Boys Team of the Year: Jamestown
Photo by Ted Plunkett
The Eagles were the top ranked team in Virginia for much of the season and became the first team not from Region II to win the Group AA state cross country title since the 2001 Jamestown squad. The icing on the cake for this team's dream season was winning the NXN Southeast Regional in Cary, NC and earning a trip to the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon. The Jamestown boys featured one of the best front three's that this state has seen in years with AA state champion Andrew Colley and teammates Colin Mearns and John Holt. Along the way to their state title and NXN berth, the Eagles won against a loaded field at the Maymont Festival and posted the fastest team average among all teams at the prestigous Manhattan Invite.The team is coached by Howard Townsend and will be graduating four of their top seven runners.
Oakton had high expectations coming into the season as the team to beat with a deep lineup returning as well as the addition of a key transfer in Dante Morales. However, Coach Phil Tiller and the returnees knew very well that being ranked high early does not always translate to end of season success as the 2007 squad faltered down the stretch to end up not even finishing in the top 3 in the AAA race at the state meet last fall. Despite having one of their top runners in Brian Hendricks out the whole season due to injury, Oakton's depth was too much for any team in Group AAA to overtake as the Cougars went onto win their second title in four years. Riding high from a state title, the Oakton boys opted to not extend their season and attempt to qualify for the Nike Cross Nationals. Their chances were certainly strong of qualifying out of a weak Southeast boys region, but there is certainly no shame in ending a season with a high school state team title as Oakton did in 2008.
Girls Team of the Year: Blacksburg
The Blacksburg girls and Coach James DeMarco know next year will not be easy with district, region, and state rival Hidden Valley returning virtually all of their top runners to be a probable preseason #1 ranked team in Virginia, so the Blacksburg girls made the most out of the 2008 season to squeak out a third straight Group AA state over Hidden Valley as well as score two rare defeats this season over AAA champions Midlothian at Maymont and the NXN Southeast Regional. Led by MileStat.com's comeback runner of the year and NXN indivdual qualifier Allison Homer, a veteran top five of all upperclassmen kept themselves under a minute gap for much of the season to insure consistently strong team performances. Just like their top runner overcame serious injuries for a fantastic 2008 cross country season, the Blacksburg girls overcame their confidence being shaken in a regional meet upset by the Hidden Valley girls to win the AA state title at Great Meadow on a sixth runner tiebreaker over Hidden Valley in a thrilling team battle. The Blacksburg girls finished a solid fourth place at the NXN Southeast Regional, five points behind Hidden Valley and six points ahead of Midlothian.
If the Midlothian girls for some reason had not been considered a dynansty to some, it is now confirmed by all with the Lady Trojans joining another great program in AAA to be the only other AAA girls' squad to win four consecutive state championships. Midlothian coach Stan Morgan and senior Paige Johnston have been a part of all four state title teams in a great four year run for a school, which hopes to make a fifth straight next fall and become the first team ever to achieve the feat. It could be argued that this was one of weakest of the four state champion squads including rare defeats to in-state Group AA squads Blacksburg and Hidden Valley this season, but the team scores in the AAA state race did not indicate any chinks in the armor with a 54 margin of victory.
Boys Runner of the Year: Thomas Porter (Mountain View)
One that has experienced coming up short so many times in winning his first state title and bad luck with an injury in his junior year prior to Foot Locker Nationals and a fall to take him out of the race at the outdoor state meet his junior has to be enjoying the way that his senior season of cross country finished. Finally getting over the hump and winning that first state championship in November at Great Meadow had to be a big day for Thomas Porter, but it turned out that he had even bigger days up ahead.
Porter joined a small and elite group of runners to earn a third consecutive trip to Foot Locker Nationals with his fourth place finish in Charlotte at Foot Locker South. While the group of three-time Foot Locker National qualifiers on the boys' side includes many elite runners, All-Americans, and national champions, the Mountain View senior had not really been competitive at all in the race in his two past prior trips to San Diego. Most "experts" thought Porter might sneak in with one of the last All-American places, but none predicted Porter to be challenging for the lead with a small front pack for the majority of the race. Porter held on for a third place finish to not only earn All-Americans, but take the highest finish by a Virginian in the national race since Bobby Lockhart's runner-up finish in the 2001 Foot Locker Finals.
Runner-up: Andrew Colley (Jamestown)
Jamestown senior Andrew Colley would have been an easy pick for runner of the year honors immediately following the VHSL State Championships when Colley won a competitive Group AA race with a course record time of 15:02. Colley was the most dominant and consistent top runner in Virginia throughout the season with his only in-state loss in a great race with Atlee's Ben Dejarnette at Maymont prior to the post-season.
