|Virginia State Meet|
While all eyes are one SE #1 Midlo teams, plenty of other great teams and runners in action this weekend
Friday, November 10th The Plains, VA
NTN Southeast Region Editor, Brandon Miles
Link to Complete Results
VHSL previews by division group AAA -- group AA -- group A
VIS State Cross Country Championships to be held at Great Meadows - preview
Group AAA State XC Meet Preview
THE PLAINS, VA -- Last year the Midlothian girls were the underdogs and the the Midlothian boys were the forgottens. The Midlothian girls went onto win their first state championship in the program's history by a wide margin over pre-meet favorite and #1 ranked Oakton, while the Midlothian boys surprised many by making it onto the podium as the third place team and finishing only five points away from a state championship. However, neither team can get away with spotlight this year heading into Saturday's VHSL State Cross Country Championships at Great Meadows. Coach Stan Morgan's girls are currently ranked #2 in the nation, while the boys maintain a US #11 ranking as both teams find themselves sitting on top as the Southeast #1 ranked teams in the region. Midlothian is currently on the cross country program in the nation that has both of their teams nationally ranked in the top 25 and ranked #1 in their region. A state championship for both teams would be the first for coach Morgan, who has already had 2 boys team champions, 1 girls team champions, and a countless number of top three state meet finishing teams. The objectives of both teams this weekend will be to race how they have been racing all season long and avoid any self-destruction as the heavy favorites.
VHSL 2006 State Cross Country Meet Schedule
|10:30 a.m.||A Girls|
|11:15 a.m.||A Boys|
|11:45 a.m.||AA Girls|
|12:30 p.m.||AA Boys|
|1:00 p.m.||AAA Girls|
|1:45 p.m.||AAA Boys|
The Midlothian teams are not the only story of the AAA races at this weekend's VHSL State Cross Country Meet, but certainly draw the biggest attention and draw outside of Virginia. Not only are fans of Virginia high school cross country eager to see how they perform, but many across the nation will be awaiting the results. The Nike Team Nationals committee members, who will be making selections for the two Southeast region delegates to represent the region at Nike Team Nationals as well as the two at-large bids up for grabs, will be looking closely at how both teams perform. Coaches, athletes, and fans throughout the Southeast region will be looking at how they perform as possible their Nike Team Nationals hopes hinder on a letdown state meet performance from the Midlothian squads. Virginia is certainly watching them and many are hoping they seal the deal on NTN berths by strong state championship performances to conclude their VHSL season. In the two year of existence of Nike Team Nationals, Virginia has yet to send one team to Oregon to compete in the high school cross country national team championship event and the hope is with two teams ranked #1 in the region heading into the final weekend that finally Virginia will have representation in Portland, Oregon.
However, maintaing a #1 ranking in Virginia alone is no easy task as 2006 has been another exceptional year for the state in depth of great teams and individuals. There has especially been great parity among the boys' teams. There will be teams not finishing on the state meet podium this weekend at the state meet in the AAA race, who in another year could be the AAA state champion. Midlothian, Oakton, Hermitage, Thomas Jefferson, and West Springfield all are very solid teams. Teams have flip flopped and trade victories throughout the season. Midlothian is the only unbeaten team among this elite class of AAA teams and thus the bull's eye is on them.
Meanwhile, the Midlothian girls appear to be even on another level than even the Midlothian boys. On a level in which the state of Virginia arguably has not seen before. Can you think of a Virginia team that has went up to compete at the mecca of East Coast high school cross country at Van Courtland Park and take down the best the Northeast has to offer in the Manhattan Invitational's Eastern States race? Even in the pre-NTN era, Virginia teams could never do it. Great Virginia teams may have made great impressions on you with dominating performances within the state of Virginia, but it takes a greater perspective to understand how better cross country teams are elsewhere across the country to fully appreciate Midlothian's victory at Manhattan.
Though the truth is Manhattan is in the past and the Midlothian boys dominating victory over Hermitage by putting six runners ahead of Hermitage's second finisher is also ancient history. Both teams will have to lace up the spikes and prove themselves again.
Enough about the favored Midlo teams. Lets take a look at the challengers.
The Lake Braddock girls believe they can challenge Midlothian. When you have a history of great success at the state meet within your program, you can believe anything. If it was not the year of the Midlothian girls, it would be Lake Braddock's state championship year. If Lake Braddock could upset Midlothian this weekend, Bobby Lockhart can kiss his recent #1 ranking in top 15 moments during the MileStat.com (December 2000 - Present) at the VHSL State Cross Country Championships. Yes upsets are very common and frequent every year at the Virginia High School League State Cross Country Championships, but few teams could as heavily favored as the Midlothian. When has the favored team been ranked #2 in the country? Never. However, the Lake Braddock girls have been AAA state champions on two occassions in this decade and both times the Lady Bruins were not the favorites to win. In 2000, Lake Braddock went from third in the region to first in the state and in 2004, the regional runners-up over took their regional champs Oakton and the rest of the field.
However, this is a different group than those past Lake Braddock state champions. There is a bit of a chip on the shoulder of the 2006 Lake Braddock girls. Last year was the first year that a Lake Braddock had not qualified for the state meet as a team in 25 years. Not only was a streak snapped, but there was a let down in keeping up the team tradition. Lake Braddock senior Michelle Presley was a member of the 2004 state champion team and was determined to help lead this year's team back to Great Meadows and prove the Lady Bruins are still a force to be reckoned with every fall in cross country.
After losing out a sixth runner tiebreaker for fourth place in the Northern Region last year, the Braddock girls did not have to sweat out a team trip to the state meet this year with a dominant regional meet performance. However, the jubilance in the team's celebration at the regional meet felt like a team who was making it to the state meet for the first time in the school's history. These Lake Braddock girls are definitely not taking their return to Great Meadows in November for granted. Coach Mike Mangan's girls are hungry and want to do well this weekend.
Lake Braddock should not focus all its attention on Midlothian though or they might be quickly surprised by other solid teams in AAA for a state runner-up. One team in particular to look out for is Douglas Freeman. Yes, Freeman was a distant second to Midlothian at the Central Region Championships, but the how strong Midlothian is and the way they are running, the majority of the teams in the country would be a distant second much less the state of Virginia. The Freeman girls have great depth and have a solid front runner in junior Casey Fowler.
Northwest Region champions Colonial Forge also have the potential to make it onto the podium. Their success may hinder on the individual performances by their top two runners in Kaylan Comer and Molly Hawkins, who expected to do big things this season after both went under 11:10 for 3200 meters at the end of the outdoor season. However, both have underperformed this fall. Having both running well at the end of the cross country and up to their ability levels could really help the team's finish on Saturday. Kathleen Wade has really been the backbone of the team this fall as the most consistent and overachieving runner on the squad.
The Oakton boys are the hot team right now as they look to be the biggest challenger to Midlothian's state title hopes and a trip to Nike Team Nationals. Lets not forget that Oakton is the defending state champions and they are the champs until beaten. Few could have expected to be in a position to win another state championship after graduating five of their top seven runners from the 2005 AAA state champion squad including two All-State individuals in James Phillips and Matt Kroetch, yet Coach Phil Tiller has developed a whole new crop of harriers ready to make at least a return trip to the state meet podium with a top three or better finish. Oakton is coming off a big momentum building win at the Northern Region Championships over two quality squads in Thomas Jefferson and West Springfield.
A lot of Oakton's recent resurgence can be contributed by the emergence of two front runners in junior Joe Lorusso and senior Matt Saunders. Lorusso is one of the two lone returnees from last year's state champion seven, while Saunders made his first crack into the Oakton top seven this year as a senior.
However, the strength before their district meet had been primarily their depth which extended beyond the seven runners they put into the varsity race. The depth beyhond seven was very apparent at the Glory Days Grill Invitational when they had two runners under 17 minutes for 5K in the varsity B race, who would have impacted the team scoring greatly in favor for the Cougars if they had been inserted into the seeded boys results.
Four of the top five ranked teams in AAA currently have coaches with great track records of state meet success with their teams. Thomas Jefferson coach Matt Ryan has guide two teams to state championships in the past decade with his first in 2002 and and second in 2004. Thomas Jefferson was within striking distance of Oakton at the regional meet in second place and can only think of the season that might have been if last year's top finisher for the team at the state meet in junior and All-State performer Brian Landry had healthy enough to race this season. Thomas Jefferson's depth has kept them competitive as a team this season against other top ranked teams, but has disappointed on some fronts in terms of expectations. Paul Norland has not been a disappointment at all though as the team's ace as looks to garner his second consecutive All-State honor this Saturday after grabbing the final All-State spot in 2005 with a 15th place run.
