Atlee took home the winning team trophy for the Class 5 boys at last month's state cross-country championships, while Brett Bishop of Douglas Freeman won the race. Yet most of the buzz heard around The Oatlands landscape on Friday afternoon seemed to focus on the race's second place finisher, a young man from Mills Godwin High.
Eleven seconds after Bishop broke the tape at 16:22, a somewhat lanky and diminutive athlete wearing a Mills Godwin jersey came down the straightaway with a strong kick to claim the runner-up position with a clocking of 16:33. A closer view of the Godwin runner revealed something more amazing to the spectators from outside of Richmond who were not familiar with this harrier.
He was young. Quite young.
Berkley Nance is a freshman. While his exploits across the cross-country courses of the River City have become well known, in this shortened season, few outside of his home base have seen the ninth-grader run.
Welcome to the spotlight, Berkley!
To one reporter's shock, it appeared as if the young runner was neither intimidated by the competition, nor surprised with the outcome.
"I was hoping to get "top-7," said Nance, sharing the after-race moments with family. Asked about strategy, his plan was eerily similar to that of other victors. "I never thought about running the first mile too hard," said Nance. "I wanted to stick with the front pack, but that didn't happen until after the first hill." Actually, Nance was quite workmanlike in his race - passing through the first mile among a pack of ten in 4:58, moving along with the front pack as it whittled to five through a 10:35 two-mile, and then holding off every runner with the exception of Bishop.
The winner was all smiles and chat as he explained his race on Friday. "I was hoping for top five or six." But I realized at the two-mile mark that I was holding too much inside."
And off went Bishop, building a gap that extended to the point of hearing no other runners were behind him.
But he knew of one. "I wouldn't have known Berkley was behind me, except hearing people cheering for him. And there were a lot!"
Atlee, led by Travis Albon (4th - 16:48), Josh Leonard (8th - 16:59), Patrick Allen and Ian Sellers (13th and 14th), Andre Chavez (18th),with Stephen Wiecek and Ryan Sherrill (47th and 48th) blocking other school's runners, won the team title with 40 points, 13 ahead of Glen Allen.