Cross country teams make PA history at states


PA Cross country girls and boys team on April 23. Courtesy of @princessanne_xc.

Emma Halman

Sophomore Peyton Culpepper ended her second season with PA Cross Country by finishing 10th at the VHSL Cross Country State Championships on April 23. With a time of 20:26, Culpepper joined the rest of the girls team in running across 5 kilometers of unfamiliar terrain in Leesburg. Both the girls and boys teams finished the highest in school history, third (17:57) and fifth (21:31), respectively. 

When reflecting on the past season, Culpepper expresses her appreciation for the girls team and its dynamic of constant encouragement. The loss of two senior teammates from the year before and a few others due to COVID left the girls team feeling very nervous leading up to regionals on April 17. 

Culpepper explains, “After finishing third last year to Maury and Cox High School, we knew it was going to be a difficult victory. Our teams stepped onto the lane that day with the most confidence I’ve ever seen. Seniors like Sophia Meagher, Logan Warden, Sammy Burris, and Anna Seyrlehner led with bravery and love for the sport.”

This confidence did not go without success; the girls team finished second at regionals, beating Maury by over 30 points. Normally the top three teams qualify for states. However, it was only the top two this year due to COVID, increasing the stakes of the competition. 

Regionals set a precedent for the success that PA was going to experience at states the following week. Six boys from PA placed in the top 10, with freshman Armaan Chopra finishing first and sophomore Will Griesmer second. Additionally, four girls from PA placed in the top 15, with senior Logan Warden finishing first and Culpepper second. 

The cross country season is normally held in the fall. However, both the girls and boys teams have been back together and training since August. 

Coach Kevin Rhue comments, “That period from when we shut down in March until August was tough for the kids as it was for everybody. Being able to run together provided a sense of normalcy and routine that all of us were missing.”

The team effort is centered around success as a whole. As Rhue explains, “When we run well individually it often means the team is successful. Each workout we do is geared towards preparing the athletes to be successful at the region and state level.” 

Senior Luke Henkel has been on the boys team since his freshman year. Similar to Culpepper, the dynamic of the boys team stands out to Henkel. 

During their extended break over the past spring and summer, the boys team made sure to keep each other motivated for when they would be able to race again. Henkel states, “One of the nice things about running is that you can do it anywhere, anytime.”

The PA boys team had won regionals for the past four years and was prepared to continue their feats at states. A reflection of both the boys and girls teams, Henkel reveals, “I can say for a fact that every person who ran at states gave it everything (and more) they had.”