Midlo girls bypassing homecoming dates for date in Oregon at Manhattan

NEW YORK, NY -- The Midlothian girls head off to New York City this weekend to compete in the Eastern States Championship division of the Manhattan Invitational that is being billed as one of the greatest high school cross country fields ever assembled with many of the nation\'s top ranked teams on the East Coast in attendance. Currently ranked #3 in the Southeast and previously ranked #11 in the nation earlier in the season, Virginia\'s defending 3A state champions from Midlothian have high hopes of being selected as one of the teams to compete at the Nike Team Nationals in early December. Plenty of focus is not only focused on them, but the entire Southeast region as SE #1 Eleanor Roosevelt of Maryland and SE #2 Episcopal of Florida will be competing at Manhattan as well to see if the region can matchup with arguably the toughest region in the nation currently for high school girls\' teams in the Northeast. Automatic and at-large berths will be on the line for both regions based off the outcome of Manhattan.

Last year, the Southeast region was manhandled at Manhattan with the region\'s top finisher being Eleanor Roosevelt in fifth place with 205 points as four Northeast region squads in winner Saratoga Springs (133 pts), eventual NTN champions Hilton (2nd, 147 pts), Suffern (3rd, 193 pts), and Warwick (4th, 205 pts) all ran ahead of the Southeast\'s bests. To add further insult to injury, the Northeast had four more finishers in the top ten as Tatnall of Delaware was the only other team to slip into the top ten with 246 points and Midlothian failed to come close to top ten finish. Tatnall and Midlothian ended up finishing the year ranked #3 and #4 in the Southeast.

The positive news for the 2006 meet for the Southeast is Eleanor Roosevelt, Tatnall, and Midlothian return with full rosters from 2005 and the addition of Florida\'s finest in Episcopal bolsters the region\'s chances to prove it can hang with a Northeast region that had first, second, and nine place finishes at Nike Team Nationals last year and possibly deserved a second at-large team present to finish high in Oregon.

Both Roosevelt and Episcopal have shown in the past they can run on the national stage as shown by their 11th and 14th place finishes at Nike Team Nationals as the Southeast region\'s two representatives.

Midlothian is a team that has shown it can run with Episcopal at least finishing 15 points behind them in a runner-up showing in the Race of Champions at Great American, but how they stack up against even stiffer national competition such as NE #1 Hilton and NE #3 Saratoga Springs, the past two NTN champions, remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, Tatnall had plenty of promise coming into this season to challenge the two returning Southeast NTN teams in Roosevelt and Episcopal, but an injury to their top runner in Katie Kershner has put them behind three improved teams in Roosevelt, Episcopal, and Midlothian. However, Kershner is working her way back and is expected to compete at Manhattan and could sneak up on one if not more of the top Southeast teams at Van Courtland.

There is definitely great respect from the coaches of all four top programs in the Southeast of what they know the other teams can do. Probably the most complimentary is the head coach of the team with the bull\'s eye on them in Desmond Dunham, coach of the Southeast top ranked and US #5 Eleanor Roosevelt girls.

Whether its Kershner coming back for Tatnall, Midlothian\'s M.C. Miller running up front again for the team, or Episcopal\'s formidable front runners, Dunham has done his homework on the tough challenges his team will face from all three this Saturday. In his post-race interview at Maymont two weeks ago, Dunham showed great respect to a Tatnall team that many would say his team crushed at the meet in Richmond playing the \"what if\" game if Kershner was inserted into the Delaware team\'s lineup in her 2005 form.

You would think teams such as Eleanor Roosevelt or Episcopal could show a little bit of swagger and confidence having \"been there and done that\" with NTN last year, but head coaches for each team are humble and class acts that are great role models for their athletes. For example, Episcopal head coach Michelle Krueger knew the quick score at Great American put her girls ahead of Midlothian with the win, but she refused to partake in any celebrations with her girls until the official results were finally confirmed.

The Midlothian girls will be making the trip without their SE #1 boys as they will be staying home due to conflicts with SAT and being whipped to their homecoming dates at Midlothian High School. The Midlothian girls had to turn down a line of dates, because the only date that matters to them is December 2nd in Portland, Oregon for Nike Team Nationals. While their performance at Great American was solid, Midlothian could not rely only on their performance there as the Southeast has not been awarded an at-large bid in the two year existence of NTN and rightfully so based on the team finishes in Oregon.

