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Hornets Hoping for Health at Cross Country Districts

Hit by illnesses, Herndon trying to ready for Concorde championships.

Pete Sherry is hoping his Herndon High cross country teams, both on the boys’ and girls’ sides, can regain their health by next Thursday’s Concorde District championships.

Numerous Herndon team members, like so many students throughout Fairfax County this fall, have been hindered by illnesses. Over the past two weeks, Sherry said four of his top 10 girls’ runners and five of his top seven boys have been out of action as a result of the flu, swine flu, mononucleosis or pneumonia.

“We’ve been decimated by sickness,” said Sherry, the program’s head coach since 2005. “I’ve never had that happen before. I’m sure other schools are also going through it. I’ve canceled some practices at times to keep them away from each other and sent them home.”

Sherry said those team members who have been under the weather are recovering. Still, he is unsure how healthy his teams will be for districts, set to take place next Thursday (Oct. 29) at Burke Lake Park. The coach hopes that all of the team’s hard work prior to the past two weeks will be apparent at districts.

“The good news is we trained hard in the summer and [competed well] in the early fall,” he said. “You just hope on that day [of district’s] everyone’s healthy. There is not much you can do. The kids who are [healthy] are training.”

Both the boys’ and girls’ teams, when healthy, are talented enough to qualify for the Northern Region championships in two weeks, Sherry believes. The top four team finishers at districts will automatically advance to regionals, also set to take place at Burke Lake. But of course, Herndon’s success at districts will depend partly upon the teams’ physical health.

“Hopefully the girls are healthy enough where they can get into regionals,” said Sherry.

<b>SHERRY BELIEVES</b> the Herndon boys are among the top two teams in the district and that the girls are bunched in the top four. The Hornets’ top boys’ runners this season have been senior Jack Jasper, sophomore Troy Hunsaker and junior Jimmy Luehrs. Leading the girls have been juniors Carolyn Hennessey and junior Carly Kulik, and freshman Belle Burgess.

Herndon had a tough showing at the recent Albemarle Invitational at Fork Union School in Charlottesville on Oct. 10. The Hornet boys finished a solid eighth place out of 40 teams. Jasper led the way with a 26th overall finish. The Herndon girls finished 17th place out of 33 teams, with Hennessey being the top Herndon runner (21st overall).

Sherry believes his team could have fared much better at that particular meet. He blamed poor planning on his part in Herndon reaching their Fork Union destination later than it wanted to by bus. He also said unfamiliarity with the course, as well as it being Herndon’s third race in as many weeks hurt the Hornets.

Herndon ran much better a week earlier at the Octoberfest Invitational on the Great Meadows course in The Plains on Oct. 3. There, the Herndon boys finished sixth in a field of 51 teams with Jasper garnering a 24th place finish. The Herndon girls, meanwhile, were 12th among 46 teams. Hennessey led the Hornet girls with a 27th place finish.

“I was very happy,” said Sherry, of his boys’ teams showing at the Octoberfest. “We beat some good teams in the state and ran in a nice, tight pack. The bigger meet we get into the better we’ll do because we run in a close pack.”

The coach said Hennessey had a strong race for the girls at Octoberfest.

“She’s been training real well,” he said. “She’s looking good and confident.”

Herndon was not scheduled to run this week.

Hopefully, the Hornets will be healthy again and ready to run well at districts next Thursday. The girls are scheduled to run at 4 p.m. and the boys at 4:45.

“Hopefully, the girls will finish in the top four,” said Sherry. “We can’t really tell right now [how it will go] because of the illnesses.”