The Lee-Davis Subvarsity Invitational served as a low key meet for many teams getting in a final meet for some of their developing runners heading into the district championships. However, the varsity girls individual battle was anything but low key with more than a handful of some of the state's better runners battling it out on the Pole Green 5K course. A pack of six was still together till the very end until Tallwood's Octavia Rinehardt and Hanover's Lauren Hopper streaked to the finish line with Rinehardt coming out with a narrow win in 18:50 over Hopper at 18:41. Hopper paced the Hanover girls to a team title over several other Central Region teams hoping to make it out of the regional meet next month. Mark Merritt looked to be in top form at Pole Green as he led his new team at Cosby to the team title with a 16:10 individual win of his own.
Merritt's transfer to Cosby from Midlothian obviously drew a lot of attention at the start of the season with not only the impact it left on Midlothian losing a returning All-State cross country runner, but other teams in their hopes of knock off the defending AAA state champions fall. However, the change for Merritt seems to be working out well for him as he pulled away from Tabb's Will Mulherin after two miles to win by 20 seconds in a final time of 16:10. Mulherin had a solid run in second with no one to run with him after Merritt dropped him for a time of 16:30. Merritt was only six seconds off his 2006 Central Region Meet performance of 16:04, which was run on a shorter course as the starting line at Pole Green has been moved back this year.
Nothing new for him from his days at Midlothian, but Merritt also had some promising team success to celebrate as well with the Cosby team picking up a narrow three point win over host school Lee-Davis for the team title at 49 to 52. Cosby had six runners under 18 minutes, which was a first for the squad this season as just the other week only Merritt and teammate Luke Atwood had run under 18 minutes for 5K.
The varsity girls race featured quite a few girls who have potential to make it on the podium in the AAA state race in November at Great Meadow. Both Octavia Rinehardt of Tallwood and Lauren Hopper of Hanover are returning All-State runners from a year ago. Cosby's Jenna Moye was painfully close to an All-State top 15 finish in 2006 as she finished 16th last year at the state meet. Amanda Lineberry of Lee-Davis and Abby Badura of Clover Hill certainly have ran up with some of the state's best runners this fall. Meanwhile, Oscar Smith's Kerry Kelley won the varsity "B' race at the William & Mary Invite and has emerged as one of the Eastern Region's better runners. A great race certainly was brewing.
The fact that this top pack was able to stay together for virtually the entire race made it all that more exciting. At the mile mark and then the two mile mark, the group was packed together. Even as they made the final turn to the finish with less than 300 meters, the group had barely spread apart. As the finish line came in sight though, it was the two top favorites in 2006 Lee-Davis Invite champ Lauren Hopper and Virginia's #4 ranked runner in Rinehardt began to change gears and break away from the rest. Hopper looked to have a second win in reach, but Rinehardt was able to summon a final burst to pull out a one second victory in 18:50. Hopper had her second close invite runner-up showing in the season at 18:51 as she was second to Heritage's Laura Rapp earlier in the season at Knights Crossing.
Trailing in behind the top two finishers was Jenna Moye breaking 19 minutes for the first time this season in 18:57 for third place as the Cosby junior finishing close to two returning All-State runners in Rinehardt and Hopper bodes well for her achieving that first All-State honor this fall. Just above 19 minutes at Pole Green were Clover Hill freshmen Abby Badura (4th, 19:02), Oscar Smith junior Kerry Kelley (5th, 19:05), and Lee-Davis sophomore Amanda Lineberry (6th, 19:07). It was quite an impressive display up front.
Another Central Region battle was front and center for the team title as Capital District rivals Hanover and Lee-Davis were the top two teams in the field coming off invitational victories last weekend with Hanover at Disney in Florida and Lee-Davis at Hagan Stone Park in North Carolina. Hanover came away from the meet feeling pretty confident heading into the district and regional championships as they look to qualify for the state meet for the first time in the school's short history. Hanover had four finishers in the top 15 with Hopper, Anna Gordon (7th, 19:29), Taylor Clevinger (10th, 20:22), and April Morrissett (14th, 20:51). The meet saw several of the Central Region's best freshmen with Badura as well as the Hanover pair of Gordon and Cleving.
The Lee-Davis girls made it close as big run from their #3 Stephanie Cario dipping well under 21 minutes for the first time this season at 20:10 for ninth place, but Hanover was able to put 11 points on their district rival in the fourth and fifth spot to win with a score of 56 points compared to 71 points tallied by Lee-Davis.