BOYS PREVIEW: Ocean Lakes the team to beat, Robbins favored to repeat
It appears that the Dolphins of Ocean Lakes are the single most powerful team in the Eastern Region for this upcoming year by the looks of their track and cross-country times. Very few teams posses the depth of the Dolphins, even fewer the front running talent. Ably coached by Mike Nestor, who has two Eastern Region titles to his credit in the past three seasons for his girl's team, the team is also hungry for its first team state berth since 2001, when All-American Matt Keally ran for the team. Mindful of their heart wrenching 5th place finish and lack of individual All-Region runners, the Dolphins are both the most talented and hungry of all the teams in the region and expect them to make a splash at the state meet as well. A powerful trio of runners leads the Dolphins: Drew Midland, Liam Arocho, and Clancy Waldron. DREW MIDLAND (800-2:00, 1600-4:28, 3200-9:40, 5000CC-16:18) is one of the most underrated runners in the state, but next year he will be in the hunt for All-State status. Despite a horrible race at regions, which ended his season, Midland ran an exceptional time in the seeded race at Footlocker South with a time of 16:18. This time would have been sufficient to gain him All-South Honors had he run the Junior Race. Instead he ran in the seeded race with the studs faring exceptionally well and running one of the fastest times by a Beach District runner last season. Midland continued his success in the indoor season, cruising past Adam Hutton of Western Branch with a negative split race in the Eastern Region 3200m run (9:49), and placing 10th at the VHSL State Meet with a 9:40 winning the slow heat. Rolling into the outdoor season Midland focused attention on the 1600 posting a 4:28 PR. LIAM AROCHO (800-2:03 split, 1600-4:32, 3200-10:20c, 5000RR-16:53) had an off year during Cross Country as he seemed a bit stale after posting a sub 17 time in a road race. However, rolling into indoor Arocho ran times more indicative of his sub 17 road race time as he posted a 4:32 at the VHSL State meet, placing 20th. Arocho has run well this outdoor season as well, and it appears that he is back on track for his junior year of Cross Country. CLANCY WALDRON (3200-10:10, 5000CC 17:10) is perhaps the most improved runner in the Eastern Region. This time last season, Waldron was a 5:01 miler and little known throughout his district, let alone the region. However, Waldron became a big time runner with a breakout Cross Country season with him becoming the #2 runner for Ocean Lakes. He was only ten seconds behind Midland at the Eastern Region Meet posting a 17:13. Waldron continued improving through the indoor season posting a 10:10 at the Beach District Meet allowing Waldron to become a presence throughout the region. His time of 10:14 at the Dogwood Invitational solidified his presence and he has become an integral part of the Ocean Lakes team. BRANDON RITZO (3200-10:30, 5000CC 18:00) is another runner who has taken great strides in becoming a runner with a presence at the post season level. His 10:30 ability will provide extensive depth to an already talented team and other teams will have their front runner competing with Ocean Lakes' #4 runner. Ritzo was not a part of Ocean Lakes' 1-5 during the cross season, but his two mile times are definitely indicative of a much better cross season than previous years. Ocean Lakes needs to find a #5 runner to be a top 10 contender at the state meet, but there 1-4 runners will surely propel them through the Beach District and Eastern Region, unless injuries occur or another team suddenly becomes more competitive. What bodes well for Ocean Lakes is that all of last year's top 7 return so three runners will be competing for that #5 slot. DAVID JEFFERS (5000m CC-18:04), IAN MURDOCH (5000m CC-18:02), CARL SEGAR (5000m CC-18:02) and CHASE SIUTA all return from Ocean Lakes' team of last year.
