It does not matter if their top boys' runner drops out. It does not matter if two of their top seven on their girls' team is missing. Midlothian is still going to find a way to win another Dominion District cross country season and still comfortably.
Despite top runner Brayden Burleigh dropping out in the race, the rest of the Midlothian boys stepped up with the remaining top 7 all finishing among the top 15 All-District places to secure the team title over the Ted Richardson-led James River squad. Darren Barlow came into Midlothian High School along with Burleigh as a young talent and made an immediate impact on the squad as a freshmen running as the fourth runner on their state meet podium squad two years ago featuring Foot Locker finalist Jason Witt and Michael Hammond. Barlow since then has had to deal with lots of injuries including a broken ankle which put him out of the entire sophomore cross country season. He emerged today as the team's top runner for the first time ever in a meet with a solid third place run of 16:12.
Following Barlow into the chute for the Trojans were freshmen phenom Sean Willard (6th, 16:34), Kyle Dow (9th, 16:48), Andrew Gorsuch (11th, 17:07), Troy Jackson (13th, 17:11), and Sam Hush (15th, 17:39) as Midlothian averaged 16:46 and compiled a team score of 42 points. Midlothian will certainly need Burleigh back and finishing next week at the regional meet in order to defeat a solid Mills Godwin squad from the Colonial District who averaged 16:24 on the same Pocahontas State Park 5K course two weeks ago at the MileStat.com Invitational.
Coming into this season, Ted Richardson had a goal of taking down the Pocahontas State Park course record of 15:21 set by Jason Witt two years ago in the district meet. That record was slightly altered two weeks ago at the MileStat.com Invitational when Mills Godwin senior Grant Pollock won the invite race in a time of 15:20. So not only was Richardson attempting to measure up against a past state cross country champion in Witt, but against his top competition for next week's Central Region Championships in Pollock.
He fell short of that goal, but still ran a personal best time of 15:27. Times are out the window next week for Richardson at the regional meet and it will all be about place when he races Pollock for the first time since Maymont, which Richardson came out on top by a good margin in that encounter.
Joining Richardson under 16 minutes and pushing him for at least the early portions of the race was Cosby junior Evan Niciphor, who is not only looking to earn another state meet berth next week but go for All-State honors this year. Posting a significant personal best of 15:52 on Thursday indicates Niciphor is capable of finishing high at Great Meadow if he were to advance. An All-State finish would also quickly erase the memory of last year's state meet when Niciphor was forced to drop out due to an injury suffered leading up to the meet.
The Midlothian girls had two runners from their top seven missing at the district meet in junior Krista Willard and freshmen Kara Dickerson, who would have likely filled and closed the door sooner in their fifth runner spot as far as time. It would have not had much of a difference on their team score though as five of the top eight finishers were from the four-time defending AAA state champions. Meet record holder Kathleen Lautzenheiser was the champion once again as she was 10 seconds off her 2008 time in a 18:14 victory.
Also running well for Midlothian and under 19 minutes were freshmen Marie Johnston (3rd, 18:44) and junior Claire Benjamin (4th, 18:59). Midlothian averaged 18:59 as a team, which was 6 seconds slower than Osbourn Park's average two weeks ago at the MileStat.com Invitational on Pocahontas State Park. Insert Willard or Dickerson into the results with their current season bests though and Midlothian should come out with a team average faster than Osbourn Park's. A fifth straight Group AAA state title will not come easy for the Lady Trojans though.
Megan Moye led a freshmen heavy Cosby squad to a second straight district runner-up finish (51 pts) with another race well into the 18s for the sophomore Moye in a second place time of 18:26. Behind Moye, Cosby had four 9th graders in their line-up including three freshmen earning All-District honors in Lindsey Blum (9th, 19:51), Amanda Steinman (11th, 20:20), and Tessa Broadwater (13th, 20:23).