Brief Meet Summary
All photos by Brandon Miles
The Blacksburg program clearly established itself as the best starting out the 2009 cross country season and in a decisive way as the Group AA school scored convincing victories against two favorites and contenders for Group AAA state crowns this fall in the Midlothian girls and Mountain View boys. The Blacksburg girls were led by race winner Joanna Stevens, who ran a negative split race to runaway from the field and show she is ready to convert her track success to cross country in a 18:12 win. Twin sister, Kathleen Stevens, battling sickness, was able to move up late in the race to take the runner-up spot in 18:51. The remaining top five for Coach James Demarco's team all finished among the top 10 places with Sarah Dorrell in 5th (19:15), Leah Fitchett in 9th (19:30), and Hannah Brown in 10th (19:36) to tally a total of 27 points and secure the opening victory.
The Midlothian girls were competing without one of their projected top five runners in Leia Lautzenheiser, but still would have likely fell short of defeating Blacksburg on this day at full strength regardless. The four-time AAA state champions were led up front by seniors Kathleen Lautzenheiser (3rd, 18:57) and Amy Witt (4th, 19:12), but the biggest bright spot for Coach Stan Morgan's squad was the arrival and emergence of Paige Johnston's younger sister Marie Johnston, who had a sensational high school debut in 8th place with a time of 19:30. Midlothian finished with 47 points and 51 points ahead of the third place squad from Mountain View.
Another freshmen who excelled in the varsity A girls' race at Great Meadow was Hannah Lowery of Stafford as she finished just ahead of Northwest Region champion Kaitlyn Davis of Mountain View for sixth place in a time of 19:20 and will be pose as a new challenger for that regional title to Davis and 2007 regional champ Ariel Karabinus of Osbourn Park.
The Blacksburg boys followed up their female teammate's collective performance in an similar dominant fashion as they led the way up front and among the top chase packs throughout the race. The expected team's #1 and #2 runners George Carter and Matt Howard did much of the work up front pressing the pace hard for their teammates to follow early in. Both Carter and Howard faltered a bit in the final mile, but were picked up by their teammates as only a 38 second spread separated their top five with 5 in the top 12 with Frank Locascio (3rd, 16:23), George Carter (4th, 16:24), Caman Skelton (7th, 16:44), Matt Howard (8th, 16:47), and Zach Link (12th, 17:00). The impressive stat: Blacksburg put their entire top five ahead of second place and VA #3 ranked Mountain View's first finisher Jared Elly (13th, 17:01). Granted this was a very season early meet, but right now there appears to be a huge gap between Blacksburg and the rest of the teams in the state that will be difficult to make up in 2 1/2 months.
Mountain View knew coming into this season they would be lacking a front runner as they had the past few years in three-time Foot Locker finalist Thomas Porter, so their focus on Saturday and for the rest of the season will be on having a tight pack and moving it up during the course of the season. Mountain View was able to withstand a surprising challenge for second though by Commonwealth District rival Riverbend, who fell three points shy of knocking them off for runner-up honors. Mountain View had the tighest spread in the meet with a 26 second gap for their #1 through #5 runners.
Similar to Riverbend, the Mills Godwin boys also were not expected to finish as high as they did in the 27 team Varsity A division. The Eagles were given a nice 1 point score card from their first runner Grant Pollock, who made a 1:36 improvement from his 5K PR of 17:49 last year in his first race of the 2009 season by seizing the lead away from Blacksburg's Carter in the final 800 meters for a 16:13 victory. The huge drop was not a complete surprise though as Pollock made huge strides in track season running personal bests of 4:20 for 1600 meters and 9:36 for 3200 meters to earn him a pre-season top 15 ranking in Group AAA despite being unproven in a cross country race.
Other individuals with breakthrough runs to open this fall season were Group AA runners Seamus O'Reilly of Warren County finishing strong in the final mile to pick off several Blacksburg runners for second place (16:19) as well as Tommy Curtin of Loudoun County, an unheralded junior, who finished among the top 5 with a time of16:32.
More to come from Great Meadow including photos, race videos, and interviews.