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Clash with the Titans: Wheeler & Woodford break CR, Blacksburg sweeps team titles despite holdouts Aug 28, 2010

Photos by Dan Wheeler   While the nationally recognized Blacksburg and Hidden Valley programs may not have wanted to show their full deck of cards this early in the season, Northside senior Erin Wheeler had no problem showing off her fitness as a potential breakthrough star this fall in setting a new course record with her 20:04 victory at the third annual Clash with the Titans. Wheeler closed her outdoor season with a 18:14 5K on the track, so it puts in perspective the level of difficulty of Hidden Valley's home course which she set a new course record almost two minutes slower than her PR on the track.   Photo by Tayloe Skelton   The Blacksburg boys did not race their probably top five runners and coach James DeMarco also elected not to run the team's top two runners Hannah Brown and Sarah Dorrell in Saturday's first weekend of cross country races. The Hidden Valley girls, the defending Group AA state champions and a 2009 NXN qualifier along with Blacksburg, also held out their top two runners in seniors Annie LeHardy and Haley Cutright. In an essentially a new team battle between the two team's #3-8 runners, Blacksburg won hands down with four girls ahead of Hidden Valley's first finisher and nearly four under 21 minutes on a very slow 5K course with Tazmin Kaiser (3rd, 20:29), Katie Buss (6th, 20:56), Lauren Jaeger (7th, 20:56), and Michelle Kauffman (9th, 21:03). However, past years have shown that Hidden Valley and coach Daniel King always seem to close the gap at season's end on a fast starting Blacksburg squad and this year will likely not be an exception.   Blacksburg won with a team score of 37 points, while Hidden Valley finished a distant sixth place with 122 points. Cave Spring rose up for second place with 75 points as they were led by talented freshmen Katie Fortner, who took second individually in a time of 20:29. Fortner could become the best distance female distance runner for Cave Spring since coach Tommy Maguire took over the program.   Patrick Henry senior Patrick Woodford scored a big moment when he won the Northwest Region 3200 meter title this past spring. He can add another monumental victory in his first major cross country invitational win as Woodford withstood challenges from juniors Cody Seymour (2nd, 17:07) of Cave Spring and Kevin O'Connor (3rd, 17:21) of William Byrd to become the first runner ever to break 17 minutes at Hidden Valley. Michael Bailey of Greenbrier Christian, the 2009 private school Division II state champion, held the previous top time in his 17:10 win from a year ago.   The Blacksburg boys top five is pretty close to set in stone with the likes of George Carter, Frank Locascio, Caman Skelton, Anthony Noegel, and Zach Link. The open door presents itself for the rest of the squad on who wants to be along for the ride with the varsity squad in their chase for a second straight Group AA state title and potential Nike Cross National berth run. Sophomores Nick Link (4th, 17:24) and Matthew Pasier (5th, 17:30) answered the call this week and also helped a short-handed Blacksburg boys team give a stiff arm to many of the full strength squads racing by completing the team title sweep with a low team score of 40 points. The Group AAA squad Patrick Henry (90 pts) led by individual race champion Woodford held off former Western Valley district rival and now Group AA school E.C. Glass (97 pts) for team runner-up honors.   Results: Varsity Boys - Varsity Girls - JV Boys & Girls Race Videos by Tayloe Skelton: Varsity Girls - Varsity Boys - Middle School Race Photo Gallery by Dan Wheeler Photo Gallery by Tayloe Skelton

Clash with the Titans Preview Aug 27, 2010

The nationally ranked and defending Group AA state champion Hidden Valley girls open up on their home course on Saturday. With Blacksburg not running their varsity lineup, Hidden Valley girls should pick up a comfortable opening team win with a potential 1-2-3 sweep from Annie LeHardy, Carolyn Bethel, and Haley Cutright. LeHardy was the race champion in the 2008 invite with the meet record time of 20:45.   Northside's Erin Wheeler is one individual and capable of breaking up a top 3 individual showing by the host school as she ran stellar in the outdoor season clocking times of 11:08 in the 3200 and a 18:14 5K at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals. She was a runner-up in last year's Clash of the Titans and could move up one spot to first place this weekend. Anna Paden Carson of Patrick Henry, Eliza Eaton of Christiansburg, and Lindsey Siska of Salem all should be racing for top 5 individual finishes.   Eaton finished third in last year's race, while Carson ran 11:26 for 3200 meters in the spring. Both will be leading teams at Christiansburg (Eaton) and Patrick Henry (Carson) who will be Hidden Valley's top challengers on Saturday.   Patrick Henry senior Patrick Woodford is the top returnee from the 2009 Clash with the Titans (3rd place) as the defending Northwest Region 3200 meter champion will attempt to begin his 2010 cross country season with an invitational victory on Saturday at Hidden Valley High School. Woodford is a potential Group AAA All-State hopeful with his Group AAA #17 pre-season ranking and 16:13 5K PR.   Woodford will be facing off with three Group AA top 25 ranked runners in #5 Cody Seymour of Cave Spring, #14 Stuart Robertson of Staunton River, and #22 Kevin O'Connor of William Byrd. Seymour trailed Woodford in fourth place at the 2009 Clash With the Titans and finished his outdoor season with an All-State PR finish of 9:33 in the 3200. O'Connor just missed Group AA All-State honors in the spring with a ninth place finish at the state championships and will be a contender for the Region III cross country title this spring.   With the absence of Group AA state champion Blacksburg's top runners, the team battle should be much more entertaining with Cave Spring, Patrick Henry, and E.C. Glass as the top returning teams in the field. Patrick Henry will have a great front runner in Woodford. Cave Spring has a strong 1-2 punch in Seymour and Andrew Smith. Then E.C. Glass might be the best packed team with the smallest spread between their #1 through #5 runners.

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