First to cross the finish line, Godwin sophomore Berkley Nance has been crowned the 2021 class five VHSL state champion for boys cross country.

This race occurred on Nov. 13, at Great Meadow Course in Leesburg. Encompassing him were 104 runners, all competing to win the state title for the 5k (3.1 mile) event. 

Nance ran a time of 16:12 and finished 12 seconds before any of the other runners.

Even without a personal record (PR), Nance still managed to come out on top.

“This course had more hills than regionals and even included a creek crossing, so it was a bit more challenging,” Nance said. 

A wave of reassurance flew through Nance when he realized that he had won.

“It felt amazing and relieving because I have been wanting to win since I got 2nd at states last year,” said Nance.

Nance’s biggest competition during this race was Brett Bishop, a Columbia Track commit, who beat him the previous year in States, winning first. This year, Nance was able to defeat him by 29 seconds. 

Nance plans to compete in pre-nationals, which will take place in South Carolina, along with 13 other states. 

Racing at regionals earlier that month, Nance was also given the title of Region 5c boys cross country champion for the second year in a row. 

Regionals occurred at Pole Green Park in Mechanicsville on Nov. 3, where a group of 72 runners representing 10 high school teams competed in a 5k for the regional title, and a spot at states. 

Like most cross country courses, Poll Green’s terrain consisted of rolling hills, which challenge runners when trying to keep a steady pace. 

Poll Green has been a very popular course for Nance and is where he competed in regionals the previous year.

Placing first, and doing it two years in a row has been a momentous accomplishment for Nance.

“It feels good to be able to defend my win from last year and not lose it. I think that I feel a lot more pressure from myself to do well rather than others, now that I have won twice,” he said. 

Nance had a PR during this race, reaching a time of 15:42. He was able to cut off 26 seconds from his previous record in the regional race of 2020.

Berkley Nance after finishing the race and reciving his award

Although he was joyous about his victory, there was still a lot on the table for Nance to focus on.

“After the race, I felt happy that I defended my win from last year, but I still knew that I had work to do with states approaching,” said Nance. 

Nance owes a large sum of his success to the coaches that mentor him. 

“My Godwin coach is Coach Tivenan and my trainer is Murat Mazicioglu. They have helped me immensely by giving me workouts to do and providing racing advice,” said Nance. 

Having a team that always supports him is another huge factor in Nance’s accomplishments.  

“The Godwin cross-country team atmosphere is really supportive of everyone. In races when you hear everyone cheering for you, it is very encouraging. All members of my team have had an impact on me, but I owe a lot to the guys I usually run workouts with, Connor Hennesey, Max McGinnis, and my brother, Briggs Nance,” Nance said. 

Most people start playing their sport when they are at the ripe age of five or six years old. For Nance, he only started running a few years ago, joining his middle school track team in 6th grade, and then the Godwin track team in 8th grade. 

“I decided to join because I loved running when playing outside as a child, and thought I could do something more with it,” he said.

Becoming an elite athlete involves intense training and determination. For Nance, his week consists of five-afternoon practices, with either a race or early morning practice on Saturdays.

Nance gives a rundown of what a normal practice consists of. 

“First our coach talks to us, then we run a warmup and stretches. After, our coach gives us our workout and we complete it.”

Because cross country is a distance sport, long runs reach upwards of 30 to 40 minutes, ranging around four miles. On the days the team is not given long runs, they have workouts on the track. 

When asked in a Mile Stat Interview what his goals for the rest of high school included, Nance said that he “wanted to break fifteen minutes.” In simpler terms, that means averaging 4.84 minutes a mile, an extremely challenging feat. 

Nance is on a clear path to success, with the end goal of making it to Nationals and running Division 1 in college. 

“Ultimately, It feels like all my training with my teammates and alone has paid off, and I hope to go even further,” he said.

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