Time Machine Back To September 8th, 2001

Time Machine Rewind To September 8th, 2001

Start of 2001 Fork Union Invitational

Today I visited a familiar place that has been far too long since I've last been there in the Estes National cross country course at Fork Union Military Academy. The place has a special part in my heart as well as the history of MileStat.com as it was the venue of the first meet that I ever covered in the 2001 Fork Union Cross Country Invitational.

Website content offerings in 2001

At the time, I was a junior cross country runner at Jamestown High School in Williamsburg and had started up the website in the prior December (2000) as mainly an online aggregate of meet results around the state, which I primarily typed up hard copies of results sent to me via fax or scan as well as found in newspapers. I also would write meet recaps, previews, compile performances lists, and put together subjective rankings. No race videos, photos, interviews, or meet coverage of any kind really. Definitely no social media (didn't exist!). 

Since I was still competing and running meets myself for an eventual state cross country champion squad that fall at Jamestown, the opportunities for me to actually cover a meet were very limited as my race schedule and obligations to my team came first. Sort of difficult to stand out on a track and film races on a hot day when you are suppose to be racing the 3200 meter run later in the meet.

On the date of Saturday, September 8th, 2001, my team happened to have an off weekend from racing. So an opportunity for most high school runners to enjoy some down time for once on a Saturday not traveling and running around at a meet, what did I do? I went to a meet.

My high school ride

I had to beg and get permission (as well as gas money) from my mom to drive my 1994 Mitsubishi Eclipse over 200 miles round trip from Williamsburg to Fork Union as a 17 year old to a cross country meet by myself. Along with the permission for the long trek as a fairly new driver, I had to borrow her basic and very cheap amateur Canon camera to take photos at the meet.

A typical 1990's camera with developable film

This may boggle some of the young people's minds but just 18 years ago, digital cameras were not really owned by many people as technology really had not arrived to the masses. So after this event, I would need to go develop my roll of footage at my local grocery store's photo department, wait several days for the film to be developed, and in order to these images get online, would need to scan the images to my computer via a scanner.

So I had the green light from mom, gas in the tank, and two rolls of film for what would be my first "on-site meet coverage" as the lingo I eventually created to describe what eventually would become one of my main job requirements of my full-time career.

Plenty of nerves and anxiousness in getting my feet wet as a kid into the media world were eased by a great person and coach at Fork Union in Winston Brown. To be honest when I started the website due to my age as well as plenty of old guards in the sport who had not fully embraced or understood what the internet exactly was, it was tough for adults in the sport initially to take me and what I was doing seriously in creating this website.

Even my head coach at the time had initially discouraged me from doing the website as he felt it interfered with the time and energy I needed to dedicate to my running and since I obviously was able to get results at all the meets that we attended, he felt that I was giving a competitive advantage to our rivals locally and around the state to track our results. This was a very common mindset amongst coaches around the state at the time to try and hide their team's results as much as possible.

So returning back to Coach Brown at Fork Union. He viewed what I was doing much differently and positively than other coaches. He was a huge fan right off the bat and I could tell saw the potential in me and what I was trying to build. He communicated with me via email often raving about the website and providing me with information and details about the meets which he was hosting at Fork Union. He wanted to support and sponsor what I was trying to kick start as a hobby site at the time.

The Fork Union Invitational was already an event that I was well aware of the great runners who attended the meet as it had established itself in a few years by Coach Brown at the time as one of the premier early season invitationals that gathered many of the top ranked teams and individuals in the state. It was not a hard sell by Coach Brown to get me to jump at the chance to come out to cover and promote his event.

Especially being an avid fan of the sport, the opportunity to watch two of the best runners in my grade in Fork Union's own Kippy Keino and Thomas Dale's Alex Tatu was a no brainer as the perfect start to the first of thousands of high school meets that I've covered since.

I showed up at the meet with a notepad and my mom's camera. The meet coverage I created can be found in the below meet recap article that I wrote that evening as soon as I got home.

Also typed up the hard copy of the results from every race at the meet to be post online that night on the website of the times for over 1,000 runners who participated in the meet. 

Let's see what 17 year old me had to say about the 2001 Fork Union Invitational...

