By Johanna Grestchel, MileSplit (Nov. 25, 2016)Libby Davidson will be in North Carolina this Saturday for the Foot Locker South Regional. She's a two-time Foot Locker Nationals qualifier and one of the top returners to San Diego, but this year she won't be racing. The E.C. Glass (Virginia) High senior, who will run for the University of Virginia next year, placed just fourth at the Virginia 4A state meet two weeks ago. The placement was unexpected and her time, 18:25, is over a minute slower than her state meet record of 17:12 [broken this year by Kate Murphy in 17:08]. Davidson was supposed to win state this year -- and maybe nationals. She won the Virginia 4A state cross country title as a freshman and sophomore but had to settle for runner-up honors last year behind eventual Foot Locker champion Weini Kelati. This was also supposed to be the E.C. Glass senior's year to go for the Foot Locker title herself after recording sixth place finishes in 2015 and 2014. So when Davidson developed some nagging tendonitis in her hips, she was faced with difficult decision: should she have shut down her season completely, or rest through the VHSL regional and state championships - ultimately, so she could be ready for nationals. Or, should she have run through the pain and go for broke? Because 2016 is also the year that her team was supposed to win their first state cross country title. Van Porter, the E.C. Glass head coach, said that he never knew the extent of her discomfort. "I may have shut her down for the state meet [if I had known]," he said. "But she was not to be denied. E.C. Glass had never won a state cross country championship and that was one of the few things she hadn't checked off her list. She would have crawled across the finish line and she probably would have still broken 19 minutes." Davidson confirmed via phone last week that her season ended at the state meet. Her doctor gave her tentative approval to run, but she prefers to look ahead to the indoor season and not risk exacerbating the injury. It's a tough break for one of the most consistent distance runners in the nation. But she never reconsidered her decision. "I would never sit out," she said. "I would do whatever I need to do for my team. If me not running meant them not winning, there's no way I wouldn't run. I was ready before that state meet. I was like, 'it's gonna be my day,' and even though it wasn't, to be able to hold that trophy with those girls was the best feeling." In Davidson's freshman year and sophomore years, she won the individual state title while the team placed second. Last fall, Davidson was runner-up to Kelati and the team placed third. This fall is Porter's first as head coach of the cross country program, though he has coached in an assistant role for the past five years. "We knocked on the door of a state title the past three years but we could never get through it," he said. "Our team is mostly mid-distance runners and they do not like running that 5K." E.C. Glass has seen great success from the middle distance crew. The 4x800m relay placed third at New Balance Nationals Indoor in 9:02.96, and No. 5 cross country runner Maddie Rennyson led a 1-2 sweep in the 800m at the outdoor state meet. "It seemed like they were injured and tired by the end," Porter said of past cross country seasons. "This year when we came into the state meet, we were completely fresh and it paid off." All five scorers placed in the top 16 to outpace Loudoun Valley High, 36 to 88 points, and everyone except Davidson set a lifetime best for 5K, including Libby's little sister, freshman Jette, who actually led the beginning of the race. "I couldn't catch up with her, I was so scared!" Libby said. "The funny thing is, someone tripped her at the mile and she went down flat on her face and she got back up and still broke 19!" Jette earned all-state honors with an eighth place finish. Her final time of 18:56 was a 30-second PR. The state meet was a challenging parenting moment for Sarah Davidson, Libby and Jette's mother. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," she said. "As a mother, it was so hard because there's Jette who has just broken 19 and I want to go say, 'good job, baby,' but I'm carrying Libby out of the corral and Jette looks at me and says, 'I just wish Libby was happy.' "I was watching Libby do her warm-ups at state and she's limping. Then I have to turn around and be all peppy, go-go-go! Life's not always fair. It's hard not to feel like you've been punched in the gut as a parent. My friends are like, 'how's Libby?' And I said, 'better than me.' I shed more tears than her." 'Peppy' and 'go-go-go' is actually a pretty accurate way to describe Libby's final minutes of the race. She had long since dropped back from eventual state champion Noel Palmer and her own E.C. Glass teammate Brooke Manion snuck up next to her. "When Brooke was passing me, I was like, 'you got it!' And then she kept talking to me, 'Libby, you gotta catch her!' And I was like, 'no, you gotta catch her!'" Manion placed third and Davidson was fourth; both girls are seniors. Jette and a few other varsity runners from the E.C. Glass state titlist squad will make the trip to McAlpine Park for the Foot Locker South Regionals on Saturday. Libby wasn't sure if she'd be up for the trip, but last week she said she wanted to go. She'll be part of a panel on Friday night featuring several top returning athletes. Without the pressure of having to compete herself, Libby offered her own predictions for nationals: she says fellow Virginian Kate Murphy will win NXN and North Carolina state champion Nevada Mareno will win Foot Locker. Earlier this fall, Libby and Jette accompanied Sarah to Hawaii as their mom qualified and competed at the Ironman World Championships in Kona. When asked how her athletic accomplishments have influenced her children, Sarah thought for a moment, then said, "Everyone around you has set a goal and put in a lot of hours to meet that goal. The kids see that and they see people cross the finish line with elation in their eyes. "They learn that it's okay to work hard, set a goal and sometimes you make it and sometimes you don't."
Photos from the VHSL States at Great Meadow.
It is truly a once in a lifetime event this year. VA has two of the best distance runners in the entire nation and both are defending state 6A Champions... that's right! Both are coming off of winning state meet performances with Kate Murphy winning last year and Rachel McArthur winning the year before. Both have not lost on Great Meadow in at least a year.
