East Rockingham sophomore George Austin III runs ahead of the pack to win the Region 2B Cross Country Championship at New Market Battlefield on Wednesday

NEW MARKET — George Austin III said he sat down at the beginning of the season and made a lengthy list of his biggest goals to accomplish as a sophomore.

Austin emerged on the cross country scene last year as a freshman after previously being known as a basketball player at East Rockingham, but said he wasn’t satisfied.

After simply reaching the state meet a year ago, the Eagles sophomore said he made a checklist of winning the city/county race, the district and then the regional meet.

“Winning big races like these was on the list,” Austin said. “It feels really great.”

Austin ran a time of 17:37.2 to win the Region 2B boys cross country championship on Wednesday at New Market Battlefield and qualified for next week’s Virginia High School League Class 2 championships at Green Hill Park in Salem with the convincing victory.

It is the second straight trip to the state meet for Austin, but he’ll be joined there by a first-time runner in fellow ERHS girls teammate and senior captain, Kailee Franklin.

“I’ve been determined to make it to states because its my senior year and that’s really all I’ve been working toward for three years,” Franklin said. “There’s really no words to describe what it means to finally get there after working for that spot for three years. I’m beyond excited because I finally made it and I know it’s gonna be my best race.”

Both Austin and Franklin said the course in New Market is always pretty difficult and that the cold weather didn’t help, but both runners left satisfied with their performance.

Buffalo Gap’s Annika Fisher (21:41.2) won the girls race, but Franklin finished 17th with a time of 24:09 and earned one of the five individual qualifying spots for the state meet.

Strasburg (29) won the boys race with Madison County (38) and Staunton (98) rounding out the state-qualifying top three. Clarke County girls (35), meanwhile, were victorious with the Mountaineers (36) and Rams (72) finishing just behind them, respectively.

“The feeling I got from winning this race was absolutely amazing,” Austin said. “This is definitely the biggest win of my career so far and it gives me a lot of confidence going into the state meet. To be the regional champion as a sophomore, especially in our competitive area, it is truly a great feeling. It feels good to go to states both years.”

Now that Austin is back at the state meet, he said he’ll make sure to enjoy every part of it and won’t take anything for granted because he knows a return trip isn’t guaranteed.

But he also thought back to that checklist he made at the beginning of the season and said there’s still a couple more boxes he needs to mark off to call it a successful year.

“I’ve set some high standards for myself,” Austin said. “I think I’m ranked around sixth.”

“So my goal is to get to top-three.”

Contact Cody Elliott at 574-6284 or | Follow Cody on Twitter: @Cody_DNRSports

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