For West Springfield cross-country coach Chris Pellegrini, Saturday's team results from the "season-opening" Monroe Parker Invitational were simply the first step in what could be a state title year for the Spartans.
Mixing it up with traditional NoVA powerhouses such as Lake Braddock, Robinson and Chantilly, the runners of Rolling Road captured both the boys' and girls' team titles at last Saturday's race, which marks the traditional beginning of the Northern Virginia cross-country season, and is held on the famed 2.98-mile Burke Lake course.
Taking to social media on Saturday evening, Pellegrini was humble. "It's only the start of the year, but what a start!"
Communicating with Milestat.com on Tuesday morning, the coach was more specific.
"The boys have been building for a few years, and hopefully are ready to have a good fall (season)."
Included in that contingent are his two star seniors, Sam Pritchard and Chris Weeks. The duo finished fifth and sixth in 15:43 and 15:45 to lead a Spartan quintet that finished 5-6-8-13-18 to tally 50 points, almost 100 ahead of runner-up Thomas Jefferson S&T (147). The five harriers averaged a sparkling time of 16:02 in the win, 32 seconds ahead of TJ.
Alex Asady (16:03), and sophomores Nate Pohlsander (16:17) and Tyler Weeks (16:23) rounded out the West Springfield top-five, with Luke Hawkins (16:23) and John O'Donnell (16:26) nipping at their heels.
Yorktown senior Albert Velikonja of Yorktown, in only his second season of cross-country, won the overall race in 15:27, four seconds ahead of Herndon's Colin McCauley, who led the Hornets to a third-place team finish. Ryan Hamblet of Lake Braddock was third in 15:37.
Perhaps the more stunning result came with the Lady Spartans win in the girls' race. Led by second-place finisher Amy Herrema, West Springfield pulled together a 1-7-22-23-25 team effort to earn 78 points, 10 ahead of the perennially tough Bruins of Lake Braddock.
"We suffered heavy graduation losses last spring, so this win was a little bit of a surprise," said Pellegrini. "These girls, however, are very tough and seem to understand the team concept of cross-country."
Although the team lost some parts after last season, they remain a veteran squad. Herrema and #2 runner Katie Orchard (8th - 19:03) are seniors, while junior Anna Bock (24th - 19:59), senior Rachel Mayberry (25th - 19:59), and sophomore Haley Goldin (27th - 20:05) helped the team average under 20 minutes per top-five runner, with the Bruins (88), Robinson (103) and Chantilly (121) also matching the feat, as they took the next three places in the team standings.
Annandale junior Julia Ghiselli won the race in 17:53, a full 37 seconds ahead of Herrema. Yorktown's Anna Macon Corcoran placed third in 18:41, a step ahead of Lake Braddock's Emilia Doran.
In the varsity "B" races, Ryan Wall of Saint John Paul the Great outlasted David Barron of Westfield (16:15) and Centreville's Alejo Cobos to win in 16:07. Ironically, the same three teams were tops in the B division, with Westfield nudging ahead of the Wolves 63-71.
For the girls', Langley's Lilly Fowler (19:42) led the Saxons to a second-place team finish with her winning 19:42 performance. Westfield's Riley Jenkins was second (19:57) and the Bulldogs claimed the team crown with 40 points, just six ahead of Langley. Abigail Nasse placed third in just a tick over 20 minutes.