There was some skepticism as to whether or not J.R. Tucker would be able to handle a high caliber race such as Great American without a proven fifth runner. However, the Tigers came through in the big one with personal best performances from nearly their entire squad.
J.R. Tucker was led to the finish by Michael Chapa. Chapa asserted as himself as a strong contender as a Foot Locker Nationals finalist with an impressive individual run in Cary. Chapa finished third overall in the race with a state best time of 15:22.49 for the moderately challenging 5000 meter course at the SAS Soccer Park.
A fellow Tiger joined Chapa with a sub 16 performance as senior Mason McElroy posted a personal best time of 15:50.05 to finish 11th individually. Completing the best top found in the meet were Thoum Mathaing (21st) and Ben Rickey (39th) with personal best performances as well of 16:07.16 and 16:27.37 respectively. Tucker finally had a fifth man under 18 minutes this season and it paid off as Michael Peterson ran a time of 17:42.22 for a 121st place finish.
With a combined team score of 173 points, J.R. Tucker finished second in a field filled with some of the top ranked teams in the Southeast Region and nationally. The Tucker boys easily handled the best from the Southeast Region including NTN Southeast #1 ranked Jesuit (9th, 251 pts) from Florida as the Tigers gave the Florida squad a spanking by 78 point margin. The Tigers should have a legitimate claim as the top ranked squad in next week\'s rankings after being ranked #8 in the Southeast going into Great American.
J.R. Tucker should make a huge jump in the nationl rankings this week as well after not having been mentioned all season long. Finishing third behind the Tigers was Mountain View from Utah, who came into the contest ranked #6 in the entire country. Defeating Mountain View should improve the Tigers\' stock dramatically.
Brentsville and Oakton also competed in the Race of Champions with Tucker finishing 14th and 18th respectively.
With 306 total points, AA #1 ranked Brentsville was once again led by the inseparable duo of Pat Eggleston and Nich Gehlsen. In his second race back from injury, Eggleston looks to be returning to top form quickly as he finished 40th overall in a time of 16:28.66. Gehlsen, who had a breakout sub 16 performance at McAlpine last Saturday, had another solid run as he finished just behind Eggleston in 44th place with a time of 16:32.90. Sophomore Adam Henken (71st) just dipped under 17 minutes with a time of 16:59.88 for Brentsville, while sophomore Henry Melius (89th, 17:12.25) and senior Jacob Watts (95th, 17:18.12) rounded out Brentsville\'s scoring five.
Oakton finished with 442 points and had just one sub 17 minute performer in junior James Phillips, who clocked in at a time of 16:42.15 for 57th place. The rest of the Cougars\' top five was found in the 17 minute range with Kevin Meehan (82nd, 17:08.70), Jason Vick (93rd, 17:16.36), Tommy Mason (119, 17:41.81), and Pat Epley (127th, 17:52.13).
The Oakton girls countered much more success in the Race of Champions division than their male counterparts as they took fourth place honors in a field that consisted the #1 and #2 ranked teams in the nation heading into the race. US#1 Saratoga Springs of New York crushed the field as predicted with a team total of 26, while US#2 Smoky Hill of Colorado raced without 2003 Foot Locker Champion Katelyn Kaltenbach to finish third with a score of 181.
However, finishing right behind the second ranked team in the nation was Virginia\'s very own girls from Oakton with 192 points. The Oakton girls were not even ranked as one of the top ten best teams in the entire region, much less the entire nation. However, the Oakton girls will shake up the rankings plenty this week after finishing well ahead of regionally ranked squads SE #2 Pope John Paul of Florida (14th, 332), SE #4 Providence of North Carolina (13th, 299), SE #6 Holy Trinity of Florida (11th, 274), and SE #8 Collins Hill of Georgia (15th, 339).
In such a large and competitive field, it is easy for a squad to lose any sense of pack, but the Oakton girls held together for a strong team effort with less than a minute spread between their first and fifth runners. Junior Kayley Byrne led the Lady Cougars with a 35th place finishing performance of 19:21.31, while senior Allegra Smith was not too far behind her in 41st with a time of 19:32.96. The next wave of runners for Oakton came not too long after Smith with senior Danielle Light (56th, 20:01.84), junior Carley Hudson (60th, 20:08.93), and sophomore Meredith Tighe (70th, 20:19.96). In their first true meet of high caliber competition this fall, the Oakton girls certainly came through with performances that should further elevate their status in the state, region, and nation.
Great American was also the stage for Fauquier senior Sarah Bowman to make her debut in major competition this season. Bowman had an admirable performance as she shook off the race rust in the process to finish in 28th place with a time of 19:03.
There were other notable performances from Virginians outside of the Race of Champion divisions. Two of the faster times in the meet from Virginian individuals were James River\'s Cory Scott and Christy Ward. Scott won the boys\' white invitational race in a personal best time of 16:37.94 as he led the Rapids to the team title in that division. Meanwhile, Ward posted the second fastest time by a Virginian girl at Great American with her third place finishing time of 19:10.31 in the girls\' red invitational race as the Lady Rapids finished second by two points as they raced without the other half of the Ward twins, Rebecca.
The Brentsville girls finished third in the same division as the James River girls with 104 points as Becky Stewart was the Lady Tigers\' top finisher with a time of 19:6.82 for fifth place in the red invitational division.
Massaponax senior Brandon Dick also had a solid individual run to finish third in the red division invitational race with a time of 16:29.79.