FLS Varsity brings you the scores, stats and stories from Fredericksburg-area high school sports.
ALL-AREA CROSS COUNTRY: Switch benefited Abbatiello, Rebholz
READ MORE: Cross Cournty All-Area Capsules.
Promising futures enticed two Stafford County cross country standouts to put their passion for other endeavors on the back burner.
Stafford senior Joey Abbatiello played soccer from the time he was 5 years old until his freshman year, when he realized he had the potential to earn a college scholarship as a runner.
Colonial Forge senior Megan Rebholz enjoyed playing the piccolo in the Eagles’ marching band before she joined the cross country program as a sophomore.
Neither Abbatiello nor Rebholz has any regrets.
Each won conference and regional championships this past season. They also earned all-state honors in November.
Abbatiello is The Free Lance–Star’s boys runner of the year. Rebholz has received the girls honor for the second straight year.
“It’s both fulfilling and it’s a little sad because I love soccer,” Abbatiello said of his success as a runner. “I wasn’t bad [at soccer], but I wouldn’t be getting scholarship offers or doing as well as I’m doing. I don’t want to waste talent by not running.”
Abbatiello has a scholarship offer from Wagner College in New York, the alma mater of his cousin, James Johnson. He’s also receiving interest from George Mason.
Colonial Forge coach Sean Leyh said Rebholz’s combination of good academics and athletic ability will enable her to “go wherever she wants to go.” He said Rebholz is ranked in the top 10 of her class. She has taken a visit to James Madison and is also considering Notre Dame and Virginia.
She’s come a long way from when she was admittedly one of the slowest girls on the spring track and field team as a freshman.
“It’s crazy to think just how far I’ve come and it makes me excited for the future,” Rebholz said. “My times keep on dropping and if I keep putting in the work I just want to see how far I can make it.”
Leyh said that desire to continue to push herself has separated Rebholz from other runners that have entered his program.
Rebholz finished ninth in the state 6A meet this past season. She was one second shy of tying Kay Comer’s school record of 18:16 when she placed 16th in the Nike Southeast Regional last month in Cary, N.C., with a time of 18:17.
She wasn’t able to qualify for the national meet, but Leyh said, “I think we’re really close to putting together something big.”
“I think it is all fun with her,” Leyh said. “It’s never good enough, but in a good way. There’s never an ending point. There’s always something bigger. She’s always willing to strive and push herself for more.”
Abbatiello has pushed himself, as well.
He was a member of the Fredericksburg Area Soccer Association travel team but said the time commitment eventually became a bit overwhelming.
His success on the track made it easier to give up soccer. Abbatiello opened the eyes of Stafford cross country coach Pete Augrom when he ran the mile in 4:48 and won the county championship as an eighth-grader at Dixon–Smith Middle School.
“People told me that was pretty good,” Abbatiello said. “Coach Augrom pulled me aside and told me, ‘You have good talent. You could be a collegiate athlete if you apply yourself.’ I was like, ‘Wow. That’s cool. I want to go to college for a sport.’”
Abbatiello, who placed 13th in the state meet, said perhaps the most rewarding part of his ascension has been the influence he’s had over his younger sister, Bridget, a Stafford sophomore. Bridget was also named an All-Area runner this season. She’s also a former soccer player, but took a similar path as her brother.
Augrom said he’s already begun playfully recruiting their younger brother, Anthony, who is in elementary school.
“They both just share an attitude where they won’t quit on anything,” Augrom said of Bridget and Joey. “You give them a challenge in a race and they’re going to do it.”
This week, The Free Lance–Star announces out fall All-Area high school sports teams. Here is the schedule:
TODAY: Cross country
Friday: Field hockey
Saturday: Football team and coach of the year
Sunday: Football player of the year
Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526