The Staunton River High School (SRHS) boys and girls cross country teams opened up the 2022 season Wednesday, Aug. 31, with the ninth annual Bengal Clash at the River at the Smith River Sports Complex in Martinsville.

Members of both the SRHS boys and girls teams competed against more than 20 schools from across the region, including Abingdon, Amherst County, Bassett, Carroll County, Cave Spring, Christian Heritage Academy, Faith Christian School, Franklin County, Galax, Galileo, Halifax County, Lynchburg Heritage, James River, Liberty, Magna Vista, Martinsville, Northside, Patrick County, Roanoke Catholic, Salem, William Byrd and William Fleming, among others. 

In the boys varsity race, senior Sam Weddle finished in second place out of 112 male runners in the field. Weddle’s time of 17 minutes, 22.55 seconds, placed behind only Gaiileo’s Alexander Gomez-Herna, who won the race with a time of 17 minutes, 3.76 seconds. 

Jack Weddle, a junior for the Golden Eagles, also cracked the top 10, as he recorded a time of 17 minutes, 55.69 seconds. Next to come in for SRHS was senior Ethan Baltzelle, who placed 42nd overall with a time of 20 minutes, 51.17 seconds. Not far behind Baltzelle was junior Luke Grisso, who came in 45th overall with a time of 21 minutes, 0.2 seconds. 

Levi Nichols, a sophomore, was the fifth SRHS runner to compete the boys race, placing 70th overall with a time of 22 minutes, 22.68 seconds. Fellow tenth grader Steven Vance posted a 79th place time of 23 minutes, 11.26 seconds, while yet another sophomore, Andrew Martin, rounded out the Golden Eagle runners in the season-opening meet with a 101st place time of 25 minutes, 29.24 seconds. 

In the team competition, Staunton River placed sixth overall out of 17 schools that had enough runners to qualify for team scoring. SRHS’s total score was 100 points, with its top five runners combining for 169 points. Abington High won the boys team scoring in the race, with five of its runners finishing in the top 15. Franklin County placed second (82 points), while Cave Spring place third overall (97 points). 

In the girls 5,000 meter run, which covered the 3.1 mile track at the Smith River Sports Complex, senior Megan Hawley recorded the top time for the Golden Eagles, coming in with a 13th place time of 22 minutes, 38.02 seconds. Junior Alexis Ice also cracked the top 20 of the 94-runner field for Staunton River, posting a time of 23 minutes, 53.79 seconds.

Freshman teammates Lauren Stenzel and Emma Grisso, making their first high school appearances for the Staunton River girls cross country squad, came in together in 32nd and 33rd place, respectively. Stenzel posted a time of 25 minutes, 10.07 seconds, with Grisso crossing the finish line right behind her with a time of 25 minutes, 10.49 seconds.

The Golden Eagles did not have the required number of runners to place in the team scoring portion of the competition, but it was a solid day for SRHS, with all four of its competitors placing in the top half of the field, and two runners placing in the top 20. 

Along with the high school runners who competed, Staunton River Middle School eighth grader Brycen Woodford competed in the junior varsity boys race, finishing in 15th place out of 58 competing runners with a time of 23 minutes, 38.68 seconds. Woodford had the fastest time of all the eighth graders competing in the race, and he defeated numerous older runners with more experience.

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