Colley clocked two swift times well under 15 minutes on the Eastern State Hospital course including a big win at the William & Mary Invite and became the first runner ever to dip under 16 minutes at Loriella Park with a 15:45 performance on the challenging 5K course at the Region I Meet. The Jamestown senior also clocked one of the fastest Virginian prep times ever at the Van Cortland Park 2.5 mile course in New York City with his 12:20 runner-up finish at the Manhattan Invite. He would have certainly locked up runner of the year honors if were not for two subpar races to finish out his season at the NXN Southeast Regional and Nike Cross Nationals in which he ended up being the #2 runner on his team with Colin Mearns stepping up and being defeated in both the regional and national race by NXN individual qualifiers Ben Veilleux of Clarke County and Josh Hardin of Potomac Falls.
Girls Runner of the Year: Megan Marsico (Glenvar)
Runners and coaches in Group A knew how talented of a runner that Glenvar's Megan Marsico was, especially after her 4:59 1600 and 10:59 3200 double at the Group A State Outdoor Track Championships last spring. Marsico was introduced to the rest of the state as well as the national scene this fall though when she took her running to another level with plenty of course records and an unbeaten streak up until the Foot Locker South Regional. Marsico's coming out race may have been at Maymont when she dominated a field of the state's best as well as many elite runners from the Southeast region with a 27 second margin of victory and course record time of 17:55.
Despite running against little competition in most of her meets this fall, it did not keep her from holding back and taking down many course records include the state course record with a 17:38 victory at the VHSL State Championships to successfully defend her Group A state title. Marsico was the only Virginia girl to qualify for Foot Locker Nationals and almost became a Foot Locker South champion as she pushed the pace in a field including two Foot Locker National champions and ended up taking runner-up in a personal best 5K time of 17:15. Her first Foot Locker Nationals experience did not go well with a 39th place finish, but as a junior, Marsico will have the opportunity to learn from this year's national race to comeback with a stronger finish to her 2009 cross country season.
Runner-up: Anneka Wilson (The Potomac School)
Similar to Marsico, Anneka Wilson of The Potomac School had an undefeated streak which extended to the Foot Locker South Regional in Charlotte. Wilson coming into this season had been considered the third best private school runner in Virginia behind 2007 state champion Barbara Strehler and and 2006 state champion Megan Fitzpatrick. She not only topped them to become the 2008 private school state champion in a 18:32 course record time at Woodberry Forest, but also beat most of the top public school runners throughout many invitational wins at Georgetown Prep, Glory Days, Octoberfest, William & Mary, and Woodberry Forest. She dipped under 18 minutes for 5K in three races and earned All-South honors at Foot Locker South with a 20th place finish. Like Marsico, Wilson is a junior and will certainly be considered a strong pre-season contender next year to qualify for Foot Locker Nationals.
Boys Coach of the Year: Buz Male (Albemarle)
The Albemarle boys looked like a long shot of making it onto the state meet podium this season after a 16th place finish at the Maymont Festival. At the Commonwealth District Meet, few could have seen a state runner-up finish coming in two weeks by Coach Buz Male's squad when they finished third behind Mountain View and Colonial Forge.
However, Coach Male had his boys squad believing that they could pull off the end of season surprise and shock the outsiders. With two all-state runners in Anthony Kostelac and Luke Noble leading the way and inspired by teammate Zachary Vrhovac joining them after playing both ways in a Friday night football game, the Albemarle boys took second in the Group AAA boys race with 117 points. At the NXN Southeast Regional, Albemarle showed they were a team peaking at just the right time with a fourth place finish against the best teams in the Southeast as the second highest finishing squad from Virginia.
Coach Male has been a long-time coach as he coached prior at Miller School, UVA, Langley, and Episcopal, but appears to be working with a special and talented group of runners who do not come around too often. The Albemarle boys ran one of the fastest 4x800 times in the national last June with a 7:42 performance and return all four legs. Their success in cross country should certainly build great momentum and confidence for that relay this track season.
Runner-up: Phil Tiller (Oakton)
Girls Coach of the Year: Daniel King (Hidden Valley)
Move over Midlothian and Blacksburg, there appears to be new program in Virginia ready to dominate the girls cross country team scene. Despite not having anywhere near the depth or history of both squads, Hidden Valley proved itself of being on an equal playing field as Midlothian and Blacksburg this fall. Hidden Valley once again upset Blacksburg for the regional title for a second straight year and felt just short of winning the Group AA state title against the defending champions as a sixth runner tiebreaker broke up a dead even heat at 47 points through five runners for both teams.