Do not be shocked if West Springfield finishes higher than their third regional performance last weekend or even take home first this weekend. Coach Vic Kelbaugh is the hustler of Virginia high school cross country coaches as he is notorious for having his teams intentionally run bad at the Northern Region Meet then catching everyone off guard with a state meet podium finish. Okay. Maybe he does not intentionally have his athletes run poorly at the regional meet to lower expectations on his squad heading into the state meet, but he certainly has having his Spartans running at their best on the second Saturday of every November down to a science. West Springfield will likely get an easy one point out of their first runner in individual favorite Mike Spooner.
The team has been one of the best teams in the state this fall, through four runners. Unfortunately for West Springfield, cross country meets are scored through five. However, West Springfield should have won the Northern Region championship based on how their top four had been running all season, but ended up being flat out beaten by Oakton and Thomas Jefferson in runner positions that were once trump cards earlier in the season over the regional rival. An emergency Kelbaugh magic turnaround is definitely going to be needed for the Spartans on Saturday for them to reserve one of the three available podium spaces.
Hermitage is a team that does not have a history of success at the state meet as not a single member of their squad has experienced the thrill of standing on the state meet podium as part of a team or an individual and Coach Joe Pardue has yet to get his first squad into the top three in the AAA state race. Last year, Hermitage was very close to giving their coach his first state meet podium team as finished in fourth place and flip flopped finishes with Midlothian after winning the Central Region Meet over the Trojans. Hermitage was dealt a very crushing defeat by Midlothian this past Saturday at the Central Region Championships that could effect their psyche or they could bounce back hungrier after the decisive loss. Hermitage has already done wonders in one week turnarounds this season before as they finished a disappointing eighth at the Maymont Festival only to upset the Southeast's #2 ranked team at Disney one week later.
Lets give some credit to Midlothian with their Central Region Meet team performance too. Its tough for anyone to run close to a team that averages 16:05 as a team on a fair 5K course found at Pole Green Park. Could Midlothian be that good to defeat a potential AAA state meet podium in such a convincing fashion? There certainly could be a case to argue in favor of that as well as possibility that the Central Region could take the top two team places for the first time since 2001 when Maggie Walker defeated defending state champions Midlothian in one of the closest state meet finishes in the MileStat.com Era. Hermitage has raced competitive will all of the other top ranked teams in AAA and beat Oakton by one point to open the season at Great Meadows to finish a distant third in the meet behind Midlothian and Brentsville.
Both Northwest Region champs Mountain View and Eastern Region champs Hickory are better teams than those regions usually send as their regional champion representatives, but find themselves in a very competitive year as far as AAA teams that will likely leave outside of even a top five finish. While Dave Davis is the meet director of this weekend's VHSL State Cross country Champions, he also directs and coaches a vastly improved Mountain View squad who has quickly risen to become a regional champion in only the school's second year of existence. To have two runners under 17 minutes for 5K on one team in the Eastern Region is a great feat, much less having double the number with four as well as several runners under 17:30 to make for a solid Hickory squad out of the Eastern Region.
Individually, it will be the Mike Spooner show. He's got great endurance and decent speed. He's tough, but a student of the sport. To define him is tough to beat. It will be no easy task for any other. Spooner's performances this fall indicate he has what it takes to earn himself a trip to Foot Locker Nationals and especially with the number of qualifiers at the Foot Locker regional meets being extended to the top ten over top eight in the past few years. However, Foot Locker South is looking too far ahead for the University of Tennesse bound senior. Spooner has to get a monkey off his back in winning his first state cross country title. Spooner was tabbed the favorite heading into last year's race and ended up being outkicked by Brad Siragusa of Chantilly down the homestretch for the state title. There is no doubt that Spooner envies what Siragusa has with a cross country state championship and trip to San Diego for Foot Locker Nationals. Spooner will be half as less jealous than before if he can cross the line first on Saturday. It will be interesting to see if Spooner keeps a watch on the AA race earlier on the day to see what kind of time another Foot Locker hopeful in Griff Graves puts up and if he will look to beat it for the day's fastest.
Spooner cannot be too preoccupied with Foot Locker or Graves on Saturday though as there are some great individual runners featured in the race who will take advantage if Spooner sleeps on them. Midlothian junior Jason Witt has posting some outstanding times as of late and looks to be well ahead of where he was at this point last year. Keep in mind that Witt finished third in last year's AAA race in 15:39 and so far this championship season Witt has ran 27 seconds faster than his district time and 31 seconds faster than his regional time. However, his regional race was ran on a modified Pole Green course from last year, which looks to run faster even if it is a stronger year for the Central Region.
There a handful of other individuals who have the potential to surprise. History has shown in AAA that you can never count out a darkhorse. Alex Tatu over Matt Keally in 2001, Steve Tobin over a handful of pre-race favorites not named Steve Tobin in 2003, and Siragusa over Spooner in 2005 has shown just in recent history alone that the top guy all season is not always the one that comes out on top. If there was any time for Thomas Porter to have his best race of the season, the time would be now. After a promising freshmen year including a national championship in the freshmen mile and near AAA 3200 meter outdoor state championship over Spooner in a sub 9:20 performance, the Mountain View sophomore had plenty of expectations coming in as the next bet after Spooner to win the AAA crown this fall in the preseason.
However, he has somewhat stagnated this fall and his 15:54 5K season best is eight seconds off his freshmen year best. In invitationals this season, he has been defeated by lesser ranked and recognized runners to find himself ranked #9 in AAA currently even after winning the Northwest Region title.
There is this eerie feeling though that Porter has just been waiting for the moment to pounce though at the end here. Very similar to what Siragusa did last year. Siragusa like Porter, emerged as one of the state's best young distance runners as a freshmen at Chantilly, only to have a couple of up and down years as a sophomore and junior, then show his full promise in the month of November of his senior year with a state championship and qualifying for Foot Locker Nationals. A state championship for Porter or at least a strong state meet finish would definitely make everyone forget any results leading up to November 11th this fall.
Robert E. Lee senior Josef Tessema was the closest finisher to Spooner has had all season at last Thursday's Northern Region Meet as after Spooner gapped the field by the midway point, Tessema did not let him get too far ahead and ended up only six seconds behind him in second with a near sub 15 run at Burke Lake in 15:01. Tessema also has the third fastest 5K time coming among AAA runners this season behind only Spooner (15:24) and Witt (15:37) with a 15:49 clocking from the Glory Days Grill Invitational.
Eastern Region champ Eddie Judge from Cox has not had the opportunity to race many of the state's top ranked runners as his team has stayed fairly local in the meets they have participated in this fall, but Judge does have an impressive William & Mary Invite win to his credit with a 15:40 win at Eastern State Hospital's 3.05 mile course over runners such as Fork Union's Axel Mostrag, Turner Ashby's Alex Ott, and Washington-Lee'S Chris Tyson. Judge has yet to be defeated in a race this season and won the Eastern Region title in a 5K time of 16:05 at Bells Mill in Chesapeake. Judge is a bit of a unknown or more so untested underdog for this weekend's race.
Switching back to the girls with the individuals, this could be where the drama unfolds in AAA as there is potential for blow outs with the top ranked Midlothian teams and Spooner in the individual race for boys. Three regional champions are looking fitter and faster than ever in Central Region champ Kristen Wolfe of James River, Eastern Region champ Kristy Tobin of James River, and Sarrah Hadiji of W.T. Woodson. Then there is the defending state champion Rachel Rose of Albemarle, who also won the Northwest Region championship and has shown the heart of the champion already this season in coming back from a mid-season double stress fracture injury to get herself ready to race and defend her state championship after the major setback.
However, the odds definitely look to be stacked against Rose to repeat as while her comeback deserves an award within itself, these three individuals in Wolfe, Tobin, and Hadiji are in peak shape and did not have to deal with a month away from running this season.
James River junior Kristen Wolfe appears to have the slight edge as a favorite with a strong relunctacy to give any one of these runners such a title with how strong they have been racing. However, Wolfe has the fastest time of them all coming off a 17:58 5K best at the Central Region Meet to become the first female runner to ever break 18 minutes at the course. Her time is probably not as convincing to her #1 ranking in AAA as being the closest to finisher to Catherine White not named Aurora Scott from Virginia in the past two years with a nine second runner-up finish at the Octoberfest Invite held at Great Meadows in early October. Wolfe also has a win to her credit this season over Tobin and by a decent margin of 15 seconds at the William & Mary Invitational. Wolfe has her eyes on her first state cross country championship after finishing fourth in last year's race with a time of 18:19
The 15 second gap that existed between Wolfe and Tobin in mid September has likely been decreased as Tobin has steadily improved during the season as the times she has put up on a common course for her at Bells Mill in Chesapeake can attest to that. Tobin, who beat Wolfe out for third in last year's AAA race in 18:17, posted a time of 18:44 to win the Chesapeake Invitational held at Bells Mill only one week after taking second to Wolfe at William & Mary. Fast forward to last Thursday's Eastern Region Meet held at Bells Mill and Tobin was over 30 seconds faster on the same course with a near personal best time of 18:12.
