WINCHESTER, VA -- The John Handley boys pulled off a shocker last week in upsetting defending A state champions and Nike Team Nationals Southeast Region #3 ranked team in Clarke County. Handley, a team projected to the qualify for the state meet out of AA\'s toughest region in Region II in the preseason, has projected themselves even further than previously predicted as a team that can run with the state\'s best. At Saturday\'s Judges Classic, the Handley boys will get another chance in front of the home crowd to show last weekend\'s performance was no fluke as they will be a team to be reckoned with this fall.
Clarke County will be facing off with Handley once again as now it will be Clarke as the underdog after finishing 26 behinds the Judges at the James Wood Invitational. Clarke County can count on Simon Biddle-Snead to lead the way as the two-time defending A state champion started off his season with a 17:13 win at James Wood.
However, after Biddle-Snead, Clarke County\'s lineup looks shaky. With Daniel Callan out of action for most of this season with a broken leg, Clarke is one man down on a squad that was not extremely deep to begin with. Ben Veilleux, a state runner-up to Biddle-Snead last fall as a freshmen, finished fifth (17:52) at James Wood last weekend behind three Handley runners.
The time spread grew from there with Bryan Broy finishing as the team\'s fifth runner at 18:40. Granted that James Wood is a slow course, but Broy with a 16:40 5K best ran 33 seconds faster in 2005 at James Wood in a time of 18:07 .
Handley had been beaten convincingly by Clarke County last fall including a 49 point drubbing by Clarke in the 2005 Judges Classic, but the Judges showed 2006 is a new year and they are the team on top this year. Handley took four of the top seven places with Clint Schiavone (2nd, 17:30), Erin McWhorter (3rd, 17:37), Daniel Carlton (4th, 17;44), and Cameron Crowell (7th, 17:57).
Sherando makes the field among the boys\' teams even more competitive and interesting as the 2005 AA state third-place finishing squad has just as good of a chance to win on Saturday as Handley and Clarke County do. The Warriors are led by defending AA 1600 meter state champion Ryan Witt, who opened up last weekend with his team at UNC Wilmington\'s Seahawk Invitational against some of North Carolina\'s top individuals and teams. Witt finished seventh individually in a time of 16:26, while the team had a tough day with a eighth place finish.
The meet features four of the top ten ranked teams in AA with #3 John Handley, #5 Sherando, #7 Spotswood, and #10 Millbrook.
Spotswood finished fourth in last weekend\'s Fork Union Invite and is led by Bobby Heitz, who took tenth in the 3 mile race with a time of 16:05.
Millbrook has a solid trio in Stephen Lassiter, Patrick Connelly, and Bobby Vance. Lassiter, with a 9:52 3200 meter personal best, took sixth in last weekend\'s James Wood Invite.
Heritage of Leesburg and Potomac Falls are two teams that are possibly deserving of top ten rankings in AA as both had strong openers last weekend at the Frank Geyser Invite with top three finishes and will be looking take down some of the higher ranked teams on Saturday in Winchester. Potomac Falls has a solid front runner in sophomore Josh Hardin, who finished second last Saturday in a time of 16:06 for three miles. Meanwhile, Heritage should be led to the line by the duo of senior Nick McLaughlin and Jesse Saldana, who both finished within 10 seconds of Hardin last week.
Eight of the top ten finishers return from last year\'s race including 2005 race champion Biddle-Snead. Biddle-Snead won last year\'s race in a time of 16:45 as only race runner-up Cameron Crowell of John Handley dipped under 17 minutes for the day in 16:59.
Several new teams are attending the meet this weekend including two Northern Region schools in Chantilly and Robert E. Lee. Robert E. Lee has a solid individual in Josef Tessema and possibly defending champ Biddle-Snead\'s biggest threat on Saturday. Tessema has ran 9:29 for 3200 meters and 16:10 for 5K.
Chantilly brings in one of the pre-race favorite individuals to win the girls\' race in sophomore Lia DiValentin as she opened up last Saturday at the Monroe Parker Invitational with a second place finish to 2005 AAA state runner-up Sarrah Hadiji of W.T. Woodson. DiValentin, competing in her first season of cross country, ran a swift time of 18:08 to finish only eight seconds behind the defending AAA 3200 meter state indoor champion.
Millbrook senior and 2005 Judges Classic individual champion Jillian Pollack returns to defend her title from a year ago. As one of the top returnees in the state from last November\'s AA state race and posting several great times and performances last spring in track, high expectations were laid upon Pollack coming into this season. However, she has had two subpar runs to start her season after finishing seventh at the Chancellor Invite and fifth in last weekend\'s James Wood Invite. Pollack with a 18:34 5K best will look to turn things around in a race she knows how to win.
John Handley senior Anna Cote finished third in the 2005 Judges Classic and is coming off a second place finish at James Wood. Cote would like to move one place up for her first win and give host school Handley their first race champion since Bobby Lockhart in 2001. Cote has ran 19:08 for 5K and 11:19 for 3200 meters.
The James Wood girls and Clarke County girls will have a close battle once again as James Wood (72 pts) pulled three points ahead of Clarke County (75 pts) in a win last weekend at their home invite. James Wood was competing without one of their top runners last week in sophomore Crystal Printz (20:19 5K) and hope to have her back this weekend to give them a bit more breathing room.
Clarke County will have two individuals near the front at the Judges Classic in the sophomore pair of Sophia Holmes and Erin Broy. Holmes and Broy finished third and fourth respectively at the James Wood Invite. Clarke will hope to get a better performance out of 2005 A state champion Danielle Moyer, who ran number three for the team last weekend in 13th place.
James Wood and Clarke County\'s first and second place finishes will be tough to repeat this week though with AA #4 ranked Monticello and AA #8 ranked Heritage competing as well.
Monticello has been running very strong early on. At last weekend\'s Fork Union Invitational, Monticello finished third behind two AAA squads in Maggie Walker and Albemarle and ahead of traditional AA powerhouse Western Albemarle. Holly Rich was the team\'s top finisher at FUMA with a seventh place effort of 19:40. Sarah Tobias (12th, 20:20) and Erin Thorpe (18th, 20:36) give Monticello a tough front three for teams to take down at John Handley.
Heritage, ranked #8 in AA, had a big win last weekend at the Frank Geyser Invite in Maryland as they posted a team average of 20:49 on the three mile course. Heritage had two in the top five with freshmen Hannah McLaughlin (4th, 19:59) and senior Jayde James (5th, 20:05).
Robert E. Lee (Staunton)
Park View (Sterling)
Bishop McNamara High School
Schedule of Events
8:15 AM - Coaches Meeting in main area
9:00 AM - Girls Varsity
9:30 AM - Boys Varsity
10:00 AM - Girls JV
10:30 AM - Boys JV
11:15 AM - Awards
Directions to Kernstown Battlefield in Winchester, VA: To get to the course take I-81 to Exit 310 (Kernstown). Follow Rt. 11 North for 1.5 miles to Battle Park Rd (see Saturn Dealer on corner). Turn left and follow this road to the gate at the entrance to the park.