NOKESVILLE, VA -- Who said relay meets are suppose to be fun and relaxed? With a total of seven teams ranked in the latest Nike Team Southeast Region Rankings, the 5x2500 meter Brentsville Relays is turning into an early barometer gauge for some of the best teams in the Southeast Region. The meet will feature the top two ranked boys and girls teams in the region with SE #1 Midlothian boys, SE #2 Brentsville boys, SE #1 Eleanor Roosevelt girls, and SE #2 Midlothian girls. Also competing will be SE #4 Thomas Jefferson boys, SE #5 Brentsville girls, and SE #8 Lake Braddock girls. The event is held under the lights at night and begins with the first race of the day at 4:45 PM and ends with the last race of the day, \"A\" division girls, at 8:45 PM.
The Eleanor Roosevelt girls of Maryland return to Brentsville as the defending champions and the number one ranked team in the entire region. Roosevelt represented the Southeast Region at last year\'s Nike Team Nationals and represented the region well with 11th place finish in the 20 team field. Eleanor Roosevelt returns all the same faces from last year and benefits from the additions of the Jameson sisters from the track.
Tameka Jameson, who has missed the last two cross country seasons with injury, was one of the nation\'s top middle distance runners on the track last year with a 2:09 800 meter anchor leg split on their 1600 meter sprint medley relay, which posted the second fastest time in US history at 3:52.38 in a Nike Outdoor Nationals championship. Jameson also had one of the nation\'s fastest times for 500 meters during the indoor season at 1:12.
Her sister Takeisha is quite a speedster as well with a 1:18 500 best and according to Coach Desmond Dunham, has shown the most improvement from any of his girls over the summer. WIth their opening race being half the usual racing distance of a 5K, the relay format of the meet should play to the strength of Eleanor Roosevelt.
However, Eleanor Roosevelt proved everyone wrong last year that they are a serious distance program with their NTN berth and national title indoors in the 4x800 meter relay.
Coach Dunham\'s squad has two distance aces among his crew in senior Marika Walker and junior Dominique Lockart. Walker was the team\'s top finisher at NTN with a 20th place finish and during track ran 10:57 for 3200 meters indoors and split 2:12 for 800 meters on a rela leg. Walker is the defending 4A state champion in cross country from Maryland.
Lockhart ran as the team\'s top runner for much of last fall until sufferring from dehydration after leading the state race for two and a half miles. She ran #3 for the team in the state race and Nike Team Nationals and did not recover from the scare until track season where she won two state titles for 1600 meters in both indoor and outdoor track with a 5:02 best for the season. Lockhart has had injury issues as of late and may be held out as a precautionary move for more important races later in the season.
Several other key returnees from the NTN squad include sophomore Teshika Rivers, senior Jennifer Redman, sophomore Tyreka Arrington, and sophomore Angelita Yarborough. Rivers had a strong run in Portland, Oregon as the team\'s number two runner with a 26th place finish at NTN. The Eleanor Roosevelt sophomore also finished second to Walker in the Maryland 4A State Cross Country Championships. Both Redman (11:45) and Arrington (11:58) ran under 12 minutes for 3200 meters during the track season.
Last year only five seconds separated race winner Eleanor Roosevelt (46:29) from second place Midlothian (46:29). Midlothian had held the lead through two legs, before Eleanor Roosevelt took over on the third leg. Brentsville\'s Becky Stewart then gave the homestanding Lady Tigers the lead with the fastest split of the day at 8:53. However, both Midlothian and Eleanor Roosevelt\'s anchors in M.C. Miller (9:04 split) and Dominique Lockhart (8:55 split) chased down Brentsville with Lockhart passing Miller in the process for the Roosevelt victory. Brentsville was not far behind in third at 46:38 with only nine seconds separating the top three teams.
The same close finish can be expected in the 2006 as all three of those teams are back with the same faces as well as some welcomed newcomers.
Midlothian has a pair of newcomers in the Lautzenheiser twins as the freshmen duo took the state by storm in last weekend\'s Great Meadows Invitational with Kathleen Lautzenheiser winning in a time of 19:20, while her sister Leia took third in 19:46. Brentsville\'s Stewart finishing second was the only runner to break up the twins in a strong field that included some of the state\'s top returning cross country runners.
The impact the twins made was evident by the 65 point gap that existed between Midlothian and Brentsville at Great Meadows with a less than boastful day from the top returnees from last year\'s AAA state champions. Midlothian won last year\'s AAA state title and had one of the region\'s best state meet performances after having a total of four runners finish in the top 20 in a very competitive AAA state race. Those same four in M.C. Miller, Paige Johnston, Erin Stehle, and Sammy Dow all ran at Great Meadows with the end result being two drop outs and two off days.
However, thanks to the additions of the Lautzenheiser twins and triumphant return of junior Christine Selander, the Midlothian girls were able to make a less than stellar day become a huge victory over SE #5 ranked Brentsville. Selander\'s race was especially important as she missed all of the 2005 cross country season with a stress fracture and came back last Saturday to run number three for the team in an eighth place effort.