One thing is for certain that neither Rachel Rose nor Sarrah Hadiji can afford to make it a kickers race between either Tobin or Wolfe this Saturday as both have incredible speed. Tobin is of course the two-time 1600 meter state champion as a junior last year in both indoor and outdoor including her sizzling 4:53 at last June's outdoor state meet, which moved her to #7 all-time fastest in state meet history. Then there is Wolfe who won her first state championship as a freshmen indoors for 1000 meters with a 2:57 best.
Woodson senior Sarrah Hadji may not be the middle distance track stars that Tobin and Wolfe are, but she is certainly a star on the cross country course as her 17:34 Northern Region Championship win last Thursday indicates she is in excellent shape heading into this weekend. Hadiji always seems to come through in state meet competition and step it up a notch as well.
Everyone asked "Who is that girl from Woodson?" in her sophomore year at the outdoor state meet when she attempted to give Aurora Scott in the 3200 meter run and ended up garnering her first All-State medal with a third place 11:02 personal best run. Then there was last November's state cross country meet in her first season in the sport when she went from third in the Northern Region to second in the state.
What was more remarkable about Hadiji's 2005 jump from regions to states in cross country was her time difference between the two differences or more so lack thereof one. Being a fairly quick 2.98 mile course, many Northern Region girls in the past have found themselves running times over a minute slower in some cases at the state meet, yet Hadiji was only 18 seconds slower going from 17:53 2.98 mile time to a 18:11 5K personal best time. with her 17:34 run last week at Burke Lake, it makes one wonder if she can keep the time difference low again and run well under 18 minutes on Saturday. And last but not least of Hadiji's great state meet performances, her first state championship indoors for 3200 meters last March.
Could this be the year that we have a handful of girls under 18 minutes? White has already done it in the past, while Wolfe, Tobin, and Hadiji seem up for the job. There could be more individuals surprising to join this group and one cannot forget nor never sleep on a champion and a sub 18 minute performer from last year in Albemarle senior Rachel Rose.
Rose won last year's state championship in 17:57 as one of the state's more improved runners as she ahd finished in the top 15 in the AAA race as a sophomore one year earlier, but had gone virtually unnoticed by many leading into this season. Injuries forced her to sit out post season competition at Foot Locker as well as running indoors, but she came back last spring with a strong comeback posting times of 5:00 for 1600 meters and 10:43 for 3200 meters as well as a second state title in the 3200 meter run outdoors.
Rose started off this fall cruising through two victories at the Fork Union Invitational (17:43 3mi) and woodberry Forest Invitational (19:16 5K), but season plans and goals hit a major obstacle following Woodberry when Rose was disagnosed with two stress fractures in the week leading up to the Maymont Festival. At Maymont, Rose was expected to have a big matchup with Hadiji as well as other strong out of state individuals. Hadiji has had to wait two more months to finally get her head to head race with Rose this Saturday, but it probably would not be possible if it were not for Rose's drive and committment to keep herself fit through cross training while her stress fractures healed through September and October.
Rose returned for her district meet to finish a second behind sophomore teammate Elizabeth Barclay (18:42) at 18:43, who really emerged out of Rose's shadows in her absence including a sub 19 clocking at Maymont and winning the "B" race at Octoberfest in the mud slop. The two Albemarle blondes were leading the way once again at the Northwest Region Meet with the second difference still the same but with the senior Rose at 18:51 leading the sophomore Barclay at 18:52 to the line.
Rose is a tough competitor and does not race for anything but first, so she will definitely make this Saturday's race all but more interesting among many things to make Saturday's races completely unpredictable.
Group AA Prevew
THE PLAINS, VA -- Ranked #3 currently in the Southeast region for Nike Team Nationals, the Brentsville boys have their eyes not only set on winning their third consecutive Group AA state title, but hope to put together a strong closing team performance to impress the NTN committee enough to be considered for one of the two automatic bids from the region. Meanwhile, the defending state champion Brentsville girls have their work cut out for them to repeat as it should be a great battle between them and SE #10 ranked Blacksburg girls. Meanwhile, cross country fans will be treated to a special occassion for Northside senior Catherine White's final VHSL State Cross Country Championship as the two-time state cross country champions looks to better her 17:48 course record from a year ago. While not racing against top ranked Mike Spooner, you can beat Abingdon junior Griff Graves will be looking to put out a fast winning time in the AA race for Spooner to have a tough time following in the AAA race.
State championship not only thing on Brentsville boys mind
Coach Rob Dulin's Brentsville are probably sitting in better position than any team outside of the current top two ranked teams in AAA favorite Midlothian and Chapel Hill of North Carolina in claiming one of the two Nike Team Nationals spots. However, Brentsville's ticket to Oregon is definitely not punched nor is a Group AA state champion as two very strong teams look to challenge them in Jamestown and Western Albemarle.
Brentsville is led by senior Adam Henken, who has really emerged this fall as one of AA's best distance runners. Henken was a solid runner last year as a junior including a fourth place finish in the 2005 state cross country race in 16:09, but has stepped it up a notch this fall. Henken recently claimed his first regional individual title at the Region II Meet as he posted a time of 15:48 to win by 10 seconds. The Brentsville senior has been ranked #2 in Group AA all season and is probably the biggest, yet unlikely threat to defending state champion Griff Graves.
Brentsville's state championship and NTN hopes may rest on a portion of their lineup that was one considered their strength in their top three with #2 runner Henry Melius and #3 runner Ray Delgado. Melius was running exception earlier in the season as he took a top ten finish with Henken in the Nike Race of Champions at Great American and nearly beat top ranked Midlothian's top runner Jason Witt. However, Melius is coming off a subpar regional race in which he finished eighth overall and dropped to a #13 ranking in Group AA. Melius will hope to match or better his state meet performance from last year when he finished third overall with a time of 16:04. Delgado has stepped it up lately after early season struggles including a third place finish and season best time of 16:13 at the district meet behind teammates Henken and Melius. It could be argued that Group AA is stronger this year in terms of depth of individuals, so it is a bit more understandable if Brentsville does not have its top three completely up front.
When Brentsville last faced top ranked Midlothian at Great American, their top three matched up very well with them, but lost ground considerably at positions four and five. While Brentsville may still not be as tough as Midlothian in those spots, their back pack has moved up and closed the gap with juniors Luke Watts and Andrew Johnson. Watts was only 12 seconds behind Delgado at the district meet with a 16:25 5K best, while Johnson had his best race of the season at the Region II Meet with a time of 16:40 to finish in 21st place and right behind Watts (20th,16:40). While Henken is a great front runner for the Tigers, Watts and Johnson will need to keep the time spread for Brentsville under a minute after a 52 second spread at their regional meet.
Brentsville posted a team average of 16:23 on a Panorama Farms 5K course that ran seven seconds slower on average last year for the Northwest Region boys teams, who qualified for the state meet at Great Meadows. Taking Brentsville's average from this year's regional meet at Panorama Farms, a 16:16 average would be projected for the defending champs this Saturday at Great Meadows if the course and weather conditions end up being as ideal as last year. A wet and torn up Great Meadows course can definitely throw out any projections as it can run terribly slow under those conditions.
Jamestown would like to repeat success of 2001 state champion team
Using the same methodology, Jamestown's 17:02 team average on a tough Loriella Park 5K course in Fredricksburg for their Region I Championship would project them for a 16:40 team average this weekend as last year the Eagles dropped their team average by 22 seconds from Loriella to Great Meadows. No coincidence that 2005 Region I runner-up Lafayette found an identical drop of 22 seconds with their runners from regions to states last fall. Jamestown has been of the more overlooked teams this fall. Few were talking about the AA squad heading into a loaded Maymont Field with many teams Nike Team Nationals dreamin', but they were the surprise of the meet in grabbing second place behind Chapel Hill.
The Southeast #8 ranked Jamestown boys come in as the underdog and under the radar once again this Saturday with plenty of focus on Brentsville. However, Jamestown still is living the stigma of last year's state meet when they were tabbed as a definite top three podium team and possible challenger to Brentsville, yet ended up finishing well out of the top three in fifth place. There are several key returnees from the 2005 state meet squad for Coach Howard Townsend's team, but there are also several new faces and freshmen making up the team's seven this Saturday. Region I champion Andrew Colley was part of last November's collapse at the state meet, but looks to lead the team to a strong finish after posting a strong time of 16:26 at the Region I Championships as only a sophomore.
Jamestown has history on their side to be a rare spoiler of stopping another state champion team from Region II. In 2001, Jamestown won the state cross country championship and came out on the top of the combined team scoring with AAA schools at the VHSL State Meet. While last year's course changes due to construction at Great Meadows made the state course significantly faster, the 2001 Jamestown's 16:41 state meet team average school record is in serious jeopardy of being bettered by this year's team. Coach Townsend was an assistant for Jamestown at the time in 2001 and certainly hopes this year's team can bridge the gap between two the great teams with another state title run. However, with only one senior in their top seven and Brentsville as such a strong favorite, Jamestown's day to shine at Great Meadows may be one November away.
