FREDERICKSBURG, VA -- The high school cross country season in Virginia opened today at the Chancellor Invitational held at Loriella Park in Fredricksburg. The remnants of Ernesto soaked much of Virginia on Friday and rain continued to persist for the Saturday morning races. However, the conditions did not stop the runners from performing at a high level. Mountain View sophomore Thomas Porter cruised to a 16:39 win in the boys' race as he also led his squad (83 pts) to a seven point victory over Jamestown (90 pts). Meanwhile, the Colonial Forge girls (73 pts) were convincing winners by 48 points over Brooke Point (121 pts). The Lady Eagles were led by race winner Kaylan Comer, who came out on top in a time of 20:04 in a race which many lead changes occurred.
The conditions would not be ideal for Porter to make a course record assault at Loriella Park as the 16:02 posted by Culpeper's Devin Cornwall last year would be safe for another year thanks to Ernesto. Being an early season race anyways on a tricky course, Porter took the race more conservatively as he allowed Jamestown's Andrew Mearns and Colonial Forge's Blake Arnold lead him through the first mile and into the woods. However, when the first runner appeared from out of the woods loop, it was Porter coming out first as he had opened up a considerable gap on the two early leaders and cruised it on in for his first of likely man wins this fall in 16:39.86.
The boys team battle was very tight at Loriella as both coaches for the top two finishing teams in Mountain View and Jamestown were thinking that either the team of Millbrook or Stone Bridge was the victor with the similarly designed and colored uniforms of both schools making confusion easy.
However, it was Coach Dave Davis' squad from Mountain View, an early favorite for the Northwest Region title that came out as the champs. Behind race winner Porter, Mountain View nearly put their entire top five in the top 25 places with Porter, Max Desens (12th, 17:32.27), Andrew Storey (20th, 17:55.60), Stephen Henry (23rd, 17:59.89), and Daniel Porter (27th, 18:06.28) to give them a team score of 83 points. One of the newer schools in AAA, Mountain View's stock has quickly risen this fall from year's past.
Meanwhile, Jamestown finished second with 90 points as they sat out their probable #2 runner this fall in sophomore John Holt with an ankle injury. Despite the absence of Holt and losses due to graduation and transfers from last year's AA state fifth place team, Coach Howard Townsend squad has been revamped with an excellent freshmen class that comprised three of their top five finishers. The lone upperclassmen on their varsity squad at Chancellor, Andrew Mearns showcased that 9:35 3200 meter form from last April's Dogwood Track Classic in holding off Colonial Forge's Blake Arnold (17:05.52) for second place overall. Sophomore Andrew Colley, another returnee from last year's state squad, looked much improved with a ninth place run of 17:24.38. The next three finishers were all freshmen for Jamestown with Colin Mearns (15th, 17:43.91), Graham Schlickenmeyer (26th, 18:04.55), and Russell Hornsby (3th, 18:27.79). Jamestown made the trip to Loriella despite many of its runners losing power at their homes due to the effects of Tropical Depression Ernesto.
The girls race was expected to be very competitive with a handful of some of the state's best distance runners converging onto the opening cross country race in Fredericksburg. The race lived up to that billing with plenty of lead changes and exactly a handful in the race with just under a mile to go. Millbrook senior Jillian Pollack, the returning AA 3200 meter state runner-up, led the pack through the first mile at a brisk pace. Following close behind her was the Colonial Forge duo of Kaylan Comer and Molly Hawkins and Brittany Copeland of Brooke Point as they disappeared into the woods. As they came out of the woods, the same three and others were together and joined by 2005 Chancellor Invite champion Mariah Hagadone of Buffalo Gap, who went out more conservatively than the rest of group. As they hit two miles, it appeared Hagadone had the upper hand and the others had paid for swifter first mile, but Colonial Forge's Comer proved otherwise.
The Colonial Forge junior broke away from the defending champion Hagadone and the rest in the final mile to come away with the win in 20:04.41 on the already notoriously slow Loriella Park 5K course, which got a lot tougher with the amount of rain dumped on it over the past few days as well as race day. She ended up gaping the field by 13 seconds in the final mile as Hagadone (20:17.66) fought off Brooke Point's Copeland (20:18.12) for second.
Comer also led the #8 state ranked Colonial Forge girls to convincing win that was expected as their team total of 73 points put them well ahead of second place Brooke Point with 121 points. Molly Hawkins ended up finishing sixth in the race with a time of 20:36.09 with Kathleen (KC) Wade also joining Comer and Hawkins among the top ten finishers with her tenth place run of 20:48.99. Coach Tori Arthur's squad was missing one of their top returnees in Jordan Zarone as the gap that existed after Wade with Laura Bryant (27th, 22:06.72) and Kelly Doescher (42nd, 22:41.65) as their fourth and fifth runners did not hurt them at Loriella, but will be more exposed in competitive meets down the road without Zarone in the lineup.
Brooke Point took heavy losses due to graduation from last year's Northwest Region runner-up to Colonial Forge by five points, but will be attempting to build around their top two returnees in Copeland and Brittany Wilhelm (13th, 21:19.06) with the group of newcomers. While Colonial Forge may be too strong for the team to challenge again this fall, their second place team finish at the Chancellor Invite is an achievement and positive sign for Coach Tresa Jone's squad, which lost many key contributors from last year.