Last week, Covenant’s Maddie Gardiner and Woodberry Forest’s Ferenc Kovacs both earned Central Virginia Runner of the Year honors after winning VISAA state championships.
Now both runners will have a chance to showcase their talents against the best in the country after qualifying for the prestigious Eastbay Championships [formerly known as the Foot Locker Championships] in San Diego.
Gardiner finished third in the 42nd annual Eastbay South Regional Cross Country championships at McAlpine Park in Charlotte and Kovacs placed ninth overall to earn a spot on the South team at the national event, which will take place at Balboa Park on Dec. 11.
“It was really exciting to race with such a talented field and I am so grateful that now I have the opportunity to be on the South regional team with these girls and compete with the best in the country,” Gardiner said. “I have never been to California, so I am super excited and grateful for this opportunity.”
Gardiner posted a time of 17 minutes, 13.95 seconds, the top time among runners in her age group, to finish third overall.
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“I tried to go into the race with no expectations because everything about it was just so different than what I was used to, from the field of girls to the course itself,” Gardiner said. “Honestly, I was hoping for top 20. [The field] went out pretty fast, which I expected, but I was surprised and happy with my position being in the top 10 within the first mile. Throughout the race I tried to stay relaxed, because my coach always tells us relaxing running is fast running. I felt good and was just able to work my way up during the last couple of miles.”
Covenant’s Reese Dalton also had an impressive showing in the prestigious meet, finishing 16th overall with a time of 17:44.22.
Kovacs, an exchange student from Hungary, held his own in a very competitive field or runners in the boys race. The Woodberry sophomore finished the 3.1-mile course with a time of 15:07.33, just seven seconds behind the overall race winner.
Louisa County’s Nicholas Emmert finished 35th overall with a time of 15:42.16 in his final high school cross country race. He has verbally committed to run track and cross country at George Mason University next season.
His Louisa teammate, Caiden Davenport, finished 148th with a time of 16:36.92.