The Woodberry Harrier 2021: Volume 1

The Woodberry Harrier 2021: Volume 1

Begin and then again begin…  – Mathew Arnold

It’s been a long time since the last Harrier, so I am happy to sit down to write again about another cross country season with another wonderful team. We are well into our season now, but I can’t say exactly when it began, even though I kept watching for that moment, wanting, after this long hiatus, to catch it and hold it in my mind, enjoy it, see what it had to say. But it seemed that one beginning was followed closely by another:  When they all loaded on the mini-bus to head to Camp Maxwelton, our first team run, our first team meeting, toeing the starting line of the Woodberry Invitational, arriving at the Ragged Mountain Cup. 

The truth is that the season began for each boy the moment when he decided to commit (or re-commit) to this team, and it began again every time he laced up his shoes to train in the summer heat.  From Virginia to West Tennessee to Scotland to Hungary to Spain, they ran, and every time, they began again, and here now in the season proper, we begin again together every day—many times a day, every time a decision is made which affirms that original commitment: every time the water bottle is filled, every time the Fir Tree is passed, every time the lights are turned off early, and every time they push instead of quit, every time they choose risk over comfort, every time hey hop back up when the fall.

At camp, we talked about the season as a long “practice” of our commitment, and the boys chose as a reminder the phrase Return, return, return, which they wrote out and placed in their locker room (and I could have chosen none better).  A good season is at its heart a constant return to the commitment, and each return, even the ones when we are shaky and doubtful and fearful, deepens and expands that commitment. 

Indeed, the shaky, doubtful, fearful returns—made more in faith and hope than in confidence–are the moments when we know courage because courage only comes where humility has made the way. The core “practice” of cross country is to see these moments not as stone walls but as narrow openings in these walls, if and openings always present a choice.  As Robertson Davies put it, “Where there’s a will, there are two ways.”

I am humbled every day to watch these guys see–and then choose–these openings.  Some appear in practice, in the middle of the third hill repeat, and some appear in meets when they are separated from teammates and feeling overextended and weak.  Some appear when they are back on campus and alone wondering why they have chosen to spend the fall doing something so relentlessly hard. And every time they choose to climb into that opening and go, they return to that original commitment, which is, each with every return, becoming way bigger than their own little commitment, and the meaning and joy are becoming greater than anyone’s little personal pride or satisfaction.

Lest you thought they were “just running cross country”…  

This newsletter was started years before Milestat and texts from the finish line, but I shall continue sending the more detailed meet summaries. Much is lost in just hearing a time and a place or a team finish.

We opened here with the Woodberry Invitational, and we had a beautiful day for it.  My favorite moment (before the exciting finish) was looking up from the bottom of the first hill and seeing the guys leaning into the starting line seemed all the potential of the season was poised there in that moment.

It was, predictably, a challenging race for us.  We only had four guys who’d run the course before, and that was two years ago, and we had guys who’d never run a real race. Still, there was much to celebrate and much more to be hopeful about. 

Here are the results:

Woodberry Forest Invitational
Woodberry:  Main Course
4 September 2021
4th place out of 10 teams
RunnerPlace out of 90 runnersTime 
Kovacs1st16:34an amazing time on this course
Ransone15th18:52a 34-second course PR
Oldham18th18:59a 12-seccond course P
Groton44th20:54a 21-sec course PR

Ordinarily, the area season is kicked off at the Ragged Mountain Cup, a two-mile relay in Charlottesville with all the Central Virginia schools. It was tough having this race only three days after the Woodberry race, but the guys got excited and ran very well, earning us the highest team finish we have had there.

Here are the results:

Ragged Mountain Cup:  A 2-Mile Relay
Panorama Farms in Earlysville, VA
7 September 2021
The #1 4-man team took 2nd out of 28 teams
RunnerPlace out of 112 runnersTime 
Kovacs1st9:37Top-5 honors
Ransone12h10:53Top-20 honors
Oldham14th10:59Top-20 honors
Gibb19th11:12Top-20 honors
 Place out of  88 runners  

In another quick turnaround, we ran in the Oatlands Invitational in Leesburg on the following Saturday. This is an enormous event with the top-drawer competition from all over, but the guys were undaunted by either the number or speed of the opponents. We finished the day with some standout performances and the highest team finish we have had at this meet.

Here are the results:

Oatlands Invitational
Leesburg, VA
11 Sep. 2021
13th out of 54 teams
RunnerPlace out of 362 runnersTime 
Kovacs4th16:15a 19-second season PR
Ransone73rd17:54a 58-second PR
Oldham75th17:56a 1:04 season PR
Hulsey142nd18:42a 40-second PR
Gibb209th19:19a 19-second season P
Dupuy296th20:24a 46-second season PR
 Place out of 135 runners  
Harrell43rd20:22a 52-second season PR
Rand55th20:53a 1:35 season PR
Wharton70th21:13a 47-second season PR
Copper73rd21:26a 1:54 season PR
Tankard89th22:00a 55-second season PR

A week later we ran in the Fork Union Invitational in another large and impressive field of competitors.

Here are the results:

Fork Union Invitational
Fork Union, VA
18 September 2021
12th out of 25 teams
RunnerPlace out of 174 runnersTime 
Kovacs1st16:01an all-time PR!
Oldham36th17:53a 2-second season PR
Gibb74th18:56a 2-second season PR
 Place out of 174 runners  
Tankard41st20:30a 1:30 season PR
Copper68th21:10a 16-second season PR

And finally, we hosted St. Christopher’s here last Friday for our traditional dual meet. The Saints are loaded and favored to win the state championship, so we had tough race on our hands, especially not being at full-strength, but the challenge brought out the best in out guys.  Here are the results:

WFS vs. St. Christopher’s
Woodberry Main Course
24 September 2021
St C- 26 : WFS – 41
RunnerPlace out of 20Time 
Kovacs1st16:31a 3-second season course PR
Ransone4th18:11a 41-second lifetime course PR
Oldham5th18:14a 45-second lifetime course PR
Copper14th20:11a 2:19 lifetime course PR
Dupuy15th20:14a 41-second season course PR
Tankard16th20:24a 2:31 season course PR
Harrell18th20:46a 28-second season course PR
Wharton19th21:06a 28-second season course PR
Rand20th22:11a 27-second season course PR
 Place out of 21  

It has been great to have lots of supporters here for that meet, and I hope each of you gets to see at least one race this fall.   (By the way, a mom asked me recently about the protocol of attending the meets. That’s a good question because it isn’t intuitive. Here’s the answer: It’s very helpful to the boys if you treat the team area the same way you’d treat the sidelines in football. Before the race, the guys are trying hard to get focused and settled, and afterward, they need a bit of time to collect themselves, connect with each other, and hydrate. After that, they will really enjoy visiting (and, I hope, celebrating a great race) with you–as will I.  Hope that helps.)

Today begins the second phase of our season as we recover from Expedition Week and re-commit.  I hope the break pays off.  We race the Albemarle Invitational at Panorama Farms in Earlysville on 9 October. The first race is a 12:15. We hope t see some of you there.

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