Five years ago, Galileo High’s cross country teams eagerly awaited their first meet in program history.
But a slight problem arose — uniforms hadn’t arrived yet.
So what did the Falcons do? What any good team would — they bought white t-shirts and harnessed the full capabilities of the permanent marker, transforming blank cotton canvasses into makeshift uniforms.
Saturday, those do-it-yourself days seemed like an eternity ago.
Galileo’s boys team finished third at the Virginia High School League Class 1 state championship meet, with two runners placing in the top 15. Henry Stevens wrapped up a decorated high school career, finishing fourth, while Owen Wood placed 11th at the state course in Northern Virginia.
Jaden Lamonth and William Jones each finished inside the top 50 as well.
Class 1 powerhouse Auburn expectantly took home the state title, but Galileo went into the race expecting as such, aiming to finish better than any of the previous two Falcons teams that qualified for states. And that they did, besting 2016’s fifth-place finish.
For Galileo’s head coach Mark Bryant, who started the program back in 2013, Saturday — and this season as a whole — marked the arrival of Galileo as a program everyone in the state should pay attention to.
“We believe we are officially a program,” Bryant said. “We’re a perennial team that’ s a threat to compete for [the state] title.”
The success of the team in such a short span of time is welcome at Galileo, a magnet school where athletics aren’t emphasized as much as other like institutions. Before the formation of the boys and girls cross country teams in 2013, boys soccer was the only sport offered at the school. Even now, with the addition of boys and girls track and field, there are only five sports for the school’s students to choose from.
While much of Galileo’s student body is made up of students who chose to attend the school for academic reasons, there are still plenty who relish the opportunity to participate in high school athletics.
In fact, the Falcons’ top runner, Stevens, decided to attend the school when the cross country program was barely established. Originally supposed to attend Halifax County High, Stevens chose to go to Galileo for its academics, barely considering he might not be able to run. Cut from his middle school track team, running in high school didn’t seem like a certainty anyway.
Since then, he’s turned into one of the top runners in the state, at least on the Class 1 level.
“Watching him run is awe-inspiring and also terrifying,” Galileo junior William Jones said. “Like, how can someone go that fast?”
Stevens has helped push other runners as well. During some races, he will stay behind with other runners, trying to push them to get better. In the middle of a race at Dan River High, Stevens was running with fellow senior Daniel Odongo, coaching his teammates while running.
“I was dying, but that was like nothing for him,” Odongo said. “He was stopping and he would encourage me [during the race]. He’s pretty tough.”
Stevens finished first in six races this year, including the Dogwood District meet and the Region 1B meet.
Even with Saturday marking Stevens’ last race, the Falcons are just getting things started.
Additional state meet results
Gretna’s boys team was the only other Dan River Region team to qualify for states, finishing ninth in the Class 2 state championship meet.
Dylan Cline was Gretna’s best finisher, taking 20th place, while Walker Cline finished 26th.
A few local runners also participated individually as well.
Galileo’s girls team had two runners participate in the state meet. Caroline Woods ran a personal best, finishing 44th at the Class 1 meet, while teammate Angel Lin finished 68th.
Tunstall’s Emily Wallace finished 50th at the Class 3 girls meet.