Franklin County cross-country runner Nathan Atchue sports flowing brown locks.
Good thing too.
He won the Knights Crossing Invitational by a hair.
Atchue highlighted Saturday’s meet at Green Hill Park by nipping Conner Wingfield of Daniel Boone High in Tennessee at the finish line to win the boys Red Division by three-tenths of a second.
The Franklin County junior’s last-ditch sprint gave him a time of 15 minutes, 13.2 seconds. Wingfield was a tick behind in 15:13.5.
“I just gave it everything I had at the end,” Atchue said. “I heard everyone saying he was on my shoulder. I kept looking at the shadows to see him. I saw [a shadow] come up and then I just finished with all I could.
“It was really close. He passed me for a little. Then I passed him back. I think I might have had him by a little bit.”
Wingfield lost the battle but won the war.
With Levi Streevil finishing third, Daniel Boone put four runners inside the top 14 and won the team championship with 67 points.
Blacksburg placed second at 104. Reigning VHSL Class 4 champ Jefferson Forest, led by the fourth-place effort of Brannon Adams, finished fifth.
The boys Red race included 315 runners. Atchue made sure he got out fast.
“My goal was just to stay up front with the leaders and keep going after that,” he said.
The Franklin County flash said he came to Roanoke County with the intention of taking the title.
“I did,” he said. “I was going for the win.”
Glenvar senior Carly Wilkes had no drama at the finish line.
The 2020 Virginia Gatorade girls runner of the year and reigning Class 2 state champion cruised to the title in 18:07.3.
Jefferson Forest sophomore Zoie Lamanna finished second in 18:32.5.
“I’m really training to peak at the end of the season for Foot Locker Nationals, so in these races throughout the season, I’m trying to work on different things,” said Wilkes, who has committed to Furman University.
“Today, the goal was to kind of stay with the front pack and then pull away at the last mile. I wish it had gone out a little bit quicker, because I was expecting to get a little bit better time.”
While Lamanna wasn’t close to Wilkes at the line, she and the Glenvar standout have become close friends after running together in several unattached meets.
“We kind of formed a little warmup group,” Lamanna said. “She’s so inspiring. I look up to her so much. Just to be able hang with her for a little bit of the race was amazing.
“I know she was taking it easy on me for the first 2 miles but when she went, I was like, ‘There she goes.’”
Lamanna edged Autumn Headrick of Dobyns-Bennett High in Kingsport, Tennessee, by two seconds for the runner-up spot. Blacksburg’s Reese Bradbury was fourth.
“I’m very happy,” Lamanna said. “I surprised myself today.”
Lamanna’s JF teammates were all smiles too. The Cavaliers took the girls championship with 90 points. Blacksburg was second at 107.
“We’re trying to do some of the things we did last year on the guys side this year on the girls side, and we’re off to a good start,” Jefferson Forest coach Colby Delbene said.
Alleghany’s girls won the Black Division team title with 87 points to 116 for second-place Floyd County.
The Alleghany boys, who won the Class 2 championship last season, placed second behind Union in the Black Division.
Alleghany’s Gabe Miller (17:12.1) and North Cross’ Kerrigan Chaney (19:52.7) won the Black Division individual titles.
Contact Robert Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 981-3123