After Loudoun Valley junior Sam Affolder cruised to victory in 15 minutes 20 seconds in the boys' 4A race Friday at the Virginia High School League's cross-country state championships, he welcomed Peter Morris at the finish line six seconds later by putting his arm around his shoulder and spinning him around.
"Look at that," he said, pointing at the line of gold and green approaching the end of the 5K course at Great Meadow in The Plains.
Colton Bogucki (15:55) crossed next, followed by Jacob Hunter (15:56) and Connor Wells (16:04) as the Vikings claimed the team title with a perfect score of 15, naturally the best in state history.
"I saw three Valley boys coming in behind" Morris, Affolder said. "I didn't know if it was a mirage or something."
Dominion (103) was second, followed closely by Blacksburg (104).
Of all the boys' performances, Wells's surprised Loudoun Valley Coach Marc Hunter most. After Wells faced a long recovery process following a stress fracture, Hunter wasn't sure what to expect from the junior. Wells wasn't exactly sure, either.
"I had no idea I was going to do that today," said Wells, who added that he could hear spectators yelling "Perfect score!" over his last mile. "I was hoping for top 10 maybe, but I just kept picking them off, and I finished fifth, so I'm really happy. It was the coolest race of my life."
Loudoun Valley's Natalie Morris, Peter's twin, won the individual 4A title on the girls' side, using a bit of strategy and a late kick just before the finish line to cross in 18:16. Blacksburg's Kaitlynn Wolfe (18:17) and Ailene Edwards (18:52) placed second and third.
"I kind of just wanted to sit behind the leaders because it was really windy today," Morris said.
Morris closed a sizable gap over the final 100 meters to lead Loudoun Valley to a second-place team finish with 58 points, trailing Blacksburg (34) but well ahead of third-place Grafton (118).
In the 6A girls race, South Lakes senior Olivia Beckner used her strength in the downhill portions to her advantage to win in 18:12. Annandale freshman Julia Ghiselli (18:18) was second, and Marshall's Heather Holt (18:20) came in third.
"I really just wanted to focus on strategies," Beckner said. "I kind of knew, if I let them work the ups, that I could come and execute the downs."
Lake Braddock won the 6A girls' team title with 86 points, edging Oakton (92) and West Springfield (103). The Bruins also won the 6A boys' team title with 74 points, ahead of Cosby (89) and Ocean Lakes (116). Ocean Lakes' Brent Bailey (15:33), Western Branch's Chase Osborne (15:43) and Cosby's Grant Northcutt (15:54) were the top finishers.
After a second-place finish a year ago, Tuscarora (43) returned to its winning ways with its third 5A girls' team title in four years, finishing ahead of Albemarle (74) and Atlee (149). Emma Wolcott led the way for Tuscarora with a second-place finish in 18:24; Albemarle's Ryann Helmers (18:16) placed first.
"We have a sort of legacy at our school of winning," Wolcott said. "We just had to go out and get it."
Albemarle won the 5A boys' team title with 95 points, followed by Deep Run (101) and Glen Allen (111). Deep Run's Zachary Levet won the individual title in 15:52. Mountain View's Henrik Anderson (16:03) was second, and Stafford's Philip Lambert (16:04) was third.