Runners go extra half-mile at NSA

Published 9:05 pm Saturday, October 15, 2011

Nansemond-Suffolk freshman Maya Venkataraman (No. 1397) and many other runners race a couple hundred yards into the course in the Nansemond-Suffolk Academy Cross Country Invitational Thursday. Venkataraman finished in fifth place in 21:15.

Hundreds of cross country athletes ran around Nansemond-Suffolk’s campus and around the weather at the Nansemond-Suffolk Academy Cross Country Invitational Thursday afternoon.

Freshman Maya Venkataraman was the top Saint runner, finishing fifth in a time of 21:15 on the 3.1-mile course, as the Lady Saints placed fifth in the team points.

The boys race, leading off the schedule of NSA’s only home meet of the cross country season, started, had a 30-minute lightning delay, then restarted.

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Just more than a minute after 14 teams of runners took off from the starting line in the field beyond the outfield fence of NSA’s baseball field, lightning flashed in the distance.

Getting the race halted and all of the athletes back to the starting area, then inside, either in the building or onto buses, was a huge effort for all of the officials and coaches.

“We were about a half-mile in,” said Nansemond-Suffolk’s Marc Leber.

“Everyone went out really fast. Then there was so much cramping up out there with waiting for 30 minutes (then racing again),” Leber said.

Leber, a junior, was NSA’s top runner on the boys side, finishing 15th in 19:02.

The girls race was pushed back a little but not interrupted once it was under way. A difficult course and wet terrain still made for a tough meet on most competitors, Venkataraman said.

“This is a really hard course. It’s muddy in spots and there are sharp turns,” Venkataraman said.

NSA’s course has been soggy since Irene went through in late August. Some of the naturally swampy land and swales in the large, open fields haven’t dried up any time since then.

Venkataraman finished third and clocked in about 1:30 faster at a meet earlier this season at Mount Trashmore.

Along with a freshman leading the Lady Saints, sophomore Darcy King finished 16th in 23:09 and eighth-grader Katey King was 34th in 24:49.

Peninsula Catholic freshman Martine Hunnicutt won the girls varsity race in 19:57.

On the boys side, Kellam senior Sean Helmke won in 17:17.

“I felt bad for the guys, to start, have the delay, then come back out and try to warm up again, that’s tough,” Venkataraman said.

Leber also ran markedly faster last week at Mount Trashmore, finishing in 18:04 compared to his 19:02 time Thursday. Leber said most of the runners, teammates and opponents, had similar challenges with the delay, the mud and temperatures in the 80s, higher than ideal for long-distance running.

On the second attempt at the boys race, “my quads started squeezing up around three-quarters of a mile in, but you’ve got to push through that kind of stuff. Once you’re a mile in, it becomes easier. After that, you’re just sailing,” Leber said.

Sophomore Reid Williams (20:47), then freshmen Matthew Lawrence (21:58) and Mac Hardee (22:17) were the next NSA runners.

The Saints have two meets, one at Norfolk’s Northside Park and one at Norfolk Academy, building up to the Tidewater Conference Championships on Nov. 3 at Newport News Park.