In the aftermath of his girls' team's surprise victory at the Class 5 state meet, Deep Run Coach Drew Spicer has shifted into post, post-season gear, with several athletes preparing for this Saturday's Nike Cross (Southeast) Regionals.
It doesn't mean he is tired of reliving his team's performances from 10 days ago. Colby Burcham successfully defended his individual title to lead the Wildcats boys to a second-place team finish. Meanwhile on the strength of their fourth and fifth runners, the girls upended favorite Midlothian 65-67 to win its first-ever state championship.
"Surreal," said Spicer, explaining the aura around his girls' team. "It was a true team effort, and the girls are proud and grateful for achieving their goal and experiencing what it feels like to win a state title."
Even though Midlo has been a perennial favorite, it didn't stop the Lady Wildcats from setting high expectations. Said Spicer, "I was extremely proud of the girls. They set the goal at the beginning of the season and did not waver, despite things looking like they would be out of our reach, as the season progressed. Internally, we knew what we were capable of, but things had not come together until the post-season...good timing!"
Remarkably good. Deep Run had never won as much as a winning 4x800 relay at the state level, although several runner-up finishes speckle their history books. However, on November 16, with five finishers in the top-22, including cross-country newcomers Sidney Walters (6th), Janie Sanborn (13th), and Makenzie Steele (22nd), Deep Run was able to get three runners (Eva Brooks (18th) and another newcomer, Paula Preda (19th), being the other two) in between Midlo's third and fourth to secure the narrow win.
There was one other factor.
"Some strong finishes in the last 100-200 meters helped," said Spicer.
Claire Nowak (32nd) and Kenzie Dillman (57th) rounded out the top-seven. "Nowak had a strong race and an overall incredible post-season," said Spicer.
Meanwhile, for the boys, Burcham, whose dastardly kick gave him a narrow margin of victory last year, didn't need to unleash at the end as he topped second place Will Mackenzie of Albemarle by 18 seconds.
"I ran a smart race this year," said Burcham, who finished in 15:36. "My goal was to get out (the first mile) in 4:45, and I did that perfectly. After that, I wanted to hang on and stay strong. I did have a little bit left at the end."
Added his coach, "Colby did a great job defending his state title. He looked like the strongest in (Region) 5A throughout most of the season, and he was able to remain "feeling good" towards the end of the season. We were both confident in his chances to win the individual title; Colby did a fantastic job of executing at the state meet and over most of the season. He is excited to compete at NXR, as an individual on Saturday."
Jordan Bendura (8th) and Michael Tull (12th) also earned All-State honors with their finishes.
The Wildcats totaled 86 points, just edging Freedom-South Riding (93) and L.C. Bird (97) for the second-place plaque.
Joining Burcham at NXS in Cary, NC this weekend will be Bendura and Tull, and for the girls, Riley Schindel.