Photo by John Herzog
While Gloucester junior Hannah Varnell won the Peninsula District title as expected in a stellar time of 18:19 at the Newport News Park 5K course, there was a new name to take notice of right behind her in second place at 18:20 with Hampton sophomore Kristina Woodard. Woodard, who actually defeated Varnell last year to finish second at the district meet in 19:10 and qualified for the state meet as a freshmen out of the Eastern Region, still has been very much under the radar compared to the likes of Tallwood's Octavia Rinehardt and Gloucester's Hannah Varnell.
It was a great race between the two as Varnell came in as the better known racer with her AAU Junior Nats title as well as solid solid showings in invitationals across the state. Meanwhile, Woodard did not run track and had not appeared in any invitational results this season. However, she did clock a 18:38 performance at Newport News Park in a Wednesday this month. Varnell had won the Newport News Invite in early September in 18:43 to set up a great duel. They ended up gapping the field on Thursday at the district race with nearly two minutes going by after they finished before Bethel's Arianna Betts came through the finish in third place at 20:08.
The two will be facing off again at the Eastern Region Meet next Thursday at Bells Mill Park as the top two finishers at the Peninsula District will be some of favorite Rinehardt's toughest challengers. Both are potential All-State finishers as well in the event they move on from the regional meet.
The Gloucester girls repeated as district team champions with the Bethel girls settling for runner-up for a second year in a row. The Lady Dukes had four of the top seven finishers in the district with champion Varnell, freshmen Elisabeth Drake (5th, 20:58), senior Samantha Drake (6th, 21:22), and junior Danielle Martin (7th, 21:23) for a team score of 39 points.
It was a good day overall for the Gloucester team as they swept the team titles for a second consecutive year as well with the boys withstanding challenges by Menchville (2nd, 46 pts) and Kecoughtan (3rd, 54 pts) for another Peninsula District crown with 35 points. Gloucester senior Doug Fenstermacher, a returning All-State cross country performer in AAA, easily cruised to become a two-time Peninsula District time with 31 second gap between himself and runner-up Orlando Burton of Heritage (16:30). Gloucester had four other runners earn All-District honors with Ryan Purrington (6th, 17:16), Ryan Speray (7th, 17:18), Ben Lothian (11th, 17:45), and Chad Anglin (14th, 18:00).
Last year, the Gloucester boys qualified for the state meet, but it may be the Lady Dukes this year that stand the best shot next week at finishing in the top four. At the Chesapeake Invite in late September on the home course for the Eastern Region Meet, the Gloucester girls finished fourth against virtually all of the best teams in the region.