Roanoke Catholic’s Danny Connelly has been competing in races at Hidden Valley High School since middle school.
That experience paid off for the Celtics’ senior on Saturday morning.
Connelly pulled away from Brentsville’s Andrew Rice in the boys 3.2-mile race in a time of 16 minutes, 49 seconds to take the victory at the annual Clash with the Titans cross country meet.
Conditions were ideal for runners as the event was held under overcast skies and cool temperatures, but overnight rain made the course around the Hidden Valley campus muddy and in some spots treacherous. Connelly, however, was not fazed.
“I’ve run this course since I was in the sixth grade and it’s usually a muddy course anyway,” Connelly said. “I just pray I don’t fall every single time.”
Connelly and Rice set a blistering pace, pulling away from the rest of the field in the opening mile. From that point, Connelly said he focused in on Rice and used his knowledge of the course to build a lead.
“At about a mile, I let him take the lead around the loop just to let me see what he was doing,” Connelly said. “After that, I started soldiering a little more.”
Rice finished in 17:21 to help lead Brentsville to the boys team title with a winning score of 63. Blacksburg was runner-up with 75 points. Christiansburg was fourth and Radford fifth.
On the girls side, Brentsville, which is in Prince William County, did get an individual victory as senior Abigail Seigel held off hard-charging Sarah Blanton of Hidden Valley to take the race in a time of 20:33.
Seigel and Blanton went back and forth throughout the event, with the Titans senior taking the lead around the race’s second mile. Seigel, though, responded by taking back the lead in the later stages.
“I passed [Blanton] about 150 meters from the finish, but I knew she was getting close,” Seigel said.
Blanton, who finished in 20:42, said she knew what to expect from Seigel since Brentsville and Hidden Valley runners got to know each other this past summer at a racing camp in Charlottesville.
“We went to camp together and I knew that she was good at the hills,” Blanton said. “I tried to hold her off the best I could coming in.”
Blanton added that racing at her home course was an advantage, but the rain from the previous night did affect her team’s strategy going into the race.
“We knew it would be muddy at the bottom, so our coach told us to get out ahead of everybody, but then run our own race,” Blanton said.
In the team competition the Blacksburg girls displayed their depth once again as the Bruins had five finishers in the top 16, led by third-place runner Audrey Link, and compiled 43 points to edge out runner-up Hidden Valley’s total of 54.
Placing behind Link for Blacksburg were Mari Garza (seventh), Annika Griggs (eighth), Mia Jones (10th) and Emily Wolfe (16th).
Hidden Valley also showed quality depth with five Titans placing in the top 25. Following Blanton’s second-place finish were Elle Anderson (fourth), Chloe Rogers (11th), Emma Janes (15th) and Rebeka Dragovich (25th).
Radford came in third with 89 points.