Washington, DC
Loudoun Valley junior Ricky Fetterolf. Photo: Ed Lull

Marc Hunter has been around runners long enough to know that even with the benefit of a meritocracy, seniority can often dominate in a team dynamic. That’s why he was surprised to hear then-freshman Ricky Fetterolf say something at a Loudoun Valley team meeting two years ago.

“It was gutsy, because we had a top-heavy team and it’s understandable for a freshman to just sit back and listen,” he said. “We had a top-heavy team, with a lot of seniors, but she voiced her opinion and I respected that about her. So did a lot of the girls.”

Fetterolf didn’t even remember what she had to say. What was more important to her was letting the rest of the team know she would have things to say, albeit somewhat sparingly. She wanted her hands on the wheel as the team moved ahead.

“I don’t talk that much, but if it’s something I value, I will speak up about it,” she said. “I’d rather lead by example.”

On a team as big as Loudoun Valley, with more than 75 girls, she’d have to be pretty loud anyway, so it all works out for her. From the start of her high school career, she’s been among the Vikings’ top runners, ever since her promotion to the varsity team after one race. She ended up fifth in the 4A state meet that fall, then won the whole thing a year later, following in Natalie Morris’ example, but also leading Loudoun Valley to its first girls’ title.

“She’s a big race runner,” Hunter said. “Her sophomore year, nobody really expected her to win the state meet, but when the pressure is on, she runs that much better.”

That carried on to her next race, eighth place at the Nike Cross Regional Southeast meet, with Elise Abbe one place behind. Those two, plus transfer Ava Gordon, has Loudoun Valley feeling pretty good about their chances in November to make it to Nike Cross Nationals. She ninth place finish at the Great American Cross Country Festival two weeks ago, which led the Vikings to a runner-up finish, says they’re on the right track. The Harrier ranked then 17th as of Oct. 8.

Though she is only a junior, Hunter asked her to take a leadership role over the summer, which, given her introversion, was a challenge, but the way she chose to take it on was fulfilling.

“We were going to have a lot of new girls on the team, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, but I just decided to be kind to everyone and be inclusive,” she said. “If we are a team that cares about each other, we will run harder for each other.”

She played host to a team breakfast over the summer, to the delight of her mother, Mary Beth, who ran collegiality at Bucknell. She wanted to expose her five children to running, but didn’t want to be overbearing about it.

“It’s definitely a sport where you don’t want to start them too young, so I just observed her when she played basketball and danced,” Mary Beth said. “It seemed like it would be something that agreed with her. She always had a beautiful stride.”

Ricky participated in Girls on the Run, liked the running part the best, and joined, along with younger sister Ceci, the Marc and Joan Hunter’s Nova Athletics Club team. She liked her teammates, she liked the way running felt, and doing the supporting work to keep herself healthy wasn’t a chore at all.

This year, along with junior Ricky and sophomore Ceci, freshman Scarlet has joined the cross country team after years of dance. Ricky takes her leadership role home with her, getting her sisters into her evening stretching routines.

Ricky’s approach to the sport is what gives Mary Beth the feeling that it will be a longtime devotion for her.

“She doesn’t ride the emotional rollercoaster,” she said. “She knows that some days you’re on, some days you’re off, and sometimes they’re not too far apart. You can waste a lot of energy living like that, but she just loves what she’s doing, so when she does it well, it’s a bonus.”

And Hunter appreciates the work she does for herself, in addition to what she does for the rest of the team.

“She us a joy to coach, and she really wants to be good,” Hunter said. “A lot of kids want to be good, and they’ll be 90 percent ‘in.’ She’s 100 percent ‘in.'”

Ricky Fetterolf runs the third mile of the 2019 Oatlands Invitational. Photo: Charlie Ban

RunWashington is throwing in a season-long surge of cross country coverage. We’re featuring our All-RunWashington team. So far we have profiled:

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