This upcoming cross country season could be more exciting than last and even more exciting than the boys' nail biter of a finish between three teams. The teams at play this year for the girls' 5A crown are Deep Run, Tuscarora, George C. Marshall, Hickory and Albemarle.
Opening up our top 15 countdown for returners this year is Cox senior David Scherrer. He enters the season as the 15th overall boy, fourth in 6A and third in the 6A South region.
Racing against Andrew Hunter for your entire post-season has its ups and downs. We aren't going to sugar coat it at all, Alec was definitely overshadowed by the nation's best distance runner the past couple years. If that wasn't enough he also had a stellar teammate, Tyler Cox-Philyaw, who was a superstar too.
Don't jump to conclusions though as it is a possibility this year with a ton of great returning talent for the south region both individually and as a team.
Year after year E.C. Glass superstar Libby Davidson keeps surprising us with more and more talent. Last year she finished as All-American at Foot Locker Nationals and also was national runner-up indoors. This season she is in it to win it at Foot Locker Nationals.
There are few teams in the entire state of Virginia that have quite the tradition that Brentsville has when it comes to XC. They are trained on the hills and always show up at Great Meadow ready to bring home some hardware. Conner's team enters the preseason ranked #12 in 3A but we have a strong suspicion that they are going to move up a whole lot before it is all said and done.
Glen Allen, Douglas Freeman, and Menchville all also gave strong chase but it seems that this year it will be their time to shine.
Don't let her smile and fun loving attitude fool you, she is a killer on the XC course and this is the season she has been waiting for.
There is only one thing a team can do after setting a state record and that is to set another one. Last season the Bruins of Blacksburg set the state record for team scores with 23 points. This actually equalled their 2014 performance as well which is then also joined by Western Albemarle's 1993 performance.
Nothing is as tough as losing a team title by four points. Four points that equaled just four seconds on the state XC course. Blacksburg's boys suffered that loss last season but it looks like it only made them better competitors.
Dan definitely didn't open this season like he wanted to but that isn't going to deter him. Last XC season he improved 58 seconds on his personal best and if he even dropped half that much this year he would be one of the biggest stars in the state.
This season is a complete anomaly when it comes to returning state champions. For eight state championship races we have a staggering eight returning champions and none are younger or have the ability to sweep like Sophia Link.
Ryan may have one of the best resumes of any returner in the state this year. He has more state championships than any other athlete returning with seven individual titles. That of course is coupled with his massive amount of team championships as well.
Last season it was no surprise to see Maggie Walker atop the podium again and with the defending individual state champion, Ryan Buscaglia, returning for the Green Dragons it looks like there will be no surprises this year either.
Often not having the performance you want when you need it most is the best thing to happen to you. Senior Devon Williams may have a great chance though to make flip the script this year and have a monster performance at the state meet.
Our second guy on our top 15 countdown is another athlete hailing from 6A South, Peter Smith. Though he would likely say he is more of an 1600m runner with his 4:19 personal best, we think he has a ton of untapped potential in the 5K this year.
The race is on in the Northcutt household. Which will be the first to bring home a state championship in XC?
Just like the boys' competition, the girls competition looks to be all about the Green Dragons of Maggie Walker. They are led by 2014 State Champion and 2015 State Runner-up, Khloe Pointer. If she gets back into great shape then we can expect a sub 18:00 performance by the senior and a dominant season from her in 2A.
They were more than close last year coming just 12 points away from a team title sweep but this year Auburn enters stronger than ever. Sophomore Caitlin Dominy will lead Auburn into Great Meadow with a great chance to do what her older brother did in 2015 in winning the individual and team title.
After a tough XC season of injuries and then an indoor season of recovery, Rachel finally got back up to speed outdoors and then some.
Heather has shown us a lot of speed in the past year and amazing performances at nearly any distance but this year isn't necessarily about time, it is about place and that is going to make it a very fun race.
It wasn't Weini Kelati who had the biggest breakout year in 2015, it was definitely Emma Wolcott. She took down the entire 5A field and shattered some meet records in the process. The most impressive of those was the old Oatlands course record.
Owens has been excelling at track and XC for quite some time and has visibly improved each season. Though he is making steps in the right direction, he is definitely going to have to really step up this season with some of the toughest competition in the entire nation in his own region.
Samantha has high hopes entering the season and a whole lot of accolades to her name. She enters the season as the fastest 3A returner and was third in last year's race. She has a best of 18:05 and a whole lot of speed entering this season.
Casey is not just a time-trial runner, she competes well on the hilly courses just as much as she does on the time-trial fast courses. With Oakton likely racing Albemarle and some other tough courses, it will be evident from an early date that Casey is one of the best runners in the state.
Finishing in second place by the slimmest of margins can be one of the greatest things to happen to you as an underclassman. This happened to Ben quite a few times his junior year both in XC and track as a team. Those places may have been brutal to endure but entering the season it looks like it could pay itself off.
While everyone is watching Heather & Emma, Doria is preparing for a senior campaign that could upstage both of them. She has remained the girl to beat in the 3200 but in XC she still has work to do.
Last year was a huge year for young runners. One of the biggest of those stars was Cosby's Rachel Northcutt. She broke through the scene in huge way by not only finishing as the state runner-up but also by breaking 18:00.
VHSL State Cross Country Championships 2016
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