Shiring and Keino put on a show

Alex Tatu and Kippy Keino getting out fast in first mile at 2001 Fork Union Invitational

By MileStat.com Staff
Saturday, September 8, 2001

FORK UNION, VA -- Runners like North Stafford senior Kristyn Shiring and Fork Union junior Andrew "Kippy" Keino make cross country such a great spectator sport. They sure made all the spectators at the Fork Union Invitational mesmerized and entertained as they both ran magnificent races en route to jaw dropping, record breaking times.

2001 Fork Union Invitational girls race winner Kristyn Shiring of North Stafford

Shiring has been on a roll as of late, after breaking 11 in the 3200 twice during the outdoor season, she has only improved as runner this cross country season. She started off her season in style as she improved her time by 50 seconds from last year's Chancellor Invitational to win this year's invitational last weekend in 19:46. She came into this weekend's Fork Union Invitational with high expectations having run a 19:21 on this same course last year. Well her expectations couldn't have possibly been as high as the outcome of her race.

Improving her time by 1 minute and 11 seconds from last year's race, Shiring crushed the course record by 24 seconds (set by Jeannie Addison of Thomas Jefferson/Governor's School last year) as she won the race in a time of 18:10! "I've never broken 19 before, so I was really happy about my race today," said the excited Shiring just gleaming with joy. She certainly made sure she broke 19 as she ended up almost breaking 18 as well. It makes you wonder how well she is going to run once she gets someone to run with in a race this season. She took the lead 400 meters into the race and never looked back. She had opened up a huge lead by the mile mark as she hit that mark by 5:36. Going out fast didn't bother Shiring, she was focused and wanting to win. "I don't really concern myself with time and splits, I just concern myself with positioning."

For someone that is running so well and so fast as Shiring, you would expect her to have high hopes of winning a state title, but she just has one basic goal. "I just want to every time I race." At the rate she is improving, her goal of just finishing in the top 5 at the state meet is not only likely, but too easy of a goal. Why not want it all? Shiring certainly has the tools to win it all.

With all of the excitement centered around Shiring in the varsity girls race, Claire Whitenack of Albemarle's great race to finish second could be easily overlooked, but it will not be. Like Shiring did with the rest of the field, Whitenack separated herself from the rest of the lead pack early in the race and set her own pace throughout the race to run a sensational time of 18:50. For the second consecutive year, Whitenack earned runner-up honors, but ended up bettering her time by 15 seconds from last year's race.

The Paul VI girls dominated the meet and were impressive up front with Mary Hogan leading the way with her fourth place finishing time of 19:31. The team proceeded to place 2 more runners in the top 15 (Boyce, 5th, 19:35 and Fogerty, 13th, 20:30) for a team score of 103.

A shocker out of the Central Region was the James River girls who beat some state ranked teams such as #3 ranked Douglas Freeman and #8 Brooke Point to finish second with a score of 133 points. A 26 second difference between the Lady Rapids #1 and #5 runners was a major factor in the team's success at the meet.

The heavily hyped up duel between juniors Alex Tatu of Thomas Dale and Kippy Keino in the varsity boys race looked to living up to its billing at the beginning stages of the race. The two runners shot out like a rocket from the start and it appeared to be a foot race. Tatu led for the first 800 meters. "I wanted to run a competitive race and at the 800 mark, I felt Tatu slowing down, so I took the lead," Keino explained. By that mark, the two were far ahead of the chase pack as they battled it out. Keino then took the lead and picked up the pace even more from an already quick pace as the two went through the mile mark at a blazing 4:30 first mile. By the time they had reached the crest of the course's only major hill called Jackson's Bluff, Keino had opened up a 10-15 second lead on Tatu. "I started to open up a lead on him in the woods and then built a bigger lead at the hill." Keino maintained this lead through the remainder of the race and gutted it up the last portion of the race to run a course record breaking time of 15:25 as Tatu followed in 15:37. "It was hard," said an exhausted Keino, "At the end, I was hurting."

Interviewing Kippy Keino after winning 2001 Fork Union Invitational

By far, this was Keino's best race ever so far as a high schooler. He credits his improvement to his extensive base training over the summer in his native land of Kenya. "I'm feeling real strong. I got a strong base over the summer in Kenya. Much better than last year where I only ran 1 month during the summer. We'd run at least 10K a day over there. It was difficult when I came back from Kenya where I had gotten use to running at elevation and in the mornings to come here and run in the heat of the day, but I'm starting to get used to it."

Keino has some high aspirations for this season and this race just might be the breakthrough race "Kippy" needed. "I don't like to make guarantees, but I want to run well at the Foot Locker South Regional Meet and run sub 4:10 in the mile this year." Keino seems to be headed in the right direction as he continues to represent the Keino family name well.