Dow and Johnston did not have bad races in finishing 12th (20:36) and 22nd (21:07) respectively as it was a tough day for all runners as shown by Dow finishing one spot ahead of Colonial Forge\'s Kaylan Comer (13th, 20:40) with a 11:05 3200 and 18:15 5K best as well as Johnston finishing ahead of Colonial Forge\'s other star Molly Hawkins (23rd, 21:07) with a 11:08 3200 and 18:50 5K best. Times were very misleading at Great Meadows, but who beat who last weekend was not. Both Dow and Johnston are returning All-State runners, who have both ran under 19 minutes for 5K with Dow at 18:43 and Johnston at 18:56.
M.C. Miller is definitely the team\'s top returning last year as won the junior/senior race at Foot Locker South in a 18:47 best and along with Great Bridge\'s Kristy Tobin, put on a classic battle in the AAA 1600 meter state race this past June in which Miller finished as a state runner-up in a personal best time of 4:53. However, she finds herself challenged for the spot on the team with the addition of the Lautzenheiser twins. In order for Midlothian to have any hope at beating the region\'s top returning teams in Eleanor Roosevelt, Episcopal of Florida, and Tatnall of Delaware, Miller and the rest of the Midlothian returnees will have to learn to adjust and run as a team toward their team goals no matter how they stand on any given day in the pecking order.
The learning experience of the NTN process from last year for Midlothian should also be engrained in the returnees as mid-season defeats at Great American and Manhattan were too much to overcome even with a late charge and strong state meet finish.
The Brentsville girls do not have the luxury of having as strong of depth as the Midlothian girls do as it was shown last weekend with two of their top four runners missing in Maggie Gentry and Amelia Emerson. With Gentry and Emerson back in the lineup, Brentsville has a very tough front four to go along with Becky Stewart and Lauren Bussian. Both finished in the top ten last weekend at Great Meadows with Stewart as the race runner-up in 19:24 and Bussian finishing in 10th place at 20:25.
Gentry with a best of 11:26 for 3200 meters and 19:36 for 5K and Emerson with a 19:02 5K best certainly would bolster the lineup instantly in one week, but may be held out again with Great American next week having far greater NTN implications.
With Brentsville\'s injury issues, they look very vulnerable this Saturday to a Lake Braddock squad that looks to be running great early on as shown by their impressive win at the Monroe Parker Invite last weekend. A pack on only 12 seconds separated their top four runners as they all finished in the top 11 places with Christine Moore (5th, 18:54), Michelle Presley (8th, 19:01), Anna Corrigan (10th, 19:04), and Erin Landy (11th, 19:06). Their team performance was enough to elevate them to be ranked #8 in the NTN Southeast Region despite not racing against a ranked opponent. They will definitely be able to face some ranked opponents at Brentsville and the team battle between Brentsville and Lake Braddock could be just as close the battle that is expected between Eleanor Roosevelt and Midlothian.
Stewart will definitely be challenged for the top individual split in this year\'s race, which also shares the course record time at 8:53. The Lautzenheiser twins proved they could run with Stewart last weekend and Eleanor Roosevelt\'s Lockhart was only two seconds slower at 8:55 last year as the fastest anchor leg.
However, W.T. Woodson senior Sarrah Hadiji is probably the top individual in the relay event. At least, Hadiji is top ranked among all competitors at #4 in the state of Virginia. While Woodson will not be in serious team contention when she receives the baton on anchor, she will have plenty of runners to chase down. Hadiji is coming off a 18 flat win at Monroe Parker on the 2.98 mile course found at Burke Lake Park and is the defending AAA state champion for 3200 meters indoors with a 10:53 best.
The Brentsville boys are the defending champions as they posted a time of 39:33 in 2005 as they also had the fastest individual split by a Virginian on the evening with Henry Melius at 7:47. After finishing second to SE #1 Midlothian boys by a mere two points in last Saturday\'s Great Meadows Invitational, expect another war between the two teams and SE #4 Thomas Jefferson with three of the top four ranked teams in the region facing off. However, the 5x2500 meter relay format does not exactly predict future results as Midlothian finished seventh in 2005 and nearly won the AAA state race two months later.
Midlothian definitely lacked the speed to handle the 2500 meter distance last year, but based off track times should fare considerably better at Brentsville this year. Top runner Jason Witt, primarily a two miler on the track with a 9:18 school record best, dropped his 1600 meter time down to 4:24 during the spring as well. Witt is coming off an impressive 16:03 5K win at Great Meadows and looks to be very fit.
Witt\'s 1600 meter best is equaled by fellow junior teammate Mark Merritt at 4:24 as Merritt had a strong opener at Great Meadows in finishing seventh with a time of 16:46. While the shorter distance will be advantageous for Merritt, #2-3 runner Jonathan Mellis will have his work cut out for him.
While he has a 16:01 5K best from his AAA all-state performance, Mellis has a modest 1600 meter best of 4:53. Mellis certainly could have ran much faster on the track last year as a junior, but he was never on it as he missed the entire track season with injury. His tenth place performance at Great Meadows in 16:59 showed though he is working himself back into his All-State form.
