As the sun rises and the fog slowly rolls away this weekend over 1,200 athletes will take on the toughest competition all year. They will face adversity. They will have to push themselves further and harder than ever before. They will need to make every step with the same conviction to which they trained with since summer as this is the state championships and this is the most personally challenging sport around, XC.
This weekend, Great Meadow, here in the Plains, will play host to the 2017 VHSL State Cross Country Championships featuring 12 races from six classifications. From the first race on Friday until the final finisher on Saturday it will be an exciting one and one that we will not forget for quite sometime.
Each classification will have its own Super Bowl and superstar showdowns but there are three matchups that will not only have state title implications but national implications as well. These three matchups are the things legends are made of and will be remembered for many years to come.
The first of these matchups and the one you should be most excited for is the girls' 6A individual competition. Not only will this race be fast but it will also feature the age old battle between a freshman superstar in Julia Ghiselli (Annandale) and senior champions Olivia Beckner (South Lakes) and Heather Holt (George C. Marshall). All three of which are fighting for their first ever 6A state title.
All three of these girls rank highly all-time with Holt coming in at #5, Beckner at #27, and Ghiselli at #42. These ladies have run very well this season and know how to win, you can almost guarantee a sprint to the finish in this race so grab a spot on the fence and watch history happen.
The next big matchup that will have all eyes on the course and clock will be the Boys' 4A competition featuring the Vikings of Loudoun Valley who are the number one ranked team in the entire nation. These guys, led by defending champion Peter Morris, are going for a third consecutive team title and chasing the state meet record of 17 points. This score has been achieved twice, 1972 & 1974, and is formidable considering 15 points is a perfect score.
Behind Morris on his team is the strongest group of guys Virginia has ever seen with a state record seven guys under 16:00 for 5K this year alone. This also includes a top three all under 15:17 as well. The biggest and only guy standing in their direct way of history is Foot Locker finalist Price Owens (Grafton) who was runner-up a year ago. Expect a strong battle upfront with every team throwing the best they got at Loudoun Valley.
The next interesting battle will also be in the 4A classification but this time feature the Blacksburg Girls and their charge towards a historic seventh state team title in a row. They strive to achieve this against a very hungry Loudoun Valley squad who enters the weekend as a three-time runner-up in as many years.
Though few will expect the Bruins of Blacksburg to falter, don't be shocked if Loudoun Valley gives them a real scare this weekend because you cannot count out having nothing to lose and the drive of finishing second three years in a row. Individually both teams will have athletes fighting for the individual state title as well.
In all the races there will also be three returning champions on the guys' side and one on the girls' side plus Heather Holt who moves from 5A to 6A this season. The defending champions are Jessey Ball (2A - Lebanon), William Miller (2A - James River Buchanan), Karl Thiessen (3A - Abingdon), and Peter Morris (4A - Loudoun Valley). Posing great competition will also be two runner-ups on the boys' side and four runner-ups on the girls' side who also return for another chance at individual glory.