One thing that has returned from 2001 is the return of AA's competitiveness on the state level to the larger schools in AAA. In 2001, AA was loaded with top individuals in the state with the likes of Bobby Lockhart, Fleet Hower, John Crews, Bryce Ruiz, and Danny Kane. While AA has never returned to the same level with individual studs since then, AA has never had the number of quality teams as they do this year with the likes of Brentsville, Jamestown, and Western Albemarle. Throw any one of these teams in the AAA race that follows this weekend and there is a good chance any one of them could end up on the state meet podium with a top three team finish.
Western Albemarle adds to banner year for quality AA teams
Western Albemarle raced Brentsville very competitively at the Region II Championships at Panorama Farms. Coach Lindy Bain's crew was 22 points shy of Brentsville and had a 16:38 team average on the 5K course. The Warriors did it without of their top runners in senior Will Massie, who had his season shut down before the Albemarle Invite in October. If Massie was healthy and fit to run, Western Albemarle could only think about what might have been for them this season. However, a good thing for Western Albemarle is no matter what the outcome of Saturday will be, they will be strong for a few more years as they are led by two talented sophomores in Kyle Satterwhite and James Howard-Smith. Both underclassmen have great potential to snag All-State individual honors this weekend as Satterwhite is coming off an All-Region fifth place performance of 16:17 with Howard-Smith only nine seconds back in 11th at 16:26.
If Brentsville does end up running away with the AA state title, there still should be a very close and exciting battle between Jamestown and Western Albemarle for state runner-up honors. Jamestown beat Western Albemarle in their lone head to head this fall at Maymont, but Western Albemarle has came on strong as of late as their regional performance against Brentsville was a testament of that. Western's top four finishers were actually all sophomores with Satterwhite, Howard-Smith, Tyler Stutzman (17th, 16:36), and Carlos Gomez (27th, 16:56).
Region II teams expected to dominate again
Region II last year had four of the top four finishing teams as they knocked Jamestown down to fifth place. This year, Jamestown looks to spoil another sweep of the four Region II representatives, but the quality of teams from last year as certainly not fallen off as Sherando and Louisa County as the third and fourth qualifiers from Group AA's toughest region look to both garner at least top five finishes. Sherando hopes to make it on the podium again after finishing third last year. The team struggled earlier in the season in invitational competition, but has came on strong as of late as they knocked out several early season favorites to get out of the region at the Region II Meet with a third place team showing. Sherando is led by defending 1600 meter outdoor state champion Ryan Witt, who was their lone All-Region performer last Friday in 13th place at 16:32. Witt is one of the top returnees from last year's AA state race with an eight place All-State run of 16:16 in 2005 at Great Meadows. Witt is the lone senior on their top seven, so they should be tough again next fall.
Hoffman has most improved award in the bag for Louisa
Louisa County has been a pleasant surprise this fall as they are making their first team appearance at the state meet in over a decade. With the most improved AA runner in Ehab Hoffman and a rising sophomore store in Thomas Baker, Coach Jerry Cutright's team looks to show they were not on a mission to just advance to the state meet, but fair well at the meet as well. Hoffman was a 18 minute 5K runner and failed to break the top 100 in last year's Region II Meet, but this year went from the bottom of the field to the top with a regional runner-up race of 15:58 to finish 10 seconds behind race champ Henken. While few could have called Hoffman's rise this fall, there were signs that Baker could be turning heads this fall after posting some solid times as a freshmen last year. Baker had one of the fastest 3200 meter freshmen times in AA last spring with a 10:07 clocking. At the Region II Meet, Baker had his best race of the season with a time of 16:14 to finish fourth overall. With Hoffman and Baker, Louisa has a strong chance at having two All-State individuals and possibly well in the top ten places.
Region III champs Jefferson Forest and runners-up Blacksburg stand an outside of breaking into the top five, but will be a tough task with the Region II teams and the Southeast ranked Jamestown squad. Jefferson Forest will be led by Matthew Kadak, who hopes to come through with another big state meet race as he surprised many by finishing fifth in 2005 with a personal best time of 16:13.
Will Graves run for time or for easy win?
Individually, the state championship is Griff Graves to lose. The biggest question is if Graves will make it a tactical race or try to blow it out for a fast time to match or beat whatever Mike Spooner puts up in the AAA race to follow the AA races. Both Graves and Spooner are strong contenders to qualify for Foot Locker Nationals later this month at Foot Locker South in Charlotte, North Carolina. Graves has already posted a time on the home of Foot Locker South at McAlpine Greenway Park in Charlotte with his 15:03 5K clocking at the Wendy's Invitational on October 7th, which most years would earn you a trip to Foot Locker Nationals.
Graves has kept it relatively low key since then racing in local races in Southwest Virginia and cruising through victories at his district and regional meets. However, his 16:33 three mile time at Tazewell's Harris Hart Farm should not be overlooked. Lets put it this way....its not as friendly as Burke Lake Park in Northern Virginia. Fleet Hower, a Foot Locker All-American, could only muster a 17:57 best on the challenging course when the Region IV Meet was held there. Graves won last year's Group AA state cross country championship as a sophomore in a time of 15:51 in what appeared to be a strategic race with Christiansburg's John Horst. While course modifications have made the course faster, Graves could threaten the All-Time Group AA race record of 15:10 held by Bobby Lockhart and set in 2001. The times posted by Graves this year and the course change make the record time appear to be within reach.
While Graves only loss to in-state competition came at the hands of Mike Spooner (15:35) at Maymont in a 15:46 runner-up run, he has yet to be defeated by any AA competitors this season. Graves has yet to face Henken, but was well ahead of AA #3 ranked Peter Dorrell of Blacksburg (16:23) at Maymont with a 37 second difference between them.
Dorrell leads next group of individuals after Graves & Henken
Dorrell has definitely ran well as of late as he is coming off a Regin III 15:55 win at Green Hill Park in Salem. Dorrell, who was overseas studying abroad in Japan last year, but has made his presence felt quickly in the AA ranks since coming back to the states. Dorrell has a 15:41 5K best to his credit this season, which only Graves has ran faster than this fall in AA. It will be very interesting to see if a tight race emerges for second between Dorrell and Region II champion Henken.
Other top individuals include Brentsville's Henken, Louisa County's Hoffman, Turner Ashby sophomore Alex Ott, Jamestown's Colley, and Cave Spring junior Tim Smith. Smith has been Dorrell's toughest competition in the Roanoke Valley area this fall and has one victory to his resume over the Blacksburg junior. Ott leads a great sophomore class of runners in AA this year as currently five runners ranked among AA's top 15 individuals are in the 2009 class with Ott, Colley, Baker, Satterwhite, and Jamestown's John Holt. Definitely do not miss the AA boys race as the gun will go off at 12:30 PM to start this race.
White looks to put the Great Meadows course record out of reach for others
Catherine White has given plenty of cross country fans a show the past few years with her dominating race performances. The show for all will all come to an end on Saturday at Great Meadows except for those that can see her race at Foot Locker South in Charlotte and anyone willing to make the trip across the country to see her compete in a likely return trip to Foot Locker Nationals next month. White posted the fastest time ever at Great Meadows last fall when she clocked a 17:48 5K to win her second consecutive Group AA state cross country championship by 44 seconds. If conditions are decent on Saturday, expect White to win by a greater margin and a faster time based off her performances so far this season.
White is coming off a season best 5K time of 17:51 to win the Region III title at Green Hill Park, but the time that really makes one believe the Northside senior is ready to post a big one is her 18:24 last month at Wolf Branch Farm's 5K course at the Runnin' With the Wolves Invite. To put her time in perspective in relation to the state course, West Springfield's Mike Spooner won last year's Runnin' With the Wolves race in a course record time of 16:25 and ended up posting a 15:25 5K at the state meet as the AAA runner-up. If White could make a minute drop like Spooner did in 2005 from Wolf Branch to Great Meadows, a sub 17:30 5K performance would be the outcome. White certainly will not be holding back on Saturday in her final VHSL State Cross Country Championship race.
White will be the huge favorite individually to three-peat as state champion, but there are plenty of outstanding individual runners in AA who will be fighting it out in a probable race of the state runner-up spot.
Stewart & Homer's potential battle for state runner-up just the start of the bigger team war with Brentsville & Blacksburg
Brentsville senior Becky Stewart was last year's state runner-up to White as posted a time of 18:32 to finish 11 seconds ahead of third place finisher Anna Chase of Martinsville, who now runs at the University of Colorado. Stewart's performances this fall indicate she is ready for another state runner-up finish. Stewart claimed her third straight Region II cross country title last Friday at Panorama Farms in a solid time of 18:42.