Midlothian\'s fourth and fifth runners Tommy Reese and Thomas Cole are also 3200/5K type runners who will need to find some wheels to hold off tough challenges that will be coming from Brentsville and Thomas Jefferson. Reese was Midlothian\'s most improved runner at Brentsville finishing 13th in 17:05.
One possible switch could made among the Midlothian\'s five legs for Arkansas transfer Michael Hammond, who has experienced more success on the track as an All-State 1600 meter runner in Arkansas with a 4:33 best as a sophomore than in cross country as he ran sixth for Midlothian at Great Meadows in 34th place (17:43).
Melius definitely showed he had some wheels with his top split last year and will look to have the fastest on the meet again in 2006. Melius finished fourth in last weekend\'s Great Meadows race in 16:24 and could be challenged for the top split on his team with Brentsville senior Adam Henken taking runner-up honors last weekend to Witt in a time of 16:18. Henken has the faster track times with a 4:25 1600 and 9:34 to his credit, while Melius has posted times of 4:28 for 1600 meters and 9:49 for 3200 meters.
Brentsville\'s #3 runner in junior Ray Delgado also has decent turnover with a 4:31 best, which is drastic in comparision to Midlothian\'s #3 in Mellis. Delgado finished one place and one second behind Mellis last week at Great Meadows and could have the advantage in the battle of the clock this weekend.
The races of Grant Burress and Andrew Johnson at Great Meadows played the biggest difference in Brentsville\'s jump from #6 in the Southeast to #2 this week as it was well known Brentsville would have a strong front three, but it was not as certain how strong they would be after. Burress and Johnson matched up very well with Midlothian\'s #4 and #5 runners finishing 17th (17:16) and 23rd (17:23) respectively at Great Meadows. They will be tested again as the team\'s fourth and fifth runners tomorrow on their home course.
It is definitely out of the question that Thomas Jefferson, ranked #4 in the Southeast Region could walk out of Brentsville with the win as they have a squad that many believe is the best team in the state and entire Southeast. Part of the hesistation to give them the top rank is the absence of top runner Brian Landry, who is expected to make a mid-season return after missing the entire outdoor season with injury.
However, Coach Matt Ryan\'s squad is a deep one that can still be competitve and beat two very good teams in Midlothian and Brentsville without Landry. Thomas Jefferson showed how formidable of a team they are without their top runner at last Saturday\'s Monroe Parker Invitational defeating NTN SE #8 West Springfield by a 35 point margin.
Returning All-State runner Paul Norland finished fourth in a time of 15:33, while nearly two other teammates joined him under 16 minutes on the day in Richard Prevost (5th, 15:51) and James Komen (8th, 16:00). Aiden McHugh\'s 15th place effort of 16:20 gave last year\'s AAA state runners-up four runners in the top 15.
Ben Treweek finished a little further back as the #5 man than Coach Ryan would have probably liked in 16:57 for 43rd place, but the depth clustered behind him was apparently with Timmy Galvin (48th, 17:01) and Kevin Brown (54th, 17:07).
Missing from the lineup for Thomas Jefferson at Monroe Parker was also defending AAA state 1000 meter champion Taylor Bostick, who will be competing in his first cross country season and certainly could be an assett at the shorter racing distance at Brentsville with his 2:33 1000 meter best. Bostick was bothered by injury during the outdoor season and certainly was capable of faster than his spring bests of 4:28 for 1600 meters and 1:57 for 800 meters.
Top individuals at Brentsville include Mountain View sophomore Thomas Porter, one of the nation\'s top freshmen distance runners last year. Porter will be looking to bounce back from a fifth place finish at Great Meadows (16:25). Both Porter and Witt are expected to be pre-season #1 and favorite Mike Spooner of West Springfield\'s toughest challengers for the AAA state crown in November.
The fastest miler in the field will be Herndon\'s Ermin Mujezinovic, who split a 4:13 1600 meter leg last spring as a member of Herndon\'s All-American distance medley relay that finished sixth at Nike Outdoor Nationals in a time of 10:08. Mujezinovic finished second at last weekend\'s Virginia Tech Invitational to Peter Dorrell of Blacksburg, but will try to come out first on Saturday as the distance is cut in half.
The Brentsville Relays has grown considerably in terms of quality competition with the many NTN ranked teams present and numbers as a total of 57 schools are set to compete.
5. Bishop O'connell
8. Colonial Forge
10. Deep Creek
11. Deep Run
14. Douglas Freeman
15. Eleanor Roosevelt
18. Forest Park
20. GC Marshall
21. Good Counsel
27. James Madison
28. King George
33. Mills Godwin
34. Mountain View
35. Oakland Mills
37. Ocean Lakes
38. Osbourn Park
40. Potomac (VA)
42. Prince George
44. South Co.
47. TC Williams
48. Thomas Dale
49. Thomas Edison
50. Thomas Jefferson
52. Walter Johnson
53. Walt Whitman
56. WT Woodson
4:45 PM B & C Boys
5:35 PM B & C Girls
7:55 PM A Boys
8:45 PM A Girls