Despite Ocean Lakes being the odds on favorite, there are several probable contenders for state qualifying spots. Each district, save the Eastern District seems to have at least one. In the next three paragraphs the best contender in that district will be highlighted. These teams are very close to each other in depth and front running talent, and there are about 4 teams fighting for 3 remaining state berth slots after Ocean Lakes wins the team title. The team from the Beach District is one that is a familiar name at the meet, Cox. Despite losing 5 of its top 7 from last years 3rd place Eastern Region team and 14th place State team, Cox still has the depth of talent to pull together at least 4 runners good enough to seriously challenge a team at the region meet. ROBBY STOOTS (5000CC 17:00) leads the team in time and experience, as he has been on the top 7 for two seasons now. An All-District sophomore last year, Stoots played a key role in the Falcon's success and the team will depend on him even more this year due to the absence of Kyle Guglielmo, the Falcon's front runner in 2003. However, Stoots will most likely not be alone as several members of the Cox team have had marvelous performances during the track season. JASON GRACE (800-2:01 split, 1600-4:43 split, 3200-10:50, 5000CC 17:49) is a member of this trio of Cox runners who had a breakout track season. Running on Cox's top 7 last year, Grace is both fast enough and strong enough to hang in with the top 15 at the Regional meet provided he doesn't injure himself. JON LAPKE (800-2:02 split, 1600-4:48, 5000CC 18:10) is a gifted runner who is capable of becoming one of the best runners in the region. Like Grace, he has tremendous speed, but needs to focus on staying healthy and on his training regimen. EDDIE JUDGE (1600-4:47) played football during the cross season, but has become one of the best freshmen in the region. Never having a cross season means he has great potential and could be a key to the Falcon's returning to the state meet, and perhaps challenging the Dolphins. The #5 slot is the Falcon's Achilles heel, so injury to their top four is not even a question if they hope to make it to state.
Woodside, from the Peninsula District, is another probable contender for a state berth and perhaps a long shot at the title. Led by a trio of runners: DERRICK ROBBINS, TODD ROOKS, and CHRIS MILLER, the Wolverines must provide two bodies to be competitive as their lack of depth will hurt them in the post season. Robbins (800-1:55, 1600-4:17, 3200-9:37, 5000CC-15:24) is not only the defending individual champion, but is also one of the prime contenders for the state title. He is without equal in the region, and I believe it is safe to say that Woodside will have a one point for their first runner at the region meet, and perhaps at the state meet. Rooks (3200-10:13, 5000CC-16:51) was All-Region in cross country in 2003, and coupled with Miller (5000CC-16:55) could provide Woodside with a top 3 score of less than 30 points and quite possibly could be the best threesome in the region. There are two problems with Woodside however. The first problem is that Ocean Lakes will most likely score that many points with its top 3, but also has the bodies to back it up in the 4-7 spots. The second is that the #2 and #3 runners have not improved greatly from their All-Region performances last year. Miller did not run track and Rooks was merely the equal of Ocean Lake's number 3 man, Clancy Waldron.
The Southeastern District is going on 4 straight team titles, and last year I made the mistake of not even considering Hickory as a contender, but they proved me wrong in spectacular fashion as Coach Sarver's boys took home the runner-up trophy in 2003 following their championship season in 2002. The absence of their front runner, Chris Ward, will figure to hurt them, but KYLE OAKES (5000CC-16:47, 3200m-10:06) figures to replace Ward as a top 5 regional runner. Oakes, a senior, leads a team that is very dangerous because they lost only the #1 and #7 runners, leaving the nucleus of the team intact. Since the middle of the team (2-6 spread of 1:52 from last years Eastern Region meet) is intact the team will be able to train together at practice and work each others times down. Oakes is not alone in his ability to score low, for sophomore ANDREW ZOHORSKY (5000CC-17:00) will be fighting to place in the top 15 as well.
Two runners in the top 15 may look weak compared to the previous teams mentioned, but Hickory's power lies in its middle runner's ability to score in the low 20's and 30's in the form of runners like TRAVIS MCKONE (800-2:03, 5000CC-17:30) and COLIN SWEENEY (800-2:15, 5000CC 18:31). Much like Cox, however, Hickory will need to find a #5 man to be a contender for the title, although with the group of four they have, they have an excellent shot of making states. Like Cox, Hickory has also had a great Outdoor Track season, which saw them beat Cox in the 4x8. Don't be surprised to see Hickory at States.