Blackburg sophomore Allison Homer also is looking good coming in as the potential next finisher to White. After all, Homer has finished second to White on a few occassions already this season including the Knights Crossing Invite and Region III Meet, which were both held at Green Hill Park. In their lone encounter this season at Great American, Stewart and Homer obviously were well aware of where the other was in the race as the ran together for much of the race in Hoover with Stewart (22nd, 19:56) able to pull slightly ahead of Homer (24th, 19:59) for a third second win. A looming individual battle between Stewart and Homer is only the start of a larger scale war that will be waged between the top two ranked teams in Brentsville and Blacksburg.
The defending Group AA team champions were dealt a major blow early at Great American in which Blacksburg was able to pull ahead of them in the team scoring by a slight margin of five points with the Virginia teams finishing eighth and ninth respectively in the Nike Race of Champions. Brentsville was struggling with injuries early on in the season as well as having runners just coming off injury and working their way into shape after missing critical summer training periods. Brentsville has gotten stronger and healthier as the season has progressed, but Blacksburg has only gotten better during the same period.
Stevens leads Blacksburg improved depth from #4-7 runners
Blacksburg was a team with a great front three in Homer, junior Lauren MacMillan, and senior Cate Berenato to start the season that was able to make up for a weaker fourth and fifth against other top ranked teams. At Great American, Blacksburg put all three runners ahead of Brentsville's second finisher Amelia Emerson. Then as championship season rolled around, Coach James Demarco was able to bring along and develop some of his younger runners into becoming solid fourth and fifth runners as their state championship battle against a deeper Brentsville squad loomed. Despite missing their #4 runner Hannah Barrow at the regional meet, Blacksburg had seven runners under 21 minutes for 5K including a big race from freshmen Kathleen Stevens finishing ninth in a personal best time of 19:53.
Gentry & Emerson coming on strong late to matchup well with Blacksburg trio
Brentsville suffered one major late season injury loss heading into their regional meet with one of their top runners in Lauren Bussian, who had been running #3 for the team all season long. However, sophomore Maggie Gentry finally came through after early season injury setbacks with a big run to fill the void left by Bussian in having her best race of the season at the Region II Meet. The Brentsville sophomore finished sixth at Panorama Farms in a season best time of 19:26. Gentry was Brentsville's second best performer last spring on the track behind Stewart and was expected to be one of Brentsville's girls this fall, but injuries over the summer stalled those plans. With Gentry now running well as Amelia Emerson running much better than she did at the time of Great American as shown with a 4th place 19:19 run at the Region II Meet, Brentsville looks to have a three that can match up with Blackburg's formidable trio.
Brentsville sophomore Sarah Earman (19:51 5K season best), senior Julia Mitchell (20:18 5K season best), and junior Stephanie Hutson (20:24 5K season best) will be counted on to pack it up ahead of Blacksburg's back pack and will need stronger races than first thought with Blacksburg's four through seven runners starting to step up.
Handley and Jefferson Forest girls to fight over 3rd place
While Blacksburg and Brentsville look to have the top two places on lockdown with few really knowing who will come out on top between the two teams have held the #1 ranking in AA this season, it will be interesting to see who grabs the last available space on the state meet podium with a third place finish. The John Handley girls looked very sharp in a regional runner-up finish to Brentsville, while Jefferson Forest girls taking down previous #3 AA ranked Pulaski for second place in Region III behind Blacksburg.
Handley is led by senior Anna Cote, who was the Lady Judges' lone All-Region performer with a season best time of 19:20 to take sixth place honors at the Region II Meet. Handley averaged 20:32 as a team at Panorama Farms with nearly five runners under 21 minutes in Cote, Jeanette Mathieu (24th, 20:22), Claire Bridgeforth (33rd, 20:54), Angela Felicio (37th, 20:56), and Katelyn Mason (43rd, 21:05). Handley girls were 20 points away from making it onto the state meet podium in 2005 in fourth place in the AA state race and hope a probable All-State individual in Cote will help lead them there.
The team that finished 20 points ahead of them in third place at last year's state meet was Region III runner-up Jefferson Forest and they return a team this year that can very well duplicate the 2005 team performance this Saturday. It should be very close between Handley and Jefferson Forest for third with the possibility of Pulaski County sneaking in there also. Handley and Jefferson Forest had nearly identical regional performances. Handley had a 20:32 team average and finished 83 points behind Brentsville, while Jefferson Forest averaged 20:39 and finished 63 points behind Blacksburg.
Jefferson Forest is led by a pair of runners in Donna Bryant and Cameron DeWitt who finished in succession at the Region III Meet with Bryant in 13th at 20:09 and DeWitt in 14th 20:15. The Lady Cavaliers also almost had five under 21 with Bryant, DeWitt, Olivia Jackson (24th, 20:53), Nikki Jannah (25th, 20:53), and Caitlin Carlton (28th, 21:05). Running on a slighly faster course than Panorama Farms, Jefferson Forest is going to need a better team performance against Handley to take third again.
Pulaski County and Region I champs Riverbend also will have outside shots at podium positions. Pulaski is led by an All-State caliber individual and current AA #13 ranked Sabrina Hall, who ran 19:08 best to take sixth at the Region III meet. Pulaski has also already beaten Jefferson Forest in two early season encounters, while Riverbend posted a solid team average of 20:57 on a slow Loriella Park 5K course at their regional meet. Riverbend had three finishers in the top ten at the Region I Meet and all under 21 minutes with region runner-up Sarah Lasker (20:12), Lindsey Carty (6th, 20:47), and Lyndsay Wilshaw (10th, 20:56).
Rapp & Parkes lead other top individuals
The girls field is deep for the AA race with outstanding individuals. It is definitely not out of the realm of possibility for Heritage junior Laura Rapp or Millbrook sophomore Sullivan Parkes to beat Stewart and Homer for second. Homer (18:36) beat Rapp (18:50) by 14 seconds at the Region III Meet for second place, while Stewart (18:42) held off a late challenge from Parkes (18:48) for the Region II title.
Rapp has certainly had better races this fall including a 18:50 win in the bronze division at Maymont, which 2005 AAA state runner-up Sarrah Hadiji of W.T. woodson at 18:41 was the only Virginian on the day to run faster. Her best race performance by far though came in her Seminole District Championships with a 18:46 clocking on the Wolf Branch Farm 5K course, which was one second faster than Catherine White's junior year best time on the course. White went onto qualify for Foot Locker Nationals. It appears that both White and Rapp perform better on hilly courses and Green Hill Park did not necessarily serve them as well, so expect big thing from boths and other strength runners as well this weekend at Great Meadows. AA girls race starts at 11:45 AM before the boys.
Group A Preview
THE PLAINS, VA -- In last year's Group A state race, the Clarke County boys tallied a team score of 20 points after putting five runners for an impressive second state team championship. Clarke County returns again this year as a huge favorite and likely to put up another low score as they currently have five runners ranked in the top seven in the state. The Clarke County girls also are favored to repeat as state champions, but not as big of a margin. However, the most interesting and exciting part to look forward to the Group A races this Saturday at Great Meadows will be the battles for the individual titles. In each race, there are two promiment contenders to take the win with 2-time state champion Simon Biddle-Snead of Clarke County and Group A # 1 ranked Nathan Brame of Radford for the boys and Region D champion Brittany Killough of J.J. Kelly and Region B champion Sophia Holmes of Clarke County.
Brame looks to fulfill freshmen year promise and erase freshmen image
The expected battle between the two big Group A rivals in Biddle-Snead and Brame could overshadow a dominant Clarke County team performance and three-peat as plenty of attention and controversy has centered around the two runners over the years through message board discussion on the site. As a freshmen, Brame made some bold predictions heading into the state meet on the MileStat.com message boards, which he did not live up to and few have let him forget. He probably has not been given a fairs hake as few ninth graders are fully mature to have great self-discipline to use proper ettiquete on a webiste message board, but he definitely has been treated like the Terrell Owens of MileStat.com since then. However, unlike Terrell Owens who drops wide open passes and punishes his team with 15 yard unsportsmanlike post touchdown celebration penalties, the now Radford junior has been living up to his billing and performing at a high level all season long.
Brame was defeated by Biddle-Snead in their only encounter this season at the Maymont Festival as he (7th, 16:20) finished eight seconds behind the two-time state cross country champ (5th, 16:12). Some would claim that Biddle-Snead deserves to be ranked #1 in Group A based off of the September head-to-head win over Brame as well as being the defending champion, but Brame's win at the same venue this weekend's state meet will be held at the Octoberfest Invitational on October 7th had some second guessing who is the better run. In dire conditions at Great Meadows with heavy rainfall and a muddy and flooded course in some parts, Brame defeated a solid field with some of AA and AAA's best runners in a time of 17:10. The time does not immediately catch anyone's attention, but the runners he beat did including a runner in Thomas Jefferson senior Paul Norland, who had defeated both Brame and Biddle-Snead the week before at Maymont to be one more compelling reasons to elevate to Brame to a #1 ranking in Group A.