A strong team performance at Manhattan for Virginia\'s top ranked team certainly does not lock up a bid as there is still a good chunk of the cross country season left, but definitely would help their cause. Coach Stan Morgan\'s girls can definitely not overlook and take for granted the Virginia State Cross Country Meet in which a clash with current SE #5 Lake Braddock looms. Lake Braddock recently finished second to MW #3 Minister of Ohio and if their initial #1 runner in Christine Moore was not under the weather as she ran #5 for the team, the Lady Bruins could have came away as winners over the highly ranked Midwest team.

Their road to repeat as state champs is probably tougher than the challengers that the other top ranked teams in the region will face.

Midlothian is not the only team from Virginia competing in Manhattan as typically a handful of teams make the trip every year to compete in one of the largest and most historic cross country meets in the country at Van Courtland Park\'s 2.5 mile course.

One team that has suddenly caught the attention of many and throughout the Southeast region is the Jamestown boys, who were probably one of the biggest surprises so far this season in taking a runner-up finish at the Maymont Festival two weeks ago ahead of more than a handful of teams that have made appearances in the NTN Southeast regional rankings this season.

At one point this season, Jamestown looked like they would have their work cut out for them just to make the state meet podium and finish in the top three in the AA race at the state cross country meet. However, now they are knocking on the door of a top three ranking in the Southeast as their performance at Maymont elevated them to a SE #5 ranking. The return of sophomore John Holt and the team being revamped with several talented freshmen has made them a force to be reckoned with on the state and regional scene.

One advantage Jamestown had over the other NTN caliber teams at Maymont was they were the only team that had participated in the event on the same course in 2005. However, they are going into a new experience at Manhattan as it is the first time in the program\'s history that they will be competing in the national caliber event. They do have a head coach with national meet experience in Howard Townsend to keep them steady. Townsend was a Foot Locker All-American in 1994.

While the top girls\' teams at Manhattan are all pitted up against one another in the Eastern States division, the best boys teams in attendance at Van Courtland Park will be spread out over multiple divisions. In the varsity \"C\" division, Jamestown will not be racing against any NTN Northeast ranked teams that will be featured in other divisions, but can compare their team\'s time averages against those teams. However, the depth in the region is great beyond their top ten teams as unranked Smithtown and Queensbury of New York and Christian Brothers Academy of New Jersey will challenge the SE #5 Jamestown squad for first place hardware in the division.

Osbourn, Forest Park, and South Lakes from Virginia will also have runners competing in various divisions during the day on Saturday.

Girls Eastern States Startlist
this list is pending, and may change at the meet gets closer
Position School                    City                      State
________ _________________________ _________________________ _____
       1 Saratoga Springs          Saratoga                  NY
       2 Msgr. Donovan             Toms River                NJ
       3 Hilton                    Hitlon                    NY
       4 Colts Neck                Colts Neck                NJ
       5 Midlothian                Midlothian                VA
       6 Warwick Valley            Warwick                   NY
       7 Eleanor Roosevelt         Greenbelt                 MD
       8 Episcopal                 Jacksovnville             FL
       9 Fayetteville-Manlius      Manlius                   NY
      10 Bromfield                 Harvard                   MA
      11 Greenwich Central         Greenwich                 NY
      12 Tatnall                   Wilmington                DE
      13 Academy of the Holy Names Albany                    NY
      14 Clovis                    Clovis                    CA
      15 Shenendehowa              Clifton Park              NY
      16 West Genesee              Camillus                  NY
      17 Central Cambria           Ebensburg                 PA
      18 Bryn Mawr                 Baltimore                 MD
      19 Conard                    West Hartford             CT
      20 Carmel                    Carmel                    NY
      21 Bronxville                Bronxville                NY
      22 Suffern                   Suffern                   NY
      23 Howell                    Farmingdale               NJ
      24 Champlain Valley Union    Hinesburg                 VT
      25 South Tahoe               South Lake Tahoe          CA
      26 Padua                     Wilmington                DE
      27 Pope John XXIII           Sparta                    NJ
      28 Ridgefield                Ridgefield                CT
      29 Ridge                     Basking Ridge             NJ