Here's a look around the region at the teams that have a chance at a State berth...
Beach:1. Ocean Lakes: (See above)
2. Cox: (See above)
3. Kellam: Led by the best 1-2 punch in the region, MITCH COOPER and BILLY GARLAND (see below), the Knights are also capable at the 3 and 4 slots. ADAM LESINSKI (5000m CC-18:10, 1600m-5:00) is a decent point getter and the addition of some middle schoolers who ran well at the city championships. Kellam could get to states if they run a spectacular race at regions. What is their main issue is the lack of a standout 3-5 runner. The top two runners will carry this team, but the lack of 3-5 runners makes the Knights a long shot.
Southeastern:1. Hickory: (See above)
2. Western Branch: ADAM HUTTON (5000CC-15:55, 3200m-9:39, 1600m-4:38) leads the defending regional champs. Graduating several important runners, the Bruins do not look as strong as their 2001 season or 2003 season, but give Coach Volkmann time, if anyone can pull off the upset he can. Hutton is supported by STEPHEN BREWER (5000CC-17:50) and JAMES JONES (5000CC-17:30, 3200m-10:07) and PAUL IRVIN (5000CC-18:19). Brewer really turned it up last year at the Eastern Region meet as his performance was key to giving the Bruins the title. Although one can never ever count Western Branch out of the title hunt with Coach Volkmann at the helm, it is likely that Western Branch will be shooting for merely a state berth.
Peninsula1. Woodside: (See above)
2. Gloucester: The Dukes of Gloucester had a weird season last year as they started the season with what appeared to be one of the better teams in the region, only to finish 6th the day of the region meet. Led by sophomore BLAINE O'REILLY (5000m CC-17:19) and a solid core of runners including DAVID WOODSON (5000m CC-17:29), MICHAEL SIGMON (5000m CC-17:53) Brent Wilt (5000m CC-18:05) and GARY BOOKER (5000m CC-18:59). The problem with Gloucester is the lack of any front runner. Other teams will have their #3 runner in before Gloucester has its number 1 in. However, if Gloucester runs together and sacrifices individual times for a solid 15 second spread for the 1-5 runners, they have a shot at states, and that pack must be hovering near the 17:10 time. It is imperative that Gloucester puts all 5 in before the #4 runner from OL, Woodside, Cox, Western Branch, and Hickory if they hope to advance.
Team Rankings: 1. Ocean lakes 2. Hickory 3. Western Branch 4. Woodside 5. Cox 6. Gloucester 7. Kellam
Individuals:Unless he falls ill like Steven Walters in 2003, DERRICK ROBBINS of Woodside is the favorite to repeat as the Eastern Region Champion. He has the fastest returning PR in the region, the most region titles, and is also a contender for the state title at Warrenton. He looks stronger and smarter every race and will most likely not repeat his 2002 performance where he ran sub-10 for the first two miles and fell out of race contention by 2.5 miles. He has both the necessary speed and endurance to take home the region title and he is a long shot for the state title.
All-Eastern Region Team1. Derrick Robbins/12-Woodside: (See above)
2. Adam Hutton/12-Western Branch: Hutton is the only XC All-state performer returning, excepting Robbins, but has had a so-so track season. Hutton rarely broke 9:50 despite being a sub 16 5k runner. However, at the end of the season he really put on a show and placed 16th at states (9:41) and won the Eastern Region meet with his 9:39 PR in a close duel between Cooper and Midland. It should be an interesting duel between Hutton, Cooper, and Garland as the four are on the same level and anyone of them could beat the others on any given day.
