The Midlothian boys won the Nike Cross Southeast Regionals, while the Hidden Valley girls will be sending a pair of individuals in Annie LeHardy and Haley Cutright to nationals with second and fourth place finishes respectively. Two Virginia schools finished among the top four in the championship girls' team standings, but outside of the top two automatic places with Hidden Valley taking third and Midlothian placing fourth. Western Albemarle's Derek Armstrong just missed becoming one of the five individual qualifiers as the seventh place finisher overall. More to come from Cary as MileStat.com was on-site with coverage.
Photo Gallery by Frank Locascio - 815 photos total.
Photo Gallery by Brandon Miles - More photos to be added later on Sunday.
Photo by Frank Locascio
With such a competitive field and the difficulty of identifying teams as most raced in different and non-school issued uniforms, the Midlothian boys were very uncertain after their race if they had finished among the top two teams to advance onto the Nike Cross Nationals. Not only did the Midlothian boys finish among the top two, but won the NXN Southeast Regional in Cary, North Carolina by a considerable 46 point margin.
Midlothian qualified for the Nike Cross Nationals in 2006 with a team featuring two 2007 Foot Locker finalists in Jason Witt and Michael Hammond. In their second trip to Oregon, Midlothian will be bringing arguably an even stronger or more talented team to the national meet. Leading this year's AAA state team champions in the championship season and now into the post-season has been senior Darren Barlow, who finished 10th at the Southeast Regional race with a personal best time of 15:30. Barlow has taken over the #1 position from Brayden Burleigh, who earlier in the season posted a 15:20 PR on the same WakeMed Soccer Complex 5K course at Great American. Burleigh did not race as well as he did earlier in the season or last year at the NXN Southeast Regional when he qualified individually for the Nike Cross Nationals with a time of 15:24. Burleigh finished 22nd with a time of 15:47, while sophomore teammate Sean Willard joined him and Barlow under 16 minutes for the first time with a 37th place effort of 15:57.
Rounding out Midlothian's top five on Saturday to give them a swift team average of 15:47 and 47 second spread were Sam Hush (43rd, 16:01) and Ryan Peterson (84th, 16:16). Midlothian now moves onto the Nike Cross Nationals as the #14 ranked team in the United States (according to Marc Bloom's Harrier Rankings) and hopes to finish higher and become one of the top finishers ever from the Southeast Region, which historically has never had a team place among the top 10 in the field at NXN.
Usually a sixth place finish at one of the NXN regional races is good enough for a runner to be one of the top five individual qualifiers for the Nike Cross Nationals as often one of the top individual finishers is also from one of the two automatic team qualifiers to negate them as one of the five individual qualifiers. Unfortunately for Western Albemarle senior Derek Armstrong, sixth place was not good enough to send him onto Portland, Oregon. Armstrong had his best race of the season to be Virginia's top finisher in Cary with a personal best time of 15:24 as he was able to move up and pass a handful of runners in the final 600 meter hill to put himself in an agonizingly close position to a national berth.
Joining Armstrong and Midlothian's Barlow on the NXN All-Southeast team (top 21 finishers) as a third team member was Blacksburg senior George Carter edging out Midlothian's Burleigh for the 21st and final All-Region spot with a time of 15:46. Carter led the second highest finishing team from Virginia in the Blacksburg boys, who had three runners under 16 minutes with Carter, Zach Link (32nd, 15:54), and Anthony Noegel (33rd, 15:54). Blacksburg finished 8th in the team standings with 243 points and only 29 points behind the runner-up team. The season could have possibly ended on a higher note with a potential NXN berth, but two of their early season top three runners in Caman Skelton and Frank Locascio struggled in the last half of the season dealing with illness.
The remaining Virginia boys' squads competing at NXN Southeast were Western Albemarle (11th, 275 pts), Colonial Forge (13th, 339 pts), Stafford (16th, 339 pts), Albemarle (21st, 482 pts).
Photo by Frank Locascio
The Hidden Valley girls had much more talented and proven squad last year when they finished third at the Nike Cross Southeast Regional. They had defeated a stronger Blacksburg squad for the Group AA state title and beat the best teams in Texas to win Nike South in 2009. WIth only three key returnees from last year's Nike Cross Nationals at-large berth team in Annie LeHardy, Haley Cutright, and Carolyn Bethel, Hidden Valley coach Daniel King had do a masterful coaching job in bring several other runners to fill out their top five and make them a competitive team in 2010. After winning their second straight Group AA state title, Hidden Valley saved their best race for last as while other teams either ran about the same times or even slower than the performances earlier in the season at Great American on the WakeMed Soccer Complex, Hidden Valley was roughly 30 seconds faster as a team to leapfrog quite a few higher ranked teams to snag third place again as the highest finishing team from Virginia.
While an at-large berth is unlikely for the Hidden Valley girls again for the Nike Cross Nationals, two Lady Titans will be racing at Portland Meadows next weekend with Annie LeHardy and Haley Cutright. LeHardy and Cutright have been the state's top duo this fall after finishing 1-2 in the Group AA state race and may have proved themselves as one of the best duos throughout the entire Southeast Region this past Saturday. LeHardy moved up into second place after Delaware runner Haley Pierce of Tatnall School pulled away early to win convincingly, but LeHardy ran great for second to post a new personal best time of 17:24. Hidden Valley teammate Haley Cutright similarly improved her position throughout the race to join LeHardy among the top four with a personal best time of 17:39.
Filling out Hidden Valley's top five to give them a team score of 136 points and team average of 18:36 were Carolyn Bethel (18:50), Ashleigh Torres (19:20), and Greta Weidner (19:47). The Hidden Valley girls will finish the season ranked #1 in the state of Virginia after finishing ahead of previous #1 and AAA state champions Midlothian (4th, 141 pts) at the NXN Southeast Regional.
Photo by Frank Locascio
The Midlothian girls were in a similar situation in the last half of the season as the Blacksburg boys as their NXN hopes were hurt by health issues this season. Midlothian still put together a respectable finish at the NXN regional to beat several quality and highly ranked teams with their fourth place showing in Cary. Only 37 seconds separated their top five with Claire Benjamin (18:32), Kara Dickerson (18:35), Kari Johnston (18:48), Krista Willard (19:06), and Marie Johnston (19:08). Their pack would have needed to move up further in the field though to seriously challenge the NXN automatic qualifiers in Tatnall (DE) and Green Hope (NC) and move ahead of in-state school Hidden Valley for third place. Moving ahead to next year, Midlothian only graduates two of their top seven runners from Saturday's in Benjamin and Willard.
Colonial Forge girls put together another solid race with the reliance of a tight spread for their top five to key their success. The Group AAA third place finishing squad from two weeks ago placed 7th at the NXN Southeast Regional and ahead of region top 10 ranked in Chiles of Florida with a team score of 178 points. Colonial Forge junior Shaina Manuel (21st, 18:29) led her team with a personal best and NXN All-Southeast performance.
Other individuals from Virginia earning NXN All-Southeast honors were Hidden Valley's LeHardy and Cutright, Cosby junior Megan Moye (10th, 18:06), Herndon senior Carolyn Hennessey (11th, 18:12), and Bishop O'Connell senior Sarah McCarthy (16th, 18:26). The state of Virginia had more teams among the top 10 than any other state in the region with a total of four schools with Hidden Valley (3rd), Midlothian (4th), Colonial Forge (7th), and Group AA state runner-up Blacksburg (10th). Private school state champions Bishop O'Connell finished a respectable 11th in their first NXN regional experience.