Their season ended on a very high note at the NXN Southeast Regionals in Cary, North Carolina when Coach King's squad faced both AA state champions Blacksburg and AAA state champions Midlothian. Hidden Valley beat both teams in the post-season race to finish third and draw consideration as a potential at-large berth for the Nike Cross Nationals. Returning their entire top five for 2009, Hidden Valley will be in great position to not only win their first state title, but potentially qualify for the Nike Cross Nationals. They will have to rely likely on the same five runners and only five runners, so health will be key, but Coach King did a masterful job this season in keeping his top girls healthy and peaking at the right time.
Runner-up: Jim Holdren (Maggie Walker)
Boys Freshmen of the Year: Shaquon Wilkins (Riverbend)
There were not too many freshmen boys who really stood out this season and were able to mix it up with the top older runners, but Riverbend's Shaquon Wilkins was clearly the best among the rest of the class of 2012 runners. Wilkins ran consistently around 16:30 for the last half of the season and qualified individually for the state cross country championships out of the Northwest Region Meet with a sixth place finish at Panorama Farms. At the state meet, Wilkins was the fastest freshmen overall in the three races with a 35th place finishing time of 16:38 in the AAA race. Wilkins has already finished out the year 2008 with his first sub 10 minute performance in the 3200 and he looks to build upon his cross country success and continue to develop into one of the state's better runners on the track.
Runner-up: Cody Seymour (Cave Spring)
Girls Freshmen of the Year: Sarah Stites (Thomas Jefferson S&T)
A true newcomer to the sport of running at the start of this season, Sarah Stites in only a few months has established herself as one of the state's brightest young stars. Stites led a young and talented Thomas Jefferson girls to a district and regional championship as well as a third place finish at the state meet in the AAA race. In her first state championship race, Stites had a sensational run to clock a 5K personal best time of 18:30 and finish fourth as the fastest ninth grader on the day. She continued her season into the post-season for the USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships in which she earned All-American honors with a 7th place finish in the youth girls' 4K race in the national race held at Pole Green Park.
Runner-up: Megan Moye (Cosby)
Boys Most Improved Runner of the Year: Jordan White (Great Bridge)
Great Bridge's Jordan White had credentials of a 10:09 3200 and 17:15 5K coming into this cross country season, so while solid times from his sophomore year, none were predicting him to end up as a Group AAA All-State finisher in cross country this fall. White snabbed the 15th and final spot to earn All-State honors at Great Meadow with a time of 16:08. Not a bad jump for someone who could not break 4:40 in the mile until a recent indoor meet in December.
Girls Most Improved Runner of the Year: Stephanie Cario (Lee-Davis)
When Lee-Davis junior Stephanie Cario finished in the top 20 in a loaded field of stars at the Oatlands Invite in mid September, one could have thought that it was a mistake in the results or that Cario might have cut the course. After all, the girls who finished around her and had been running minutes ahead of her last cross country season and she was running consistently over 12 minutes on the track for 3200 meters. It was no mistake in the results and no fluke as following races this season would show. Stephanie Cario had taken her running to another level as one of the state's most improved runners. Her improvements would take her all the way to her first state meet, a 18:38 5K PR at Foot Locker South, and an All-American honor at the USATF National Junior Olympics.
Runner-up: Myah Hicks (Thomas Edison)
Boys Comeback Runner of the Year: Ben Veilleux (Clarke County)
Ben Veilleux was M.I.A. for most of his sophomore and junior year due to injury and could easily have called it quits after being unable to compete for a long period of time. However, Veilleux continued to cross train and then work himself into top shape once given the clearance to run again. The Clarke County senior made his real comeback last spring in the track season in which he won the Group A state titles for the 1600 and 3200 meter races, while running one of the fastest times in Virginia in the mile. So he was not necessarily coming into this cross country season starting from scratch, but he definitely exceeded expectations this fall of someone who had not ran a full cross country season since his freshmen year. Veilleux destroyed a great field assembled for the Glory Days Grill Invite including eventual Foot Locker All-American Leoule Degfae and went onto win the Group A state cross country title with ease at Great Meadow in a Group A race record time of 15:37.
His best races came after the state meet though at the NXN Southeast Regional and Nike Cross Nationals. Veilleux qualified for NXN and a free trip to Portland, Oregon with a personal best time of 15:15 to place fourth in the regional race. In his race in Oregon, Veilleux ended up as the top finisher from Virginia and the Southeast region to move up throughout the race for a strong 25th place finish in the national meet. Finally enjoying a long period of good health, Veilleux is starting to realize the potential of his freshmen year promise.
Girls Comeback Runner of the Year: Allison Homer (Blacksburg)