WILLIAMSBURG — The Jamestown High School Girls Cross Country team made history when it capped off the 2023-24 season as A4 State Champions.
At the end of the 2022-23 season, the point differential from first place to fourth place was only 20 points. Jamestown placed fourth. Mark Tompkins and Collin Anderson, head and assistant coaches, knew that they had the raw talent to win a state title.
“Last year, there was only 20 points between first and fourth. I realized that we had a really good team but for 20 points, I just needed the top five girls to move up four or five spots each. If they did that, I knew we could win,” Tompkins said.
Kylie Brooks, Raini Mayo, Hailey Shearer, Emily Dahl, Claire Bauer, Nettie Haines, Annabell Harris, Elly Younica, and Abigail Wester banded together during the 2023-24 season. The nine girls became a family with a common mission of winning a state championship.
The season was not without its issues. Each girl on the team dealt with some sort of injury or setback during the year, but even through it all, it didn’t stop them from showing up for each other.
“The Jamestown girls made history this year. They show why America is great! These runners came from different athletic backgrounds. They all struggled with some type of injuries in the past few years but decided at the beginning of the season that they were going to be the team that did what no other Jamestown girls team has done and go after the state championship crown,” Tompkins said.
After winning the Bay Rivers district and regional meets, the girls qualified for the state meet. While the girls were prepared for the state meet, it didn’t come without worry for head coach Tompkins.
“Coach Anderson and I talked about 10 times about the chances of winning the state meet. I woke up several nights before the state meet worrying about injury or sickness. A few days before, I began to have peace about the race and on the morning of the race I got on my knees and prayed to God that it would come to fruition for these girls,” Tompkins said.
According to Raini Mayo, a junior on the team, once the team made its way to its mark at the start of the state meet, they knew they would be celebrating soon.
“After the region meet, I think we all started to believe that we could win the state meet. I felt like all the girls just locked in on our goal and we were motivated to do whatever we could to achieve it. As we were waiting for the start to happen at the state meet, there was a team behind us that had found out they won, and they were cheering so loud as we were about to start. And the last thing that we said to each other was ‘That’s going to be us soon,'” Mayo said.
After the race started, things continued to go in the right direction for the Eagles. The team was sitting in second at the mile mark. As the girls started moving up the ranks, it became clear to Anderson and Tompkins that a state title was within reach.
As Hailey Shearer crossed the finish line, both Anderson and Tompkins knew mathematically that the team had accomplished its goal. However, much to their athletes’ dismay, they played it off as if they weren’t sure what the final stats were. The coaches then enjoyed watching the team’s reactions as their names were called as champions.
“The girls probably asked us about 20 times if they thought we’d won. We knew we were in a really good situation. I wanted the final results to be a gift for them. The biggest thing with the meet for me was the pure joy and emotion on their faces when their names were announced as the champions. It’s a moment that made me tear up as a coach,” Anderson said.
According to the girls, this team meant different things to each of them.
“I have made many friendships during my time on Jamestown XC that I will hold onto after high school. It’s great to see other people come into this sport and excel fast with the support of the team,” Kylie Brooks said.
“The Jamestown Cross Country team is so supportive! I love how we hold each other to our values and challenge our teammates to be better athletes,” Hailey Shearer said.
“The thing I love most about our XC team is how close of friends each one of us are to each other. Every day of the season I looked forward to coming to practice, because I knew it was basically me going to hang out with my best friends. I can think of very few practices where we didn’t have a good time. We were always laughing and we all supported each other like best friends would,” Raini Mayo said.
“What I like about the Jamestown team is how everyone supports one another. Everyone has a place on the team and makes people feel welcome,” Emily Dahl said.
“I love the attitude of the Jamestown XC team. We train in a championship environment. It is truly a dedicated team that works hard and motivates each other. We push each other each day to become faster. We are not individually focused, but team focused,” Claire Bauer said.
Tompkins said he is grateful for the opportunity to coach the girls every day, and winning the state title with his 2023-24 squad will never be forgotten.
“In my twenty years of high school coaching, I have been to the mountain twice with two state runner-up teams in track and field, numerous district and region championships, and several individual state champions but have never won a team state championship until now. I am honored and humbled to coach these girls. They are the best team ever from the Peninsula area.”