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Glenvar's Carly Wilkes, Franklin County's Nathan Atchue take Metro cross country titles

Glenvar's Carly Wilkes, Franklin County's Nathan Atchue take Metro cross country titles

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BLACKSBURG — After taking a break from competition due to some nagging injuries, Glenvar’s Carly Wilkes looks to be rounding back into shape for another run at a state title.

Wilkes, the defending Class 2 state individual champ, took the top spot at the Metro Cross Country Championship on Wednesday afternoon at Blacksburg High School with a winning time of 19:43

Wilkes just ran her first meet back on Saturday after taking time off to deal with a hip injury. A few days later on Wednesday, it looked like the Glenvar senior had knocked off any rust as she finished just under eight seconds ahead of runner-up Jessica Palisca of Cave Spring.

“My plan was us to use today’s race as a warmup and stay with whoever was in first until the last loop,” Wilkes said. “It worked out, but it was more challenging than I thought it would be.”

The senior admitted afterward that she was reminded how difficult the Blacksburg course was as she went through the race. She was denied an opportunity to run at Blacksburg last spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s been two years since I ran here. It’s very hilly and there’s not too many flat spots. You’re always either going up or down,” Wilkes said.

On the boys’ side, Franklin County junior Nathan Atchue stuck to his pre-race strategy, and it paid dividends as he won the individual title in a time of 16:48.

Atchue, who won the Knights Crossing Invitational last month, crossed the finish line ahead of Blacksburg’s Jonathan Goerlich and Conner Rutherford. Goerlich finished in 17:04 while Rutherford came in at 17:07. Atchue’s plan from the start was to stay with the Blacksburg pair until they made a move.

“We heard that the Blacksburg pair was going to stay up front for the first 2 miles and then push it the last mile. So that’s what I did,” Atchue said. “It was a good race.”

Even though Goerlich and Rutherford were each denied the individual title, they helped Blacksburg take the team title. The Bruins finished with 41 points, edging out Franklin County (60).

Rounding out the top five in the boys race were Lord Botetourt’s Evan Gates in fourth and Glenvar’s Daniel Zearfoss in fifth.

Blacksburg was able to sweep the team titles as the Bruins also claimed the girls crown, with Blacksburg runners claiming five of the top 15 spots.

Reese Bradbury was the top Blacksburg girl coming in third at 19:56. Also in the top 15 for the Bruins were Mia Jones (fifth), Allie McDonald (ninth), Kirsten Woods (14th) and Norah Griggs (15th).

Blacksburg’s final score was 46, well ahead of runner-up Lord Botetourt’s 100 points.

Kylie Cooper finished fourth to lead Franklin County, which placed third with 130 points.

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