Varner-Voight duo is Southern Fulton's 1-2 punch
It all started in elementary school.
Benjy Voight moved to into the Southern Fulton school district in fourth grade, and instantly bonded with Chase Varner over a soccer ball on the playground.
Then, Voight beat Varner in the mile in gym class.
"That didn't fly too well with me," Varner said.
Flash forward eight years and Voight and Varner are still juggling a soccer ball together, and racing side-by-side, as two of the top fall athletes at Southern Fulton. They are leading the soccer team to a strong start in the Sideling Hill League, and setting the cross country team up for another run at a District 5 title.
Last week Varner and Voight worked double time to put on a successful show for Southern Fulton fans as the cross country team claimed two decisive ICC victories and three boys soccer wins, including a historic defeat of Chestnut Ridge. Varner and Voight combined for seven goals and eight assists between the three games, and finished 1-2 in both of the cross country races.
- Thursday, Sept. 15, Cross country: Southern Fulton 15, Juniata Valley 50 - Varner (1st, 21:01), Voight (2nd, 21:10)
- Friday, Sept. 16, Soccer: Southern Fulton 3, Forbes Road 1 - Varner 1 goal, 1 assist
- Monday, Sept. 19, Soccer: Southern Fulton 9, Salisbury 1 - Varner 3 goals, 4 assists; Voight 3 goals, 1 assist
- Tuesday, Sept. 20, Cross country: Southern Fulton 20, West Branch 41 - Varner (1st, 18:46), Voight (2nd, 18:53)
- Wednesday, Sept. 21, Soccer, Southern Fulton 4, Chestnut Ridge 2 - Varner 1 assist, Voight 1 assist
"Benjy and I have always been sort of leaders even through we were younger," said Varner, who has been a varsity starter with Voight since their freshman year. "Now that we are seniors it's nice to be able to lead both teams."
But splitting time between two varsity sports, keeping up with school, applying for colleges and finding time to - you know, sleep - isn't as difficult as it may seem, at least for Varner and Voight, who have been putting on a successful balancing act in the fall since their freshman year.
"If you think about it too much it gets to your head, but you have to take it one step at a time," Voight said. "It sounds hard, but it's really not that bad. I usually get home and have about 30 minutes for school, then I'm either eating or sleeping, and sometimes if we have a late practice I don't get home until after 9.
"You get used to it; it's not bad any more. It was hard starting off, but you just have to pace yourself. You have to be aware of what you're going to do throughout the week."
The Southern Fulton School District plays a major role in making it possible for athletes like Varner and Voight to succeed in two fall sports. Spearheaded by athletic director Kent Hendershot, soccer coach Scott Varner and cross country coach Joe Hollenshead, allowing students to participate in both puts Southern Fulton in good position to be competitive, despite the school's small size.
"Scott and I sit down before the season to go through the schedule to work out where they will compete," Hollenshead said. "With such a small school, we don't have the numbers to have both a good soccer team and a good cross country team; we just don't have enough bodies. So instead of fighting with each other we realized if we work together it can work out for both programs. And we couldn't do it without Kent."
"I think we have a lot of flexibility with the coaches and we have fun doing both," Voight said. "I like doing cross country because the coaches and team make it fun, and soccer I enjoy the sport so much that it makes it easier doing both. The companionship and being around people that enjoy the same stuff you do is fun."
Seven athletes are members of both the cross country and boys soccer team this season, with Voight and Varner at the helm. Throughout the week, the boys use soccer practice to work on their sprints, while cross country practice is reserved for longer runs.
"At soccer we are two of the first three done in all of our sprints and suicides and turn around and encourage our teammates to finish up as well," Varner said. "It's a big responsibility to keep working hard at soccer even though you're tired, we just have to keep going and know that the training will help in cross country.
"We both maintain a 3.7 GPA and we've qualified for NHS (National Honor Society), which is pretty cool," Varner said. "He has a locker beside mine and we've literally done everything together since ninth grade."
Scott Varner said, "They would never ask for a day off, and even if I would give them off, I don't know if I would trust them to actually rest. I gave them Friday off because we had a game Saturday morning, and they went and ran with the cross country team. They don't want to rest, and they never stop pushing themselves."