5 minutes with Max Panica

Reilly Hooks, Staff Reporter

Freshman Max Panica isn’t letting his freshman cross country season run away from him—literally. Panica kicked off his first year of cross country with a varsity spot at the Hood Invitational. The invitational is located in Frederick, Maryland at Hood College. It is a very competitive meet and the teams have to be invited.

 Despite not previously being a runner, Panica has been playing soccer for the last seven years recreationally and on the Virginia Revolution Travel team. 

Playing soccer has helped me build friendships, be a team player and put the team above me,” Panica said. “Soccer has taught me how to keep going and never give up, no matter how bad it seems.”

His soccer coach mentioned the idea of running for Valley when he first moved to Purcellville. Although Panica did not anticipate being pulled up to varsity for his first meet, he was both thrilled and nervous.

“With this being a new sport for me, I was surprised that I was offered the chance to run for varsity. Going into it, it was nerve-racking. But once the race started, I just focused on doing my best,” Panica said.

He has always played with the idea of running competitively, but didn’t act on it until this season. His previous school, Blue Ridge Middle, gave Panica a taste of cross country running through the running club there. Now, he plans on juggling indoor track this winter and soccer during the spring. 

Coach Shirk and the whole team have been very welcoming and nice,” Panica said.

Although Panica has adjusted well and made new friends, staying conditioned for soccer season and running fast times is difficult to manage all at once. The head cross country coach, Kevin Shirk, believes Panica can bring something really special to the team. 

“Cross Country is a fairly clear-cut sport when it comes to selecting rosters,” Shirk said. “Two weeks into our pre-season, the team ran a 2-mile time trial in which Max finished ninth on the team. Based on that early result and his lack of experience, we expected he would improve quickly and possibly step into our top seven, or varsity, at some point during the season.” 

Shirk is thoroughly impressed with Panica’s performance considering it’s his first season running. With Panica running in the Hood Invitational, the team placed first overall. 

“Max actually played a huge role in our team winning that meet as we only beat second place by 2 points,” Shirk said.

Panica only had one priority for the invitational—others. 

“I was just focused on doing my best helping the team out in the best way possible,” Panica said.