Brame has cruised through his district and regional meets since then as he put up nearly identical times of 15:37 and 15:38 at the Three Rivers District Championship and Region C Championships both held at Giles High School's three mile course, which does not necessarily produce fast times. Brame was 13 seconds faster than his 2005 Region C championship at Giles.
As mentioned before, Brame has not performed lived up to expectations as even last year as a sophomore, Brame had been tabbed as the #2 guy coming into the state race behind defending champ Biddle-Snead, but ended up finishing ninth and nearly a minute behind the winner at 17:05. Brame picked up a big victory over Biddle-Snead last spring at the Group A Outdoor Track and Field Championships held at Radford University in the 1600 meter run. While a significantly shorter distance than the 5K races in fall, the 4:24 win over Biddle-Snead was a win regardless and confidence booster for this fall.
Biddle-Snead is still the 2-time champ and has not been beaten in XC
Dealing with a pre-state meet challenger is nothing new for Biddle-Snead. He plans to deal with a challenger just as he has always down in the past by finishing ahead of them. Biddle-Snead's victory over Brame at Maymont cannot be overlooked. Brame has to have the loss on his conscious as he has still yet to defeat Biddle-Snead in a cross country race.
Biddle-Snead's fastest time of the season comes from the Glory Days Grill Invitational in which he posted a time of 15:59 to finish ninth overall. However, the race was viewed somewhat of a subpar race despite the fast time as he finished behind some common opponents to Brame from the Radford junior's Octoberfest win the week prior including Washington-Lee's Chris Tyson and Thomas Jefferson's Paul Norland (not in the results due to a disqualification). Biddle-Snead sat out of the district meet, but the team did not necessarily need them as they rolled to another district championship. Clarke County's top runner returned for the Region B Meet at Panorama Farms in Charlottesvile to lead an impressive 16 second pack of their top five runners with a 16:41 win. Biddle-Snead certainly could have opened up the spread significantly more racing all out which he will definitely need to do this Saturday, with Brame ready to face off with him.
Could Single A have 2 runners under 16?
With two outstanding and talented runners found in Group A now, could the small public schools of Virginia find themselves having two runners under 16 minutes for 5K on the modified and faster Great Meadows course. Biddle-Snead won in 16:09 last year on the same course and Brame's 17:10 in the mud slop at Octoberfest certainly indicates a performance of at least a minute faster if not more in him.
Injuries shot preseason NTN dreams early, but now healthy Clarke County boys looking to make late impressions
It is definitely a showcase year for Group A with the two of the state's best individuals in Biddle-Snead and Brame as well as what it appears is a Clarke County boys team finally starting to show their preseason hype into actual race form. The Nike Team Nationals Southeast editor and national committee bought the hype by ranking the two-time defending Group A state champions as high as #3 in the Southeast region in the preseason rankings. However, a decisive early season blow to any Nike Team Nationals hopes as well as giving them a quick exit out of the region's top ten rankings was given at the James Wood Invitational on September 9th by an unranked John Handley squad.
Being a small school with a small team, the talent pool is not very large, so any injuries and losses to their top seven during the season would be magnified more so than larger AAA schools. With Daniel Callan breaking his leg in August and Ben Veilleux injuring his ankle in the middle of September, Clarke County struggled to compete against area schools such as John Handley, much less against the state's top ranked teams.
After limping throug much of the season, Clarke County showed a glimpse of a team getting healthier and stronger at the Glory Days Grill Invitational as they finished fourth among four teams ranked this season in the Nike Team Nationals Southeast regional rankings including beating 2005 AAA state runner-up Thomas Jefferson, who dropped behind Clarke County in the team scoring after their top runner Paul Norland was disqualified in the chute. However, Clarke County also did not have one of their top runners in Veilleux not in the team scoring as well as he was still nursing the ankle injury.
16 second pack at regions
Their regional performance at Panorama Farms was the first time the team was able to race with all of their top returnee runners from last year's state champion squad, who was expected to knock heads with the top AAA and AA teams this fall. AA's Region II and AAA's Northwest Region both held their regional meets over the next two days on the same course at Panorama Farms as Clarke County raced at for the Region B Championships. While Clarke County's team average of 16:48 was slower than Northwest Region champs Mountain View (16:45) and Region II runner-up Western Albemarle (16:38) and champion Brentsville (16:23), Clarke County did not nearly have the competition to push them up front to faster times and had the best time spread of all teams at Panorama Farms last week with only 16 seconds separating their top five.
However, the Region B Meet revisits the problem Clarke County faced at last year's VHSL State Cross Country Championships as the combined state meet scoring was skewed against the team with their times not as fast as the top teams in AA and AA. When five of the top eight finishers are wearing the same singlets, it is a bit tougher to be pushed to fast times than having packs of runners to pull runners along. Not to say teams are not able to run fast with a lack of a deep competitive field as the Southeast #1 ranked Midlothians boys seemed to have no problem posting a 16:05 5K average at their regional meet with six of the top 12 finishers, but is a slightly difference situation in the Group A state race for Clarke County.
While plenty of attention will be focused on the Biddle-Snead and Brame battle and how the Clarke County boys will stack up against the AAA and AA winners, 15 more teams and well over a 100 runners will also be featured in the Group A boys' race.
Brame to lead Region C champs Radford
Brame will be hoping not only for his first individual state cross country championship, but help his Region C team champion Radford boys improve from their third place showing at last year's state race to a runner-up finish behind likely state champs Clarke County. Radford won the Region C Championships by 24 points over Grayson County. Radford had three individuals in the top five with Brame (1st, 15:38), Charles Mogen (3rd, 16:35), and Daniel Harrell (5th, 16:54) and look to at least have two of the three in the top 15 this Saturday at Great Meadows.
Page County is ranked third coming in as they are led by the coach's son in Ethan Price, who broke up a perfect 15 point sweep by Clarke County at the regional meet by finishing fifth in 16:54. Price is one of the top returning non-Clarke County runners from last year's state race as he garnered All-State honors as a junior with a 12th place run of 17:09.
A darkhorse team is Region D champions Clintwood. It is always tough to get a good read on the teams from the far Southwest area of the state as they are geographically isolated from the rest of the state. However, it is historically known that Region D teams and individuals have not faired that well at the state meet. Last year, Clintwood was a distant eighth place.
However, with former AAA All-State runner at Franklin County in Brittany Killough transferring out to Region D's J.J. Kelly last spring, there is a bit more of a gauge on how courses in the area could be running compared to the state course. Killough posted a time of 18:47 in last year's AAA state race to earn All-State honors for the second consecutive year and just ran a personal best time of 18:22 to win the Region D Meet at Oxbow Lake's 5K course. Killough looks to be in shape to match or better her state titme from last year as she has already bettered her time on common courses from 2005 this fall including a 18:25 clocking at Hagan Stone Park in Greensboro, North Carolina after running 18:27 on the course last year.
Her time makes Clintwood's three top three of Zach Evans, Evan Vanor, and David Mullins appear to be more legitimiate than previous thought as all three went under 17 minutes to sweep the top three places at the Region D Championships. Evans won in 16:39 with teammates Vanor (16:51) and Mullins (16:53) not far behind. Even if times at Oxbow as high as 20 seconds faster than Great Meadows, Clintwood could have a team with top three podium potential in having a solid top three.
History of success at AAA with 3 All-State runs, Killough now wants her first state championship in Group A
In transition to previewing the girls' race, Killough is definitely making in impact in her first and last cross country season in Group A. Killough has been one of AAA's best and most overlooked cross country runners over the past two years. Killough has great history of closing the season with exceptional state meet performances. Her performance as a sophomore at the state meet for Franklin County was very noteworthy as she garned a third place finish behind two eventual Foot Locker finalists in Melissa Dewey and Aurora Scott as she finished only three seconds behind Scott. Killough is a three-time All-State performer in cross country as she finished 12th as a freshmen in 2003, 3rd as a sophomore in 2004, and 9th as a junior in 2005. However, this weekend in her first Group A race, the senior finally stands a great chance at winning her first state championship.
Killough has continued to improve at the smaller school with two major invitational wins at the Run Fer Da Hills Invite and Hagan Stone Park Classic as well as two runner-up finishes to one of Tennessee's best runners in Morristown West senior Haley Moody at the Bristol Cross and Trailblazer Invite.
Holmes could become Clarke's 2nd state champion in 3 years
Killough will get a strong challenge from Clarke County sophomore Sophia Holmes, who is coming off a big victory at the Region B Championship over another potential challenge for Killough in Bufffalo Gap senior Mariah Hagadone. Holmes posted a time of 19:14 to win her first regional championship by a 15 second margin over Hagadone (19:29). Holmes has raced very well against tough fields this fall at the Maymont Festival and Glory Days Grill Invitational. Holmes was a surprising top 15 finisher in a loaded Maymont field in 12th place at 19:18 to beat some of AAA and AA's higher ranked runners. At Glory Days, Holmes posted a new 5K personal best of 18:54 to finish 10th overall against another stacked field. If Holmes were to win, it would be Clarke County's second individual state champion in three years for the girls as Danielle Moyer won in 2004 as a freshmen.
