Flucos fly through finish line

Contributed by Jamie Rodriguez

High school athletics are many times seen as just a hobby, a way to kill time after school, or a short chapter in students’ lives, but for those teens who find themselves swept up in their athletic careers, they bring a sense of pride, passion, and accomplishment. Nowhere can these feelings manifest more than at a national championship like the March 15-17 Adidas Indoor Track and Field National Championships in Virginia Beach where 12 athletes in the Fluvanna Track and Field Club competed in eight events.

The Lady Flucos were represented by four runners. Sophomore Ruby Frazier, who ran the 1600m race, finished with a time of 5:31.82. Junior Anna Amato, who also competed in the 1600m race, finished with a time of 5:22.68. Meanwhile, senior Sophie Farley ran in the 800m race, earning a time of 2:15.56, a personal record for her. Farley also placed 4th in her 800m race, earning the elite title of “All American.” Senior Sydney Chipperfield joined Frazier, Amato, and Farley to participate in the 4x800m relay. The team placed 6th and each girl received the “All American” title.

On the boys side, sophomore Jack Jeffries and seniors Ryder Petrylak, Jesse Woolstenhulme, and Elias Morris competed in the 4x800m relay and finished in 3rd place with a time of 8:17.22. Juniors Jackson Fields and Kameren Green, along with seniors Diver Davis and Woolstenhulme, ran the 4x200m relay and finished with a time of 1:33.37. Senior Cole Weisenburger and the rest of the 4x400m relay team of Davis, Morris, and Fields earned a 3:33.11. Three of these athletes also competed in individual events, including Green in the 60m and the 200m dashes, Morris in the 800m, and Fields in the 200m dash where he finished with a time of 23.76 and set a personal record. 

All of these athletes are part of the FCHS Indoor Track and Field Team which is under the leadership of Head Coach Melanie Kennedy and Assistant Coaches Robert Burger, Rose Brogan, and Arlene Rodriguez. In fact, the Fluvanna Track and Field Club is only 2 and one-half weeks old. It is not uncommon for national track and field meets to restrict high schools from allowing its athletes to represent them. Typically, each runner needs to either attend as a member of a running-based club or compete “unattached,” meaning they are attending the meet by themselves without any coaching. Similarly, Adidas Nationals states on their official website that “All high school athletes are eligible to compete…If you qualify for States, you’re qualified for Nationals! Athletes should run either unattached or as a part of a club; this is not a school sanctioned event.” So these 12 athletes worked together to find much of the funds needed for their uniforms, transportation, and lodging in Virginia Beach.

For many members of the Fluvanna Track and Field Club, getting to the meet was the easy part, and racing was the hard part. “A few days before my races I started feeling sick, and I thought it would go away, but it ended up just getting worse,” said Amato. “When I woke up on race day, I didn’t think I would be able to finish my leg of the [4x800m relay], much less run the [1600m],” she added. Despite this setback, Amato completed both races. 

“Thankfully, my coaches and teammates were super sweet and gave me some tips to help me feel better. I changed my mindset from thinking I couldn’t do it, to just knowing I would give it all,” said Amato. “I couldn’t stop smiling before I ran, and honestly, I think it helped me run well even though I was sick. I wasn’t worried about how I was going to do. I was just running, and that helped me run with heart instead of being worried about my time,” she said.

Frazier faced a similar ailment, racing twice while fighting off a low fever. “While being sick definitely took a toll on Anna and I, we pushed through, and in the end, it was a great race,” Frazier said.

Morris also faced some struggles with his race. “My 800m race was a lot more physical than prior races I’ve run and the aggressive start caused me to get pushed back and hyperextend my knee. Later on [during] lap two, the race got very tight and I got tripped and went from third place to last. I had to get my knee wrapped and could barely walk,” he said. After resting, he went on to be a part of the 4x800m relay team, helping them win a medal.

Green mentioned some of his own challenges, particularly before his first race began. “At first, waiting in line to get onto the track, it was just nerves and anticipation. But once I was actually the one on the track setting my blocks, I just couldn’t stop smiling thinking about where I was and the work I put in to end up competing at the national level,” he said.

This championship also signified the end of the season, being the farthest these runners would be able to compete before closing the door on the 2023-2024 Indoor Track season. These feelings were magnified by the fact that seven out of the 12 athletes on the team will graduate in May. “This is my last year with my favorite relay team ever,” said Frazier, in reference to Chipperfield and Farley’s impending graduation. 

For some, this meet signifies the end of their track career. “It was definitely an accomplishment to get to Nationals,” said Weisenburger, who will be moving on to playing varsity lacrosse for FCHS during the spring season.  “When I got to the track I immediately thought to myself, ‘This is the coolest thing ever’, and to be honest, I never felt that way at any other track meet. Having the opportunity to do something like compete at Nationals definitely will be remembered as my best track meet experience.”

Three of the seniors, Farley, Davis, and Morris, have plans to compete at the collegiate level following high school. Farley who will be running cross country and track at Longwood University, while Davis will be a part of Roanoke College’s Track and Field team.

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