The VHSL State Championships got off to an auspicious start thanks to a pair of its youngest competitors.
George Wythe freshman Morgan Dalton blazed past the rest of the Class 1 girls' field to earn her first major meet win. With a time of 19:08, Dalton, who had never competed at Great Meadow, put her name in the state record book.
However, she was not the only super frosh to make a name for herself over the well-groomed (for the early racers) terrain of the 5,000-meter Great Meadow course. Coming in second was Kensey May of Perry McCluer, another newcomer to the Meadow, and possibly Dalton's only true rival to date as the pair have squared off at various meets in the southwest region of the state.
"We've raced each other three times," said Dalton, while reconstructing the race underneath the champions' tower just minutes after the awards ceremony. "We raced at Knights Crossing," continued the newly crowned state champ, recalling the lone time out of the three she defeated May with a 4.7 second advantage (19:16.8 - 19:21.5) for seventh place in the Red Division.
Dalton's plan was simple. "I wanted to go out fast, take the lead and hold on to it." In spite of not having experience against most of her competitors, the plebe followed through with her bold approach, leading wire-to-wire and finding herself with a comfortable cushion heading into the homestretch.
This led to a new wrinkle in the Maroon runner's plan. "I was scared at the end," confessed Dalton. Asked how she dealt with her newfound fear, the youngster turned to her two most potent weapons - her legs. "I just sprinted at the end." May finished second in 19:28, and was followed by Catherine Grossman of Patrick Henry in 20:03.
Despite living in one of the most rural counties in Virginia, Dalton has been blessed by the opportunity to compete in middle school cross-country, so she is no stranger to terrain running. "I started cross-country in sixth grade," adding that she has thrown in the occasional 5K road race.
Yet Dalton is no one-trick pony, and Friday was her last cross-country race of the season. There will be no Foot Locker entry on its way to North Carolina. Why? "I've started swim season. I swim with our high school team and for a club." Asked if her specialty is in the distance swims, Dalton exclaimed, "Oh NO!" and followed with a laugh. "I swim almost everything, but my best events are the 200 (meter) backstroke and 400 IM (individual medley).
Auburn, led by the one-two punch of Anna Kuchan and Caitlin Dominy, who finished seventh and eighth, won the team championship with 59 points. The Perry McClure girls placed second.