3. Drew Midland/12-Ocean Lakes: (See above on team synopsis)
4. Billy Garland/11-Kellam: Billy Garland is going to be one of the best runners in the state this upcoming year. I wouldn't be surprised for All-State in XC and the 3200m indoor and outdoor. He has enormous potential, amazing talent, and limitless energy and will for training. Splitting time between soccer and running, Garland didn't run XC in 2003 but did come out for indoor track. He burst onto the regional radar when he placed All-Region in the 3200m at the indoor meet with a 10:06. Garland gave up on soccer to compete solely in running. His times reflected this shift in focus as he dropped 19 seconds off his 3200m time running a stellar 9:47 at the state meet. He was running road races all throughout the season and recently ran a 16:19 at a local area 5k.
5. Mitch Cooper/12-Kellam: - The best runner in the Beach will have to train hard to keep in shape. Cooper is notorious for having so-so early season and Cross Country performances and then turning it on at the post-season level. However, for Cooper to be an All-State Contender he must have a good early season to establish both his position and mentally be prepared for the State meet by placing well at large invites.
6. Kyle Oakes/12-Hickory: (See above)
7. Jon Bunker/11-Landstown: 5000m CC-16:21, 3200m-10:01, 1600m-4:36
8. Liam Arocho/11-Ocean Lakes: (See above)
9. Clancy Waldron/12-Ocean Lakes:
10. Todd Rooks/11-Woodside: (see above)
11. Chris Miller/10-Woodside: (See above)
12. Andrew Zohorsky/10-Hickory: (See above)
13. Robby Stoots/11-Cox: (See above)
14. Jason Grace/11-Cox: (See above)
15. James Jones/12-Western Branch: (see above)
GIRLS PREVIEW: Precocious Frosh looks strong, Knights looking for another title
Parity will be the word to describe this year's Region meet. There are no standout teams this year as the strongest district, the Beach District, graduates 9 seniors who were All-District and 4 All-Region seniors. No standout teams that is, but one. The team that seems to be hit the most seems to be the strongest, however. Kellam loses state champion Natalie Sherbak and state runner-up Audrey Hand, but returns two All-American's in TARA CONNOR (5000mCC-20:16, 3200m-11:08, 1600m-5:24) and JESSIE THOMPSON (3200m-11:26, 1600m-5:29) as well as having All-Region Cross Country runner CHELSEA WEBB (5000m CC-20:15) and LINDSAY RUSSO (5000m CC-20:50) and JORDAN DE RIDDER (1600m-5:35). Even ALYSSA KIBILOWSKI (5000m RR-21:43) has made incredible strides from last year (she even made All-Beach District in the 3200m last Outdoor Season, giving Kellam 3 of the 6 slots, that is how complete Kellam's dominance is) and will be a very important bumper runner for Kellam and could eventually be a great #4 runner for Kellam, perhaps even this year. If any coach can get her there it is Coach Bernard. Connor and Thompson are a battling duo going 1-2 in the two mile in both outdoor Districts and Regions. Connor is without a doubt one of the most underrated runners in the state, but will truly make her mark this season. Thompson most likely will not run this XC season due to conflicting Field Hockey duties, but it might happen that she runs a few meets like Natalie Sherbak (Kellam, 2004 Grad) and Ashley Hay (PA, 2004 Grad). Led by one of the most successful coaches in the state, Bill Bernard, region and district titles are considered almost a given. The loss of their two fastest runners will hurt the team, but the high point scorers are better this year than last. Three All-Region runners will most assuredly give them a state berth and most likely a region title. More impressive is the fact that two more runners are capable of being All-Region. A team with 5 runner's all-region? Most impressive and something that has not been done since the Cox girls team in 1990, which finished the season 6th in the state while attaining a national ranking.
Most teams can't compete with Kellam, but there are several teams with a shot to make the trip to Warrenton. Here is a breakdown of those teams.
Beach1. Kellam - (see above)
2. Princess Anne - Led by the Winsper sister's, All-State XC runner KATIE WINSPER (5000m-19:12, 1600m-5:20) and ALANNA WINSPER (5000m CC-20:04), the Cavalier's hope to make it to state again. However, both sisters' have not had noteworthy track seasons and one wonders whether or not they are stale coming into the season. Moreover, the two sisters have no great support from there teammates. The Winsper sisters are going to have to pull the team to states through their front running.
