Glenvar High School junior Carly Wilkes has a confession to make.
The second-ranked girls cross country runner in the Virginia High School League owns a guilty pleasure.
“I eat ice cream almost every night,” she admitted.
That’s either her favorite — a flavor called The Rivermont from Mister Goodies Homemade Ice Cream in Lynchburg — or something more pedestrian such as mint chocolate chip.
Don’t worry, the sweet tooth hasn't slowed Wilkes in the state’s cross country and track and field rankings.
Wilkes is ranked only behind Loudoun Valley’s Ava Gordon among girls runners in all six VHSL classifications and is a big favorite to win the Class 2 championship in Thursday’s state meet at Green Hill Park.
“When I watch her run, it’s such a joy,” Glenvar track and field coach Bekka Loder said.
Loder had a front-row seat in February when Wilkes led Glenvar to the Class 2 indoor track team championship by sweeping the 1,000 and 1,600 meters at Liberty University.
Wilkes’ winning time of 4 minutes, 54.33 seconds in the 1,600 led all Virginia prep runners in 2021 and it could have been faster had anyone been on her heels.
She won the event by 53 seconds.
“I told her, ‘This is all you, your goal is to pass as many girls as you can,’ ” Loder said. “It’s like plucking them off a ladder. She had nobody to push her. It’s how many can you lap?”
Wilkes has four VHSL individual titles, all indoor track with two in the 1,600 and one each in the 1,000 and 3,200.
With the spring sports canceled in 2020 by COVID-19, she lost her sophomore season outdoors, and she has unfinished business Thursday at Green Hill after placing fourth in Class 2 in 2019.
With 2019 champion Kelsey Harrington of Virginia High now competing in the ACC for North Carolina, Wilkes has the bull’s-eye on her back and she knows it.
“I’ve shocked myself this season,” she said. “I’ve always known I could get to where I’m at, but it was always a matter of time and trusting the process. Hopefully I can continue to improve.”
Wilkes already is good enough to attract major college attention.
While she does not yet have a scholarship offer, she has talked with coaches from multiple Division I programs including Furman, Virginia, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Liberty, Virginia Tech, Syracuse and Oklahoma.
Wilkes, who has run 10:35 in the 3,200 indoors, isn’t sweating it. She knows offers are forthcoming.
“Some say they’re waiting for junior mile times, but I think’s it’s just up to the coach and when they want to make an offer,” she said.
Wilkes is just thankful she’s had a chance to post some results in 2020-21.
The normal fall cross country season was pushed back to the spring, and Glenvar’s indoor track season was contested on outdoor tracks during the winter until the state meet.
The Highlanders were not even cleared to compete in the state meet until an 11th-hour decision by the Roanoke County School Board.
“The first thing I was worried about was when they were saying we were going to have to run with masks on,” Wilkes said. “That was going to be a challenge.
“And I was worried they weren’t going to let us compete, especially having trained all season for that. It was concerning, but I had a feeling they were going to allow us to do it.”
Wilkes stayed fit by training on her own in the fall. She competed unattached in several meets and set a course record with a personal-best 17:26 in the Pole Green Spring Championships in Mechanicsville earlier this year.
She also kept busy by helping Glenvar’s girls swim and dive team win a Class 2 title as she swam a leg on the winning 400-yard freestyle relay and placed in two individual events.
Wilkes was more than ready to roll into cross country season coming out of the winter.
“She went out there and put in a little more speed work for indoor, then going into cross country it highly benefited her,” Loder said. “Sometimes when you do the same thing over and over you do improve, but sometimes when you change it up you’re like ‘Whoa, this works.’ ”
Glenvar track coach Amanda Wade is good at multitasking. She did her student teaching in Roanoke County and helped coach track while finishing her degree at Radford University.
Wade is not taking credit for Wilkes’ ascension to the top in VHSL running circles.
“She basically trained herself,” Wade said. “She was doing distance running, speed workouts, cross training. She was prepared for indoor and cross country, if that’s possible.”
The last 14 months have been challenging for high school athletes academically and socially.
Wilkes attended school in person twice a week during the fall and has been going four days per week in the second semester.
“It allowed some more flexibility,” she said. “It was a little stressful trying to keep up with everything and stay on some sort of schedule.
“I was able to run in the mornings. It was kind of nice, but I enjoy being with the team.”
Wilkes, who wears a VHSL championship ring on her right index finger from the 1,600 relay she anchored at the indoor meet in February, is on her own Thursday, looking to add another championship ring to her jewelry box.
“She’s got a mindset,” Loder said. “She’s got the next two years. She’s got goals and she’s ready to check each of them off.”