Coming into their season opener against Charlottesville on March 17, Louisa cross country runners Nicholas Emmmert and Branden Wood devised a strategy: stay just close enough to the Black Knights’ top runner to let him wear himself out and then take the lead.
It wound up paying off as the duo earned respective first and second place finishes to help lead the team to a win to start the season.
“We executed it almost perfectly,” Emmert said. “We made our move a little too early, around the one-mile point. We wanted to wait until a mile-and-a-half or two miles just to push him a bit more, but going out a little bit early is good for some of the bigger races we’re going to come to later in the season.”
Emmert ran the three-mile course in 16 minutes, 29 seconds, with Wood finishing in 16:30. Charlottesville’s Reece McKee came in at 16:41 for a third-place finish. Lions Caiden Davenport (17:30), William Moore (17:33) and Matthew Klapak (17:35) rounded out the team score in fourth, fifth and sixth place finishes for a total of 18 points.
Taylen Soriano and Wyatt Snyder finished in the top 10 for the day, placing eighth and tenth respectively. Soriano ran the course in 18:24 and Snyder finished in 18:51. Josiah Cannon also ran for the Lions, earning a time of 19:10.
In the girls’ race, Kennedy Harris spent the first half of the race keeping pace with Charlottesville’s Caroline Jaffe before making her move.
“I knew if I passed her, I could get out ahead of her so she couldn’t pass me,” she said. “I just thought, ‘If I want to pass her, now’s the time,’ and so I just did it.”
Harris picked up a first place finish with a time of 21:22, coming in nearly 25 seconds ahead of Jaffe. Caroline Chapman was the next Louisa runner in, finishing fifth with a time of 23:47, followed by Madison Chandler in sixth with a time of 23:51. Maddox Pleasants (24:09) finished eighth and Alison Soriano (25:06) rounded out the team score in 11th place.
Makayla Blair (25:08), Yelena Nguyen (25:24), Chloe Fritz (26:16) and Olivia Hurley (26:48) also ran for the Lions. The Lions scored 31 points, while the Black Knights had 25.
The Lions were back in action on March 20 with another home meet, this time taking on the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School Green Dragons. Louisa’s boys swept the top five spots for a team score of 15 to win the day.
Emmert and Wood again earned first and second place finishes, crossing the line less than a second apart, Emmert in 17:25.70 and Wood in 17:25.90.
Davenport, Klapak and Moore again completed the team score, with respective times of 17:33, 17:36 and 17:43. Taylen Soriano snagged a ninth place finish with a time of 18:41 and Snyder finished in 19:04 to claim 11th place.
Andrew Estes (19:49) and Conner Downey (19:59) also ran for Louisa.
Harris was the first Lion to finish in the girls’ race, coming in fourth with a time of 22:14. Chapman also finished in the top 10, placing ninth with a time of 23:40. Pleasants (24:15), Blair (24:54) and Alison Soriano (24:55) placed 11th, 15th and 16th, respectively, giving the Lions a team score of 46. Nyugen, Fritz and Hurley also ran for Louisa, earning times of 25:41, 26:05 and 26:06.
“We’re off to a good start,” said Louisa coach Jerry Cutright. “Our boys’ team brings a lot of experience and even though a lot of the girls have never done much distance running, they’re showing steady improvement. [Both teams] are making good progress. Hopefully they’ll keep improving.”
The Lions hosted the Monticello Mustangs on March 24. Results were unavailable at press time. They travel to Fluvanna County for their next meet on March 27. Races begin at 11 a.m.