Shivering in a frigid byway just next to the winners pedestal at Great Meadow, Deep Run's Lily Snow tried to explain the strategy that propelled her to victory in the girls' 5A VHSL state championship.
It wasn't easy. Even after two walkups to the big stage, first with the top 15 finishers, and then with her fellow runners to collect the team runner-up plaque, there was not enough warmth generated from the movement to hide one simple fact. She was cold. However, Snow was ready to talk about her part in a historic day that saw Deep Run claim the girls' and boys' individual Class 5 championships.
"It's crazy! I can't even believe it," exclaimed the Wildcat senior.
Indeed, there was no guarantee of a state championship for Snow, even as the frontrunners headed for the final straightaway. The three-way battle between Snow, Ellie Desmond of Broad Run and Atlee's Cabell Franklin turned into a duel as Snow and Desmond battled it out over the final 150 meters.
"I just put it all out there," said Snow. "I got ahead and then she passed me with 100 (meters) to go." Pausing, she collected her thoughts and added, "I just decided to go. I made a move and passed her back." With a final surge, she went on to edge Desmond and finish in 18:51, just three seconds ahead of the Spartan. Franklin was third in 19:01.
Tuscarora, buoyed by the seventh place effort of Ava Hassebrock (19:18), won the team crown with a team low score of 79 points. Katie West (20:05), Amber Douglas (20:28), Emma Hunt (20:31) and Sarah Gould (20:39) rounded out the Huskies top-five. All finished among the top 35 finishers, but with 12 individual runners in the mix, Tusky garnered a 4-14-17-21-23 team tally for the win.
The most exciting finish of the two-day meet came in the 5A boys' race. Colby Burcham of Deep Run, trailing Gloucester's Joshua Shackelford by 15 meters with 100 to go, made up the difference, and on his final stride, leaned past the Duke to break the tape first. Both runners were credited with an identical clocking of 16:08, and the meet timers had to go back to the video to make sure who crossed first.
Reflecting on his spectacular finish, the bespectacled Burcham was analytical when describing his feeling as he entered the final straight.
"He (Shacklelord) looked like he was 10 or 15 meters ahead. He looked a little tight and might have thought he had it." In spite of his furious kick, Burcham didn't know if the effort would be good enough. "I didn't know if I was going to get him. It couldn't have been any closer."
Shackle ford was equally heroic in his ability to accept defeat as the Gloucester senior had tried to make his statement move earlier. Minutes after the race, he told Milestat photographer Mary Ann Magnant, "when I got to the second hill, I felt my legs start to go. I was trying to hang on."
The strength of Burcham's win lifted Deep Run to the team title, as the Wildcats scored 81 points to edge Glen Allen (83) and Albemarle (86).
Deep Run coach Drew Spicer, asked about the future of his squads after their best state finishes ever, retained optimism for the future.
"Our girls are young. We're going to miss Lily, not just because she's a great runner, but she is also a great leader, and the reason why the girls are here. We have some upperclassmen guys coming back and if we can get a few more on both teams and they improve, we'll be back." Pausing and then laughing, Spicer added, "I don't know if we can do this again."
Jacob Plummer (16:20) and Brendan Taylor (16:24) placed third and fourth in the boys' race for L.C. Bird, who placed fourth. Paul Sepulveda (16:29) was fifth. Ava Gordon (Rock Ridge) and Sierra Puleo of Lee-Davis took the fourth and fifth slots for the girls in 19:05 and 19:14.