Hagadone and Sullivan too talented to look past
Hagadone nor can third place finisher Susanna Sullivan of George Mason at the Region B Meet in Susanna Sullivan be forgotten as possible contenders. Few expected Lori Crotts of Craig County to win last year's Group A state title after finishing 21 points behind Kelly Clark at the Region C Meet. However, Crotts not only made up the 21 seconds on Clark at the state meet, but added on 40 more seconds to win by that margin in a final time of 18:15.
With the talent that both Hagadone and Sullivan possess, a reversal in finish is not out of the question. If the race comes down to a kick at the end, the advantage goes to Hagadone with a 2:19 800 PR and 5:10 1600 PR to her credit. Hagadone is no slow poke on the cross country course though as she ran 18:57 for 5K at last year's Foot Locker South regionals and has a 19:16 best this fall. Hagadone finished fourth in the 2005 Group A state race with the same time.
Sullivan finished one place higher than Hagadone in last year's state championship in third at a personal best clocking of 18:58. After having a sensation track season including running 11:01 for 3200 meters, Sullivan had slightly underperformed early on in the season including running nearly a minute slower than Clarke County's Holmes at the Maymont Festival in a different race with a time of 20:13. Sullivan had a better outing at Glory Days in closing the gap on Clarke County's top runner with a season best time of 19:13. Sullivan came out third in the big regional battle between the big three in Holmes, Hagadone, and herself last Wednesday at Panorama Farms, but looks to catch at least one if not both this Saturday.
Marsico following Clark's footsteps at Glenvar
Region C champion Megan Marsico runs in the shadows of former state champion from Glenvar in Kelly Clark, but has certainly shown plenty of promise for the next few years as a freshmen at Glenvar. Marsico has rolled through the competition in championship season including a win by over a minute at the regional meet with a final time of 18:57 on the three mile course at Giles High School. The freshmen will look to test herself against the tough competition she'll face in Killough, Holmes, Hagadone, and Sullivan.
Clarke County girls can join boys in making VHSL history...3 in a row for boys and girls
It looks to be another Clarke County sweep of both team championships and if both of Coach Dustin Sweeney's teams can clinch the Group A titles, they will become the first teams in VHSL history to win three consecutive state championships for both boys and girls. The odds are looking good for history to happen heading into this weekend.
The Lady Eagles are not as dominant as their male counterparts, but still can take care of business and especially with the best duo in Group A with Holmes and sophomore Erin Broy. Broy finished fourth at the Region B Meet in a time of 20:14, but certainly has shown she can run better this fall based off earlier results. Broy was only seven seconds behind teammate Holmes at Glory Days with a personal best time of 19:01 to finish 11th overall. While she may never be the state champion runner she was in 2004, Danielle Moyer is a solid third runner for the two-time state champs after having one of her better runs this season at the Region B Meet to take tenth in 21:11.
Clarke County's closest challenger may be the Region B runner-up in Altavista, who finished 16 points behind them in the regional championship. Altavista is led by freshmen Sarah Murphy, who figures to finish in the top 15 after posting a time of 20:33 to take sixth in the regional championships.
Radford could join Clarke County in having state meet podium teams for the boys and girls as the Region C champion girls are ranked #3 in Group A coming into Saturday. They will have to hold off last year's third-place state squad Patrick Henry, who finished only nine points behind them in the regional meet at Giles High School.
VIS State Championship Preview
Fork Union looking to become best VIS team ever
The Fork Union boys are looking to make history this Friday at the Virginia Independent Schools State Cross Country Championships to be held at Woodbery Forest. They are chasing the number 29, which is the all-time low team score from the VIS Championships. Two teams hold the record with the 1989 Fork Union squad and 1993 Paul VI team. Led by defending VIS division I champion Axel Mostrag, the Blue Devils bring a squad into Friday that is capable of challenging the record.
Coach Winston Brown's Fork Union boys this fall have been of the best private school cross country teams that the state of Virginia has seen in a long time. The 1993 Paul VI championship team had defeated eventual AAA state champion and a Sharif Karie led West Springfield during the season. Fork Union has definitely held its own against the top ranked public schools this season. Fork Union had three big invitational wins this season at the Fork Union Invitational, William & Mary Invitational, and Albemarle Invitational. The only blemish on their season was in the race they could not afford to have a subpar day at the Maymont Festival against Nike Team Nationals Southeast ranked squads with a seventh place to virtually dash any hopes of earning a trip to Oregon.
However, since then Fork Union has been on a mission to prove themselves even without the teams to push them. The defending Division I state champions are coming off a dominating Prep League Championships as they defeated their toughest challenger in the VIS with Woodberry Forest by putting five runners ahead of Woodberry Forest's third finisher and tallying a team score of 27 points. Mostrag won the Prep League meet in a 5K personal best of 15:52. Mostrag heads into this weekend as the favorite to win the Division I race as he won in 2005 with a final time of 16:32 on the tough Woodberry Forest 5K course. Fork Union has a top five that has the potential to finish all in the top 15 if not better with Mostrag, Jeremy Haney, Szymon Rola, David Johnson, and Jamie Reichlen.
Woodberry Forest would be VIS state champs any other year, Prep League teams could sweep
Woodberry Forest has the advantage of racing on the home course as always, but that will not be enough to upset a very tough Fork Union squad. However, the 2006 Woodberry Forest team is one of the better teams Coach Ben Hale has produced in recent years and should not be overlooked in light of the dominant FUMA team. At the Prep League Championships, Woodberry Forest averaged 16:40 as a team with six runners nearly under 17 minutes for 5K and within the top 15 as they were led by on the better individuals in the VIS this fall in senior Cordon Smart. Smart finished third in the Prep League Championships with a personal best of 16:11. Senior teammate Jonathan Lawrence (5th, 16:25) joined Smart in breaking up Fork Union's top three.
While Smart and Lawrence are the only up front individuals to be able to hang with Fork Union's top runners, they do have decent depth past five runners, so an off day from Fork Union's fifth runner Jamie Reichlen could be trouble. Clayton Vaughters (10th, 16:51), C Taylor (11th, 16:53), and Ross Pfenning (14th, 17:01) were not far behind Reichlen (9th, 16:49) at the Prep League Championships. The odds are still stacked heavy against Woodberry Forest and might have to settle for another state runner-up finish to Fork Union.
The Prep League stands an excellent shot at sweeping the top three team places in the Division I race as Fork Union, Woodberry Forest, and Collegiate are the only private schools in the state with at least five runners under 17:30 for 5K. Collegiate will look to challenge Woodberry Forest for second after finishing 18 points behind them at third at the Prep League Championships. Collegiate senior Matt Richardson is the second fastest returnee from last year's race as he finished 11 seconds off Mostrag in the 2005 VIS Championships in third place at 16:43. Richardson just recently competed against Mostrag at the Prep League Championships and finished off Mostrag at a nearly identical margin of 10 seconds with a personal best time of 16:02. Richardson is also a state champion as he won the VISAA 3200 meter state title last spring in outdoors. He knows how to win at the end when it matters.
Collegiate coach Weldon Bradshaw has two strong individuals in Richardson and Graham Glass, who posted a 16:43 best to finish eighth at Prep League, but will need better races from their #3 through #5 runners to match up with Woodberry Forest.
Catholic Schools State Meet runner-up Benedictine looks to improve from their sixth place showing in 2005 and are led by two solid individuals in J.P. Monaghan and Brooks Williams. Benedictine had five runners in the top 15 at the Catholic School State Championships with nearly all five under 18 minutes on the Newport News Park 5K course.
Bishop O'Connell could be in the mix again after finishing third in 2005. Andrew Jarvis was the team's fourth finisher on last year's state team and leads them intot his weekend. Bishop O'Connell sophomore Andrew Stella has joined Jarvis though to lead the team up front as Stella has a season best of 17:03 with Jarvis at 17:12 for 5K. O'Connell finished third in their conference championships at WCAC Championships behind Maryland school DeMatha Catholic and DC school Gonzaga.
Ellis returns ready to defend Division II state title
Another state champion returns in 2005 Division II champion Austin Ellis. Ellis was two seconds off of Mostrag's winning time in the other championship at 16:34 in 2005. The Covenant junior has a 16:28 5K best this season from the Albemarle Invitational and won the VIC Championships two weeks ago in 16:58 on a tough course.
However, Ellis will have a tough time repeating as there are several individuals running well in the VIS Division II classification this fall with Potomac School junior Johns Ross and Roanoke Catholic junior Thomas McConnell. McConell won the Virginia Catholic Schools State Championship at Newport News Park in a 5K best of 16:06 on October 24th, but four days later faced Ellis at the VIS Championships and finished over 30 seconds behind the defending champ in second place at 17:28.
