The Virginia High School League state cross country meets will be held in The Plains, VA this weekend and the William Byrd girls will be included. For a spell last week, it didn’t look like that would be the case.
The Group 4A, Region D meet was held at Randolph Park in Pulaski County last Wednesday, November 1, and the top three teams in both the boys’ and girls’ races would advance to the state. Blacksburg and Jefferson Forest were heavily favored to take the top two spots among the girls, with William Byrd, Pulaski County and Salem expected to battle for the third berth in the state from Region D.
That’s exactly what happened. Blacksburg smoked the field, putting five runners in the top seven for 21 points, and Jefferson Forest was second with 43. The next three spots were very close, and when the results were released Pulaski County was in third with 113, William Byrd was fourth, a point behind with 114, and Salem was fifth at 126.
However, Byrd coach Eric Royal noticed that the automatic timing system picked up the bib of the 17th place finisher, Betsy Null of Pulaski, as the 16th place finisher. Salem’s Anna Pitts, who was actually 16th, was credited by the timing system with a 17th place finish. That was a big deal, as Pulaski beat Byrd but just one point and that would keep the Terriers out of the state meet.
“The scoring came down to just one point based on chip scoring, but if picked up properly the score would have been tied at 113 points each between Byrd and Pulaski and the tie-breaker goes to the sixth place runner, which was Evie Laherty(of Byrd) and Byrd goes to state as a team,” said Royal. “I was made aware of the issue late Wednesday night with a phone call and pictures came early Thursday morning.”
The appeal process started almost immediately. William Byrd athletic director Jason Taylor, Principal Tammy Newcomb and Roanoke County Superintendent Dr. Gregory Killough reached out to representatives of Region D and the Virginia High School League with hopes of correcting the mistake. The VHSL decided to allow both Pulaski County and William Byrd to run in this week’s state meet.
“The girls are so grateful and cannot begin to thank the effort to make it right,” said Royal. “As a coach of the girls my main concern was that the right team makes it and not have to live with the fact they got cheated out of going to the state meet. The timing system is designed for road races and not cross country meets, which need to be hand scored.”
And so, the Byrd girls survive to run again. Last week’s effort was paced by Erin Wienke, who led Byrd with a time of 20:31 for 15th overall. The winning time was 18:15 by Kaitlyn Wolfe of Blacksburg.
Morgan Fletchall was next for the Terriers at 20:43 for 18th. Also scoring were Brynn Tardy in 28th, Kayland Bond in 33rd and Brooke Blankenship in 34th among 70 total runners in the race. Laherty was 42nd and Julia Burek was 43rd.
The Byrd boys were ranked eighth coming into the regional and finished sixth among 11 schools competing. Blacksburg also won the boys’ race with runnerup Pulaski and third place Jefferson Forest also qualifying for the state meet.
All seven Byrd boys had personal bests in the regional. Ashton Ashley was the top finisher at 17:24, setting a personal record and placing him 20th in the region and 13th overall on Byrd’s all-time list. The winning time was 16:03 by Theo Woods of E.C. Glass.
Cam Dalton ran 17:44 to finish second for Byrd and 24th in the region. Luke Johnston (17:51), Greyson Cornett (18:08) and Jayden Glass (18:26) also scored for the Terriers while Ryan Krawczyk ran a 19:18 and Gavin Chrisley crossed the line in 19:37.
“They ran their hearts out,” said Royal. “As a coach, to watch this unfold is one of the special moments to see.”
This week’s state meets will be held on Friday and Saturday in The Plains at Great Meadows, a facility for horses that hosts the meet annually. The Group 4A, 5A and 6A races, for both boys and girls, will be held Friday. Byrd’s girls will take the gun at 11:45 am. The Group 1A, 2A and 3A meets will be Saturday.