At the end of every September, the Southeastern District opens up its invite list, and holds a single invitational designed to build camaraderie and competition among the 10 schools within its district, as well as any other team who wishes to tackle the Bells Mill course in the Great Bridge section of Chesapeake. In the past, a number of region 5A and 6A schools have accepted the challenge, since their region meets are run there, concurrently.
However, the 3A regional has also taken place at the park for the past several years, yet only Tabb High in Yorktown has taken advantage of the opportunity to get an early look at the course. In recent years, the elements and questionable housekeeping have left Bells Mill soggy and in need of a extra grass cutting in September, making for a credible reason to view the course.
This year, the course is dry and in absence of the large mud puddles which have left a shoe shoes stuck in the Chesapeake mud. The grounds keeping has been on target since July, so the only element to overcome last Saturday was a combination of heat and humidity that left the open fields of Bells Mill feeling like a sauna bath.
Some teams floundered under the humid conditions. But on Saturday, one emerged with a new sense of purpose focused on a 3A region boys' title to match the ones the Tiger girls won last fall.
And for Michael Menapace Jr., the day added another bonus - an invitational victory.
Menapace, a junior, whose best time at Bells Mill had been 17:23, overtook a field of Class 5 and 6 runners to capture the boys crown last Saturday. His time of 16:57.5 led a Tiger charge which also saw freshman Nicholas Smerlis and Logan Jackson finish in the top four as Tabb pulled away with the team win.
For Menapace, sixth in last year's region 3A meet, his first win at a big race was a surprise.
"I was surprised," said Menapace, who has posted best times of 4:38 in the 1600 and 10:32 in the 3200. "I didn't expect to come in first, but it worked out in my favor. I was happy with my placement and my time, It could have been anyone else's win, it just happened to be me. It was just a good day for me and I'm glad to see all my hard work is paying off."
For his team, the prospect of toppling last year's champion, New Kent, is now within reach.
Menapace added, "We all did well, and everyone is getting in new personal records. I'm thrilled to be part of such a strong team this year. It's been a good season so far, and I think we will all continue to improve. Everyone has been working so hard and we are all very supportive of each other."
Kellam's Lily Schlossberg keyed a 1-2-3-4-6 finish for the Knights, who are currently seeded #2 in the state, according to MileStat. Schlossberg won in 19:37, followed by Lily Hoffman (2nd - 19:58), Madison Roche (3rd - 20:19), Alyssa Campbell (4th - 20:26), and Caroline Motley (6th - 20:44). Only Tabb's Katryna Aulenbach could penetrate the Knight brigade, finishing fifth in 20:30.
Hampton Roads Top-15 Teams and Individuals
The Top-15 is beginning to shape up as invitational season is well underway. There will continue to be plenty of changes over the next six weeks; however, we should see more teams going head-to-head, which will provide a keener view of the 757 squads.
After five weeks, here are the top-15 teams in Hampton Roads, with 16-18 noted as "others." The Kellam girls stay on top based on their top-six individual sweep in the second beach District meet, as well as the aforementioned performance at the SE Invite. On the boys' side, Grafton, with their nine-point win in the Varsity "A" Junior Boys division of last weekend's huge DCXC Invite meet, at Kenilworth Park in the nation's capital, vaults into first. The Clippers, with 131 points, upended 18 other schools in the race, including the second to fourth trio of Maryland's Wootton (140), Walter Johnson (142) and Churchill (148). Grafton's Zach Sturm placed seventh in the Varsity "A" Senior race, with a time of 16:29, which bumps him up to fifth among 757 boys' individuals.
Top 15 Teams in the 757
Kellam (top-5 avg. 19:50)
Catholic (formerly Bishop Sullivan)
Others - Grassfield, Norview, Grassfield, Lafayette
Maeve Stiles - Maury (5K - 18:27)
Logan Warden - Princess Anne
Hope Frost - Stonebridge
Arionne Riddick - Menchville
Lily Schlossberg - Kellam
Lily Hoffman - Kellam
Alyssa Campbell - Kellam
Saylor Burris - Western Branch
Aniya Mosley - Ocean Lakes
Maggie Reed - Ocean Lakes
Kiera Cleveland - Oscar Smith
Caroline Bauer - Jamestown
Madison Roche - Kellam
Hailey Rorick - Catholic
Caroline Motley - Kellam
Grafton (top-5 avg. - 16:45)
Others - Maury, Great Bridge, Lafayette, First Colonial
Harrison Ladd - Ocean Lakes (5K - 15:57)
Wesley Bond - Landstown
Alex Murphy - Grafton
Alex Sawyer - Princess Anne
Zachary Sturm - Grafton
Michael Menapace - Tabb
Ben Madrigal - Grafton
Franklin Reid - Norfolk Academy
Nicholas Smerlis - Tabb
Dylan Raney - Grafton
Elijah Haddad - First Colonial
Alejandro Ramirez - Menchville
Ben Diongzon - Menchville
Jackson Cinnamond - Princess Anne
Logan Jackson - Tabb