3. Cox - A resurgent ASPEN FOSTER (5000m-19:20, 3200m-11:45, 1600m-5:22 split) leads the Falcons as they attempt for their 7th straight state meet berth. Sophomore JENNIFER HARR (5000m-20:29) and JENNIFER WHITE (1000m-3:20) are the only two girls who have proven themselves besides Foster, but each have other commitments besides XC. However, a group of underclassmen could provide the needed 4th and 5th runners.
4. Kempsville - AMY MERRILL (5:23) leads what appears to be the first Chiefs team with a chance to get to state since 1999. ELIZABETH SMITH (12:39) and CARRA BUNNER (2:28) could provide the Chiefs with the ability to have a near equal score with Cox after three runners. Like Cox, Kempsville needs 4th and 5th runners to compete at the regional and state level.
1. Western Branch - The most probable contender for the runner up title is the Bruins of Western Branch. Led by the best runner in the state and future All-American AURORA SCOTT (see below) and supported by KENYA JONES (1000m-3:05, 800m-2:18) and ASHLEY ROANE (5000m CC-19:50, 3200m-12:03, 1600m-5:36), the Bruins will be the first team, besides Kellam, to have their front three in. However, like all teams in the region they lack a great 4 and 5 runner. Parity is the name of the game this Region Meet coming up, and with Western Branch having the better front running talent it figures that the runner up title could quite easily go to the Bruins. Figure in that Coach Volkmann will be coaching them, and the girls look even better.
Team Rankings: 1. Kellam 2. Western Branch 3. Princess Anne 4. Cox 5. Kempsville
Quite simply, AURORA SCOTT is the best female runner in the state, save Sarah Bowman. She has consistently run sub-18 as a middle schooler and those times put her as a national contender. No one in the region, let alone the AAA classification in Virginia will touch her unless she gets injured. However, this being said I think it should also be stated that she is only a freshman and that only two Virginia High School Runners have won the state cross county title, Bobby Lockhart and Trish Nervo (even Alan Webb was 3rd his 9th grade year). It is a long season, and Scott will be coping with entering high school and the myriad running pitfalls that come with high school. I think she will do fine, but don't expect miracles or state records from her, this year that is. Still her main focus will most likely not be on the regional meet this year, so expect her fastest times and best performances to come at states, Footlocker South and perhaps Footlocker Nationals. If she wins the region meet, she will be the first freshman to do so since Pam Edwards of Tallwood (1995, 1996, 1997 Regional Titles, 1998 runner-up) and the second ever. Furthermore she is in the ability range to run the first sub 18 minute time on the Newport News Park course (Course Record: 18:07, Pam Edwards, Tallwood, 1997).
All-Eastern Region Team:
1. Aurora Scott/9-Western Branch: (See above)
2. Tara Connor/11-Kellam: (See above)
3. Emily Webb/10-Gloucester: 5000m CC-19:09 3200m-11:31 1600m-5:15
4. Katy Winsper/10-Princess Anne: (see above)
5. Jessie Thompson/11-Kellam: (see above)
6. Aspen Foster/12-Cox: (See above)
7. Alana Winsper/10-Princess Anne: (see above)
8. Katie Keally/12-Ocean Lakes: 5000mCC-19:45, 3200-11:39, 1600-5:29
9. Kristy Tobin/10-Great Bridge: 5000m CC-19:25, 3200m 11:40, 1600m-5:17
10. Ashley Roane/12-Western Branch: (see above)
11. Crystal Roscoe/11-Oscar Smith: 5000m CC-19:51, 800m 2;22
12. Chelsie Schweers/10-Hickory: 5000m CC-19:50, 1600m 5:29, 800m-2:29
13. Carey Young/12-Ocean Lakes: 5000m CC-20:00, 3200m-11:57
14. Chelsea Webb/10-Kellam: (see above)
15. Jessica Giffon/10-Warwick: 5000m CC-20:00, 3200m-12:39, 1600m-5:37, 1000m-3:15)