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Free Lance-Star Fall All-Area: Cross country runners of the year
BY TAFT COGHILL JR.
Frances Morales entered this past cross country season as a newcomer unsure whether she was Colonial Forge High School’s top runner.
Brian O’Loughlin went into the season as an experienced senior with high expectations because he was able to train nonstop since April.
“They took different paths,” Colonial Forge co-head coach Sean Leyh said, “to get to the same point.”
Success was the destination for both Morales and O’Loughlin.
Morales won the Commonwealth District title and was third in the Northwest Region.
O’Loughlin was the best Fredericksburg-area boys finisher in the district (second), region (third) and Group AAA (fifth).
That’s why he’s The Free Lance–Star boys runner of the year, and Morales has earned the honor on the girls side.
“They’re different types of athletes,” Colonial Forge co-head coach Michael Porter said. “But they’re both very driven to be successful in the sport.”
Morales moved to Stafford County in seventh grade from Southern California when her father was transferred to Marine Corps Base Quantico.
She participated in track and field in California, but really began to enjoy the sport at Rodney Thompson Middle School.
She went undefeated in the 1-mile race and the 800 meters as an eighth-grader.
After concentrating on field hockey, winter track and outdoor track as a freshman, Morales decided to run cross country for the first time.
She defeated 2010 state champion Hannah Lowery (Stafford) and Mountain View senior Kimberley Ficenec (a national champion in the 800 meters) to earn the district championship.
“It was overwhelming, but really neat,” Morales said of winning unexpectedly. “It shows that you can come out of nowhere and do it.”
Morales relished being the underdog, but O’Loughlin knew he had to make the most of his final season of cross country.
The lifelong Stafford resident has endured injuries and setbacks throughout his career, including a bout with mononucleosis that kept him out of action for six months last school year.
O’Loughlin missed the majority of the indoor and outdoor seasons before he returned to action in April.
But from that point on, he trained relentlessly.
“Every year I’ve had something, but I’ve learned from it all,” O’Loughlin said. “Last year was a blessing in disguise because I was able to log more miles when I came back.”
O’Loughlin said he has partial scholarship offers from William & Mary and Virginia Tech. He’s undecided on where he wants to run next season, but he does have a goal in mind.
He wants to top his father’s personal-best record in the one-mile race.
Joe O’Loughlin, a native of Ireland, was a standout runner for Middle Tennessee State University. His best finish in the one-mile is 4 minutes, 3 seconds.
His son has completed the race in 4 minutes, 21 seconds.
“Hopefully this [indoor season],” Brian said, “I’ll start getting a little closer.”
While running is O’Loughlin’s primary sport, Morales also loves to play field hockey.
She was a starter for the Eagles’ junior varsity team this past season, while splitting her time with cross country.
Porter said as soon as field hockey season ended, he saw Morales’ running improve.
She was one of a group of four girls who eventually helped the Eagles win district and regional championships as a team when the season started.
But by October Morales separated herself from the pack, and then took the district by surprise.
“She couldn’t stop smiling that day,” Porter said of her district championship. “She completely enjoyed the experience of winning.”
Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526