Glenvar’s Carly Wilkes hasn’t let the pandemic slow her down. In fact, the Glenvar junior who has state championship medals in both swimming and track is getting even faster.
In the nine months during which high school sports in Virginia were put on hold Carly has kept busy going to big time distance running invitationals all over the east coast. Most recently she attended the Virginia Showcase meet at the new Virginia Beach Sports Center on the weekend of January 17th, where her time in the two mile was the best to date among high schoolers in Virginia and ninth best nationally.
Only 15 girls were picked to run in the race, which included some of the top talent in the nation. The winner finished with a time of 9:47 and the runnerup came in at 9:51, and those are the top two times in the country. Carly finished ninth in 10:35.46, ranking her ninth in the USA.
“The first two girls were way out in front and then there was everyone else,” she said. “People came from all over the country for this meet.”
On October 10th Carly ran in the Runner Elite XC Invitational in North Carolina and finished third in a 5K race in 18:15. A week later, on October 17th, she ran 18:02 in the Virginia Elite XC Invitational. It was held in Mechanicsville at the Pole Green Course.
“I did okay but I was hoping to break 18 minutes,” she said.
On October 31st Wilkes ran a 1,600 meter race at Liberty University and had her best time at that distance with a 5:06. On November 7th she won a 5K race in Lynchburg with a time of 18:11, winning by 29 seconds and setting a new course record. Then, on November 15th, she traveled to Terre Haute, Indiana to run in the XC Town USA Meet of Champions.
“That was a cool experience,” she said. “It was on the NCAA championship cross country course. I ran in the invitational section and there were 150 girls.”
Carly ran her first race of the season for Glenvar last week as the Highlanders competed in a “polar bear” meet on the William Byrd track in Vinton. It was outside on a cold and windy day and Wilkes blew away the competition with ease. All indoor meets are being run outdoors for now due to the coronavirus, and she also competed Saturday on Glenvar’s new track in an outdoor meet, winning the 1,000 and 1,600 meter events.
Wilkes also competed in her first swim meet of the season last week at the Gator Center in Roanoke, as the Highlanders swam against William Byrd and Cave Spring. As of now Glenvar is only allowed to run or swim against the four other Roanoke County schools, and Carly is hoping that changes for the post-season.
“They’re planning on having state meets for indoor and swimming, but right now we can’t compete against anyone outside the Roanoke County area,” she said. “They(county school board) haven’t voted on whether we can compete in the region and state meets yet. I think they’re going to vote on the 28th(Thursday of this week), and from what I understand they’re about split on it.”
If she can compete Carly has a good chance to add some more hardware to her ever expanding collection of awards. Last year, just before the pandemic, she won state medals in both swimming and indoor track. The swimming came first as the Highlanders won the Class 1 & 2 team championship in Richmond.
“That was really fun, because I didn’t expect it,” she said. “The coaches thought we had a chance, and after the preliminaries we realized we could win it. It came down to the last relay(4×100) and all we had to do was keep from getting disqualified, because we had enough points to win whether we finished first or sixth. That really took the pressure off.”
As it turned out the girls finished second in the relay and broke the school record in the event, winning the state championship in style. And a day later Carly ran in the Region C indoor track finals at Roanoke College and won the 3,200 meters.
The state Class 2 indoor track meet was also at RC the following weekend and Carly came out with three more championship medals. She won the 1,600 and 3,200 meter state races and ran on the winning 4×800 relay team. In the two distance races she handily beat Kelsey Harrington of Virginia High, and that was some sweet revenge. Harrington had beaten Carly in the cross country state championship in the fall of 2019 at Green Hill Park when Wilkes was battling an injury.
Carly was hoping to win a few more medals in the outdoor meet last spring, but that’s when the coronavirus pandemic shut everything down. The VHSL did not have a state outdoor meet last year, and the prospects for this year rest on how the pandemic plays out in the next few months. In fact, cross country was also moved to the spring this year so Wilkes will keep busy.
Actually, keeping busy is no problem for Carly regardless of the pandemic. She runs about 35 miles a week to practice, and that’s after doing her swimming workouts in the morning before school three or four times a week.
“I’ve kind of gotten used to it,” she said. “I’ve been swimming all my life.”
Carly was also an outstanding softball player growing up, playing on the Glenvar Middle School team as a seventh grader and on the GHS jayvee team as an eighth grader. However, she gave up softball her freshman year.
“I played travel softball since I was eight so it was a little hard to give up,” she said. “But I thought I had more of a future in running.”
A straight A student, Carly will have no trouble getting into a college when she decides where she wants to go. Right now is considered to be a “dead period” for recruiting, so she can visit colleges but can’t meet with the coaches upon her visits until April 15. She can talk on the phones and had interest from Virginia Tech, Liberty University, the University of Virginia, Georgetown, Syracuse and Oklahoma, with many more sure to follow as she continues to get faster both on land in the water.
Wherever she goes, they’ll be getting a good one in Carly Wilkes.