Meanwhile, Ross will be facing Ellis for the first time this fall. Ross has the king of the "B" races this fall and maybe the Division II designation as a somewhat lower division from Division I will be play to his advantage. Ross won the "B" race at Great Meadows in September with a sub 17 clocking at 16:52 and posted his best race and fastest time of the season at the Glory Days Grill Invitational held at Bull Run Regional Park with a 16:14 5K win on October 14th. Ross claimed the MAC Cross Country Championship title in 17:22 a few weeks ago also. Ross finished third in the 2005 Division II race and 40 seconds behind Ellis at 17:14.
Division II team title trophy looks to change hands
Peninsula Catholic won the Division II title last year by six points over Roanoke Catholic, but the championship looks to change hands this year.
Roanoke Catholic is riding high after winning the Catholic School State Championship two weeks ago by nine points over Division I school Benedectine. Roanoke Catholic has a very solid front three as was shown at Newport News Park for the Catholic State Championship with McConnell (1st, 16:06), Andrew Nordhaus (2nd, 16:50), and Sean Flynn (3rd, 16:51). Nordhaus was a state runner-up to Ellis last year at 17:02. However, the team with the most depth and the better #4 and #5 runner might come out as the winner.
MAC championships Potomac School are in the same boat with great front runner in Johns Ross and Stephene Serene. Ross (1st, 17:22) and Serene (2nd, 17:47) were the teams top finishers in their conference championship, but their fifth runner was over two minutes behind Ross. Serene looks to be a high finisher in the Division II race as he has ran 16:33 for 5K this season. Potomac School finished a distance fifth in the 2005 Division II race
Roanoke Catholic competed as a team at the VIC Championships, but with the exception of McConnell, sat out most of their top runners including top three runners Nordhaus and Flynn. With Roanoke Catholic not running at full strength, Covenant and Miller School battled it out for first as Covenant pulled off the narrow two point victory over the rival Charlottesville private school.
Covenant had four runners under 19 minutes behind race champion Ellis on the Virginia Episcopal School's home 5K course at the VIC Championships, which runs slower than the state course. Covenant finished fourth in the 2005 VIS State Meet and looks to break into the top three this year after beating last year's third place team Miller School.
Coach Buz Male's Miller School boys have plenty of experience with Max Hensley and Hunter Johnson. Hensley finished eighth (17:31) in the 2005 VIS State Meet, while Johnston took 13th place (17:57).
The late darkhorse could be Norfolk Collegiate as they are coming off a TCIS championship last weekend at Mount Trashmore in Virginia Beach by 27 points over Bishop Sullivan and Peninsula Catholic. Norfolk Collegiate had three runners under 17 minutes on a fast 5K course with race champion Ian Tupper (1st, 16:16), Trey O'Brien (2nd, 16:22), Brendin Leavitt (5th, 16:43).
Neither competed at 2005 VIS, but Gay & Strehler are favorites coming in to 2006 VIS
Individually, the girls state championship looks to come down to two runners in North Cross junior Jane Gay and Trinity sophomore Barbara Strehler. Neither Gay or Strehler competed in last year's Virginia Independent Schools State Championships, yet find themselves as two of the biggest favorites in 2006 for the VIS crown.
Gay has competed at the VIS State Meet before though as she finished seventh in the 2004 race with a time of 20:31. Gay is running much faster now. Almost two minutes faster for 5K as the Roanoke area runner posted a 18:47 at the Metro Invitational held at Green Hill Park in Salem. Gay finished third in the race and 21 seconds behind returning Foot Locker All-American Catherine White of Northside. Gay is also coming off a 19:31. victory at the BRC Championships held at Virginia Episcopal School's home course, which some would argue is slower than the state course at Woodberry Forest. Gay won the race by over two minutes.
A margin of victory if any win for Gay at Woodberry Forest will certainly be closer thanks to Trinity's Barbara Strehler. Strehler has came out of nowhere this fall as one of the best private school distance runners. Strehler has already posted a time of 19:51 this fall on the state course at the Woodberry Forest Invitational on September 16th as she finished fourth in the race behind three outstanding AAA runners in defending state champ Rachel Rose of Albemarle (1st, 19:16), Elizabeth Barclay of Albemarle (2nd, 19:35), and Brittany Copeland of Brooke Point (3rd, 19:46). Strehler's time would have had her finish second in last year's VIS Championships. Strehler has continued to run well this fall with a runner-up finish in the bronze division at the Maymont Festival in 19:35 and recently captured her first LIS Championship in a personal best time of 19:12 in winning by nearly a minute.
Other individuals to watch
Gay and Strehler are not the only individuals capable of claiming first, but certainly look the strongest too. Bishop Sullivan sophomore Taryn Schrader has been running strong lately including posting the fastest VIS 5K time of the season in an 18:46 victory at the TCIS Championships at Mount Trashmore in Virginia Beach. Schrader was over a minute slower than Strehler earlier in the season at Maymont (20:38), but hopes she has closed the gap on the Trinity star since then. Schrader also claimed a big prior to the TCIS Championships in becoming the Catholic Schools state champion at Newport News Park with a 21 second victory over Michelle Kew of Paul VI (19:59) in a time of 19:38.
Megan Fitzpatrick of Bishop O'Connell looks to be the next top individual. Fitzpatrick has the fifth fastest time among all VIS runners with a 19:27 5K season best from the Glory Days Grill Invitational. Fitzpatrick finished third at the WCAC Championships held at Lake Fairfax on October 28th behind the Good Counsel pair of Nora McCall and Stephanie Bardon.
Catherine Harrison will attempt to keep the state championship in the family though as Episcopal's top runner saw her older sister Elizabeth win the 2005 VIS State Championships by 55 seconds in a final time of 19:01. The returning Harrison in Catherine has performed well at Woodberry in the past she finished third last year. However, she has struggled to race at the same level thus far this season as she finished eighth at the ISL Championships behind two Potomac School runners in freshmen Shivani Kochar (4th) and senior Michaeline Nelson (5th).
Paul VI and O'Connell rivalry to be renewed
Paul VI girls are the defending champs, but currently ranked #2 in private school ranks behind the Fitzpatrick led Bishop O'Connell girls. Collegiate and Norfolk Academy are also coming on strong lately with recent victories.
Bishop O'Connell may have been ranked #1 in the last rankings, but are not considered as the strong favorites to win. No team seems to have that title. Bishop O'Connell has one of the best duos in the state in Fitzpatrick and Katie Walls (19:48 5K best), but certainly could use better support from their back pack against several tough teams.
O'Connell earned the top ranking after defeating the defending state champs at the Glory Days Grill Invitational by 47 points and averaged 17 seconds faster as a team. In a large field, O'Connell benefited from having two strong front runners in Fitzpatrick and Walls ahead of Paul VI's top runner at Glory Days. However, Paul VI beat O'Connell in runner positions #3-6. In a lesser competitive and smaller field from Glory Days on Friday, this area will be the battleground on Friday between the top two Northern Virginia private school teams.
Paul VI definitely has strength in numbers as they have seven runners who have broken 21 minutes this season with Michelle Kew (19:59), Kelsey Budd (20:10), Abby Clement (20:14), Mackenzie Singh (20:36), Lizzie Greene (20:43), Natalie Cowden (20:46), and Elizabeth Shine (20:55). Paul VI dominated the Catholic Schools State Meet with seven runners in the top 15 as the meet probably ranks as their best team performance of the week as they scored a team low of 23 points.
Other teams in the running
TCIS champion Norfolk Academy claimed their conference championship with four runners under 21 minutes as senior Anica Bilisoly led them with a runner-up finish to Bishop Sullivan's Schrader in 19:11. Bilisoly is a three-time All-State performer in cross country. Norfolk Academy looks to certainly do better than their 2005 eighth place performance and attempt to finish in the top three.
Collegiate might be the team that has the best chance of breaking up Bishop O'Connell and Paul VI and making a run for the state title. Collegiate looked like a very capable team at the League of Independent Schools Championships as they won by 25 points over St. Catherine's with six finishers. Times are incorrect in the results from the meet, but the place order for the Collegiate girls included two of the top three finishers behind Trinity's Strehler in Julia Sroba and Melinda Sisk. Sisk is the fastest returnee from last year's VIS State Championships as she finished second in 2005 with a time of 19:56 at Woodberry Forest.
The Potomac School girls led by freshmen Shivani Kochar and senior Michaeline Nelson are expected to finish high as they have been ranked as high as #3 among the private schools in the state this season. The team has had four runners under 21 minutes this season with Nelson (20:08), Kochar (20:17), Nina Castelli (20:34), and Lucy Green (20:37).
by Brandon Miles - [email protected]
For more VA state meet coverage go to MileStat.com/ va.milesplit.com
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