Find the Loudoun Valley runners and latch on.
That was Sam Rodman’s simple strategy Saturday as he secured his status as arguably the best Liberty boys cross country runner in history.
The junior finished 10th in the Class 4 state meet at Great Meadow in The Plains to become only the second Liberty boy in history to earn a state medal.
Loudoun Valley roared to its fifth consecutive boys title, seizing the top four individual slots and placing six runners among the top eight. Loudoun Valley also won the girls title easily.
Rodman fashioned his strategy in the boys race while expecting the Vikings to dominate.
“I knew the only way of achieving my goal of placing in the top 10 was to go out fast and stick with anyone in a Loudoun Valley jersey,” he said.
The front pack recorded a strong early pace of 4:52 for the opening mile. The first set of hills began immediately thereafter, causing the field to string out. Rodman chose to stay with the Vikings and a few others.
So he matched Liberty graduate Dan Nally, who placed 10th during the Group AA state meet in 2002, when VHSL divided itself in three different classes rather than the current six-class system. But Nally finished that 2002 race at Great Meadow in 16 minutes, 39.77, while Rodman posted a time of 16:08 Saturday.
Rodman was also the only Liberty athlete, boy or girl, to run in a state race since 2014, when Taylor Brown placed seventh in the Class 4A girls competition. In fact, only three Liberty boys have ever run at state with Rodman joining the ranks of Nally and Danny Collins, who placed 19th at the 2013 Class 4A meet.
Jen Modliszewski owns the Eagles’ best overall state performance. She won the 1997 Group AA girls championship.
Elsewhere Saturday during the 2019 Class 4 meet, Fauquier’s Brian Bolles placed 28th in 16:50.
Rodman distanced himself from Bolles and much of the Class 4 field, but then the Great Meadow course layout got to him.
“I was not ready for the hills at the end," he said. "I was hurting a lot."
He said Saturday was his first time running on the course. He had inspected it Friday, but running at race pace was much different.
“Thankfully, the final part was downhill and the straight away was about 300 meters into the finish,” Rodman said. “I was able to catch some people at the line. That was probably my best cross country kick ever, and I definitely felt its toll at the end. I was dead.”
Rodman felt proud of his performance after entering Saturday with strong credentials as the Class 4 Northwestern District champion and a sixth-place finish in the Region 4C championship race.
“It was my last race of the season," he said, "so I knew I had to leave everything I had out there.”
He also admitted cross country stands third in his sports rankings behind indoor and outdoor track.
“Most of all, I was glad that cross country was over and I could move on to indoor track,” he said.
Bolles, meanwhile, had hopes of placing in the top 15. However, the senior said a restless night on the eve of the race hurt his final performance.
“I wasn’t able to get enough sleep the night prior, so that had a huge effect on me,” said Bolles, who was ninth at both the district and region meets.
His plan was to be patient and begin picking off runners as the field began to spread out.
“I was disappointed with how my race went, but I didn’t worry too much about it because I still have two more track seasons,” said Bolles, referring to winter and spring track.
Loudoun Valley demolished the other 11 schools in the boys race, scoring only 17 points to 86 for runner-up Grafton. Lee-Davis (132), Blacksburg 136) and Jefferson Forest (170) made the top five.
On the girls side, Loudoun Valley was almost as dominant in scoring 36 points. Blacksburg (99), Millbrook (116), James Wood (124) and Jefferson Forest (147) were next.