Kelsey Harrington is a fast runner for Virginia High School.
After Saturday’s Knights Crossing Invitational cross country meet, she is the fastest girls runner at any Virginia high school.
The senior from Bristol’s Virginia High was the big story Saturday in the early-season event at Green Hill Park as she won the girls Red Division championship with a time of 17 minutes, 13.5 seconds.
Not only was Harrington’s time a course record, a meet record and the fastest in the state so far in 2019 according to MileStat.com, it ranks her No. 11 all-time among girls in Virginia.
“I expected to just run my race, pretend I was just practicing on my own and no one else was around,” Harrington said.
Harrington had no company at the finish line, and she wasn’t competing against also-rans.
Sasha Neglia of Kingsport (Tenn.) Dobyns-Bennett finished second in 17:34.1. Neglia placed 15th in the Nike Cross Nationals in 2018.
Blacksburg’s Kaitlynn Wolfe was third in 18:15.1. Wolfe was the VHSL Class 4 state runner-up last fall and is the two-time reigning Timesland girls runner of the year.
Harrington won easily despite not competing in cross country at all in 2018 following a coaching change at VHS. After she won the Class 2 outdoor track title in the 3,200 meters in June with a time of 10:37, she decided to compete this fall.
“Last year I lost my good coach for cross country, so I kind of was down at the time,” Harrington said. “This year I was like, my times are good, I should come back out.
“I want to win the state, and nationally as good as I can do. Just go for it.”
Harrington was among a number of competitors who showed up Saturday to get a trial run at Green Hill Park — which will be the site of the VHSL Class 3, Class 2 and Class 1 state meets — as well as to post a fast early-season time on a relatively flat course.
“I like the course,” she said. “The only thing I didn’t particularly like was the gravel, but I made my way through it.”
Carson Williams of Cardinal Gibbons School in Raleigh kicked up a little dust in the boys race, winning in 15:31.6 to defeat Amav Tikhe of Oakton High in Fairfax by 26 seconds.
The tall senior, who placed third in the North Carolina state meet in 2018, emerged from a large pack midway through the race and took command.
“Other than being dusty, I really liked it,” said Williams, who is taking recruting visits this fall to Notre Dame, Mississippi and Furman. “It’s flatter than what we’re used to in North Carolina. We ran the course [Friday] so I kind of got a feel for it. After running the course, I felt pretty good about the race.”
Blacksburg’s Alistair Bushey placed fourth in 16:01.5, while Parry McCluer’s Dylan May was fifth in 16:04.6.
Bushey, now a senior, suddenly finds himself thrust in the role of elder statesman on a Blacksburg squad.
“I’m so used to having bunch of upperclassmen to kind of lead me through it and be an example, and now I see all these young ninth-graders and I have to be the example now,” said Bushey, who finished 15th in Class 4 last year. “It came very fast. It doesn’t really feel like I’m a senior. It feels like I’m a freshman sometimes.”
May took the early lead Saturday but gradually lost ground en route to his fifth-place finish.
“I took a risk,” said May, who was the 2018 Timesland runner of the year and the Class 1 state runner-up. “We went through the mile a little bit slow and I thought maybe if I took out the second mile and pushed it, that maybe they could push me to a good third mile.
“It just didn’t work out.”
Neglia’s second-place finish in the girls race led Dobyns-Bennett to the team title, 15 points ahead of runner-up Blacksburg. Hidden Valley placed sixth.
Oakton won the boys title ahead of Chattanooga (Tenn.) McCallie, Cardinal Gibbons and Reagan (N.C.). Blacksburg was fifth, six points ahead of Christiansburg, which is now under the direction of former head coach Shane Guynn.
Roanoke Catholic’s Daniel Connelly and Floyd County’s Zoe Belshan won individual titles in the Black Division, which included private schools and other Virginia public schools.
Connelly would have preferred to run in the Black Division, but several of the out-of-state public school associations do not allow their members to compete against private schools. In order for the top level out-of-state teams to compete against Virginia’s best public schools Saturday, Roanoke Catholic was forced to run in the Black Division.
Connelly, who won the Giles Invitational earlier this year finished in 16:09.2, which would have placed him seventh overall.
“I wanted to be in the [Red], so I was just trying to figure out what their top five times were and run as close to that as I could,” Connelly said.
Belshan won the Black girls race in 20:05.09, leading Floyd to a first-place team finish.