The Western Albemarle girls will be attempting to defend their title, and it appears the only thing left to determine is the placing of the members within the team. Western Albemarle had 6 girls in the top 17 at the strong Region II meet. Leading the way for the lady Warriors are the dynamic sister duo of Jessica and Tasmin Fanning. The Fanning sisters also will be looking to upset the favorites and bring an individual title home as well. The next four of the Warriors, which are All-State candidates, are Kelsey and Samantha Stafford, Gina Cassela, and Kathryn Goeke. Their #7 runner, Carrie Elwood, would be a #2 runner for the majority of teams and a #1 runner for some teams. Go ahead and engrave their name. Last years State runner-up, Jefferson Forest, may just claim the runner-up spot again. Jefferson Forest girls won the Region III title in fairly convincing fashion. However, it was closer than it should have been due their depth. The JF girls have four really strong runners, but look a little vulnerable in their 5th spot. Cave Spring and Christiansburg look like two teams, which have a chance for a top 4. Cave Spring has a very deep team and if it were to go to a 6th place for a tiebreaker, and then look for the Knights of Cave Spring to move up. Other teams with a good chance for a top four finish are Potomac Falls and Brentsville District with a slight nod to Potomac Falls. John Handley last year's 3rd place finisher is a sleeper, but they have a similar problem as Jefferson Forest.
With the absence of Sarah Bowman of Faquier who has an injury, the other ladies will be battling until the end. Emily Harrison of Warren County and last year's runner-up to Bowman has been a constant performer all year. With her recent victory at the Region II meet, she is in good shape to contend for the title. Harrison also has the fastest posted 5K time of the year in 18:23.86. However, the biggest surprise of this year has been the transformation of Kirsten Hagen of Christiansburg. Hagen finished 9th last year and was basically unnoticed until she started breaking course records on a regular basis. Hagen has posted sub 19-minute 5K's on 4 occasions this year with a personal best of 18:28.77 at the Albemarle Invitational. Hagen is ranked #1 in the state by the coaches, and I think she deserves it more than anybody. Hagen is coming off a dominating performance at the Region III meet where she left UVA bound Jennifer Beury at the 2-mile mark and was never challenged again. Speaking of Beury, Jennifer developed a stress fracture last summer and did not run a race until the River Ridge District Meet where she stunned the cross-country scene and Hagen for a come from behind last minute victory at the Green Hill Park 5K course in Salem, VA. For Beury to be at this highly competitive level is amazing considering the lost training time. It is certain that Beury will leave nothing on the course and will give it her best shot to get that coveted state title. The almost forgotten next runner has been marked off by a lot of experts. However, sophomore Anna Chase of Martinsville seems to be over her early season slump. Chase finished a close 2nd to Hagen at the Running With the Wolves in Forest, VA. Of course, we cannot forget the Fanning sisters that will be contending for the title.
Other runners looking to contend for All-State are: Stephanie Shenk of James Wood (4th at Region II meet), Becky Stewart of Brentsville District (5th - Region II), Michelle Beardmore of Warren County (last year's 7th place finisher and 6th in Region II), Elizabeth Mahalak of Chancellor (8th place last year and 2nd at the Region I meet), Katie Endes of Potomac falls (4th last year), Kristen Novara of Millbrook (5th last year), Alissa Williams of Greensville (1st in Region I), Mallory McClaine of Lafayette (3rd in Region I), Catherine White of Northside (3rd Region III), Allie Lewis of Hidden Valley (4th in Region III), Amanda Moore of Rustburg (5th in Region III), Carly Sitterley of Jefferson Forest (6th in Region III) and Stephanie Garcia of Broad Run look to be in the running. However, look for a dark horse that was not mentioned to slip into the top 15.
I wish all the girls good luck this weekend, and hope everyone stays healthy. If anyone has any nerve pills left when this one starts, you may want to look me up.