“I’m extremely happy that both me and my team can share this honor,” Rutherford said. “We’re living it up on the bus on the way home.”

“Really surreal,” Lamanna said of her title. “It’s super exciting. … It’s been my goal since the beginning of the summer, so I’m glad to finally get that.”

Franklin County senior and Tennessee signee Nathan Atchue won the Class 6 boys individual crown.

“It’s been four years in the making, so I was happy to finally get it,” Atchue said.

Atchue became the first Timesland runner to win an individual state cross country championship in the VHSL’s largest enrollment division since Cave Spring’s David Garlow won the Group AAA title in 1980.

Atchue had a time of 15 minutes, 43 seconds on the 5K course at Oatlands Plantation. Isaac Garcia of South County was second (15:46).

“I had a kick down the final stretch that probably gave me the win,” Atchue said. “He was behind me for a lot of the race, but I heard everyone saying, ‘He’s gaining on you,’ so I just started sprinting.”

Atchue took fourth at the Class 6 cross country meet as a junior. He won the Class 6 crown in the 1,600 meters in indoor track and won the Class 6 titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 in outdoor track that year.

He verbally committed to Tennessee in September and signed with the Volunteers on Wednesday. He said he will have partial athletic and academic scholarships.

W.T. Woodson won the Class 6 boys team title Saturday, with Franklin County last out of the 12 teams. West Springfield won on the girls side.

Blacksburg won the Class 4 boys team title with 64 points. Handley was second with 71 points, while Western Albemarle was third with 75. Jefferson Forest was fifth.

It was the first boys state cross country team crown for the Bruins since Blacksburg won the Group AA title in 2012.

“They wanted it really, really badly,” Howard said.

Rutherford became the first Blacksburg boy to win a state individual cross country title since Nick Link in 2012.

Rutherford finished fourth at last year’s Class 4 cross country meet. He was the Class 4 champ in the 1,600 in outdoor track that year.

He had a time of 15:46 on Saturday.

“Going into the race, I was quite nervous,” Rutherford said.

Jefferson Forest junior Alex Jordan was second in 15:56.

“I was closing in,” Jordan said. “Couldn’t get first, but it’s all good. You’ve just got to use it as motivation for next year.”

“I was a little shocked … when I heard everybody cheering for Alex,” Rutherford said. “[I knew] I’ve got to keep pushing.”

Blacksburg’s Jonas Roach was ninth (16:43), while teammate Zach Davis was 10th (16:45). Blacksburg’s Harrison Whitfield and Henry Strahm were 23rd and 29th, respectively.

Blacksburg won the Class 4 girls team title for the first time since 2017. The Bruins had finished second the past four seasons.

“They were determined,” Howard said.

The Bruins had 101 points. Atlee was second with 105 points, while Tuscarora was third with 110 points. Jefferson Forest was sixth.

Lamanna won the race with a time of 18:44 on the 5K course. Cassidy Scott of Fauquier was second (19:06.)

“I didn’t think I was going to have too much of a kick left, but coming down the last hill, I felt really good,” Lamanna said.

Lamanna was fourth at last year’s Class 4 cross country meet. She won the Class 4 title in the 1,000 meters in indoor track that year.

Blacksburg’s Reese Bradbury was 10th (19:58) in Saturday’s race, while teammate Allie McDonald was 22nd. Blacksburg’s Ruby Griggs, Tess Dickhans and Mia Farley were 29th through 31st, respectively.

Glen Allen won the Class 5 boys team title, with Deep Run winning the girls title.

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Mark Berman covers Virginia Tech men’s basketball and many other teams at the university. He also helps cover other colleges, including Radford, VMI, Roanoke, Washington and Lee and Ferrum.

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