Photos by Dan Wheeler
While the nationally recognized Blacksburg and Hidden Valley programs may not have wanted to show their full deck of cards this early in the season, Northside senior Erin Wheeler had no problem showing off her fitness as a potential breakthrough star this fall in setting a new course record with her 20:04 victory at the third annual Clash with the Titans. Wheeler closed her outdoor season with a 18:14 5K on the track, so it puts in perspective the level of difficulty of Hidden Valley's home course which she set a new course record almost two minutes slower than her PR on the track.
Photo by Tayloe Skelton
The Blacksburg boys did not race their probably top five runners and coach James DeMarco also elected not to run the team's top two runners Hannah Brown and Sarah Dorrell in Saturday's first weekend of cross country races. The Hidden Valley girls, the defending Group AA state champions and a 2009 NXN qualifier along with Blacksburg, also held out their top two runners in seniors Annie LeHardy and Haley Cutright. In an essentially a new team battle between the two team's #3-8 runners, Blacksburg won hands down with four girls ahead of Hidden Valley's first finisher and nearly four under 21 minutes on a very slow 5K course with Tazmin Kaiser (3rd, 20:29), Katie Buss (6th, 20:56), Lauren Jaeger (7th, 20:56), and Michelle Kauffman (9th, 21:03). However, past years have shown that Hidden Valley and coach Daniel King always seem to close the gap at season's end on a fast starting Blacksburg squad and this year will likely not be an exception.
Blacksburg won with a team score of 37 points, while Hidden Valley finished a distant sixth place with 122 points. Cave Spring rose up for second place with 75 points as they were led by talented freshmen Katie Fortner, who took second individually in a time of 20:29. Fortner could become the best distance female distance runner for Cave Spring since coach Tommy Maguire took over the program.
Patrick Henry senior Patrick Woodford scored a big moment when he won the Northwest Region 3200 meter title this past spring. He can add another monumental victory in his first major cross country invitational win as Woodford withstood challenges from juniors Cody Seymour (2nd, 17:07) of Cave Spring and Kevin O'Connor (3rd, 17:21) of William Byrd to become the first runner ever to break 17 minutes at Hidden Valley. Michael Bailey of Greenbrier Christian, the 2009 private school Division II state champion, held the previous top time in his 17:10 win from a year ago.
The Blacksburg boys top five is pretty close to set in stone with the likes of George Carter, Frank Locascio, Caman Skelton, Anthony Noegel, and Zach Link. The open door presents itself for the rest of the squad on who wants to be along for the ride with the varsity squad in their chase for a second straight Group AA state title and potential Nike Cross National berth run. Sophomores Nick Link (4th, 17:24) and Matthew Pasier (5th, 17:30) answered the call this week and also helped a short-handed Blacksburg boys team give a stiff arm to many of the full strength squads racing by completing the team title sweep with a low team score of 40 points. The Group AAA squad Patrick Henry (90 pts) led by individual race champion Woodford held off former Western Valley district rival and now Group AA school E.C. Glass (97 pts) for team runner-up honors.