The boys team race shaped up to be a battle with the top teams in the Central Region. With Maggie Walker, Hermitage, Clover Hill, Mills Godwin, and Douglas Freeman all present at the meet, it was figured to be a close team battle. However, with Godwin missing two of their runners due to sickness (including #2 runner Scott Kalafatis being stricken with mono) and Maggie Walker just being too deep for any squad, it continued to not be as close.

Winning by 18 points was the Maggie Walker squad who happen to be ranked #7 in the state of Virginia. The team was able to put 3 guys in the top 15 with senior John Piersol (4th, 15:58), sophomore Andrew Stegmaier (9th, 16:15), and junior Jonathan Charlesworth (13th, 16:25). The squad only looks to get better as the season progresses as will John Piersol who takes a lighter emphasis on the summer running and early season meets, but then always seems to put it together at the end when it counts.

Like the James River girls were in the girls race, the Hermitage boys surprised a few as their squad put forth a great team effort to finish second with 106 points. Leading the squad was senior Matt Kirkland who placed 10th with a time of 16:18. The team possesses a great amount of depth as their #7 runner finished with a time of 17:35. With that luxury of depth, the Hermitage boys have a few guys that could step up if another runner has an off day.

Having a strong race even with his squad having a few runners missing in action was Mills Godwin senior Matt Wolak who closed strong to pass Piersol on the final stretch and close on Tatu with a fast time of 15:44.


Time Machine Fast Forward To September 21st, 2019

Fast forward to today's meet in the 2019 Fork Union Invitational as I showed up with a high-definition video camera to record all the races and cameras on a tripod, $5,000 worth of photo camera equipment in lens and body to snap thousands of high quality images which can instantly upload onto my camera, live results that can quickly grab from the timer, a mobile hotspot to upload content on-site from my computer, and this smart phone that is my life line that can do everything from navigating to the meet and providing instant updates to those not at the meet thru this thing called social media.

Sometimes you have go all the way back to the beginnings of your past to truly realize and be grateful how great that you truly have it in the present.

Start of a race at 2019 Fork Union Invitational

As I arrived at the meet, I did the math and realized that NONE of the runners who would be competing in today's meet were born when I started MileStat.com and covered my first meet in the 2001 Fork Union Invitational. And with the turnover of coaches in positions at many of the schools in attendance along with retirements, there would be only a select number of coaches who were there at the beginning of the site. 

Thankfully there were some familiar faces present to reminisce about those old days. Coach Brown obviously who was shocked (decided last second to cover the meet) to see me strolling up the course and just as excited to have me covering his meet as a 35 year old man with quite a few grays in my beard as when I was a naive 17 year old. Lindy Bain at Western Albemarle and Jerry Cutright at Louisa County both going strong as coaches today as they were when I started MileStat.com nearly two decades ago. Coach Bain's boys were dominating today's meet just like they did when I was in high school.

Also ran into another special person I've always looked up to who believed in me starting up the website in former Albemarle/Miller School/UVA/Episcopal/Langley coach Buz Male. Buz hosted the Ragged Mountain Running Camp for years at UVA and Miller School, which were some of the best summer weeks of the my life as a high school and college runner as a camper and counselor. He had me to cover and promote the camp while I was in high school similar to Coach Brown did with his meets at FUMA. Keep Buz in your thoughts and prayers as he revealed to me some health issues he's been battling as of late. 

Amanda Patterson, JV race winner of 2001 Fork Union Invitational, would eventually be my high school teammate in my senior year (2003) at Midlothian.

A former high school teammate in Amanda Patterson saw a social media post of mine about returning to cover the meet. She commented on my post as she reminisced about how that was her very first high school invitational race which she won the JV race as a freshmen at Clover Hill. Thankfully, I was able to pull up and share with her a photo still stored on this website's 2001 meet page of her that I took that day of her leading the race to help enhance that trip down memory lane for her. Another reminder of the reward of this job in being able to record these special running moments for these kids forever. Even 18 years after the fact.

Who among these middle schoolers will remember the first time they discovered MileStat.com?

It was certainly great to reconnect with old friends today at a special place that was a turning point in my life personally and this entire state with what would become of my little hobby website at that time.

I was gone too long and it was certainly needed to be back at the place where it all begin. Here is to another 18 years or entire generation of runners and meets to cover.