By Brian Eller -- email@example.com
NOKESVILLE -- Make no mistake about it -- Warren County runner Seumas O'Reilly is always pleased to be the first racer to cross the finish line.
But, according to the junior, there is a downside.
"I just find it hard to push myself when I don't have anyone to chase," O'Reilly said after his first-place finish at the Evergreen District cross country championships. "It's a mental wall, I think. When you're by yourself and there's no one in front of me, it's tough. But I did my best."
O'Reilly said he would've like to have finished in less than 16 minutes, but admitted that with steady rain and soggy conditions, the course did slow him down a bit. Although he didn't achieve his personal goal, O'Reilly's efforts Tuesday were good enough to lead the pack of more than 30 runners, as he finished with a time of 16:12, 13 seconds ahead of Fauquier's Tyler Hare.
Despite having the best individual time, however, the boys race ultimately came down to a battle between Fauquier and host Brentsville. With each school finishing multiple runners in the top six, it wasn't obvious which team would take home the championship until the scores were tallied.
In the end the nod went to Brentsville, which finished with 53 points in the victory. After scoring their top five finishers, both the Tigers and Falcons were tied with 40 points each. From there, the judges scored each school's next runner, and with Brentsville's sixth runner finishing ahead of Fauquier's, the title went to the Tigers. Second place went to the Falcons, followed by Warren County, Liberty and Kettle Run.
"It was a very good race with Fauquier," Brentsville coach Rob Dulin said. "We knew it would be tight going in with them, so it was a flip of the coin thing between us and them, so I was very pleased with the end result today. We're starting to really pick it up."
In the girls race, the Tigers had an impressive showing, recording three of the top five runners, including Allison Bartols, who finished with the top time of 18:36. Teammate Morgan Price came in second at 19:12, with Fauquier's Emma Helsel, Warren County's Kayla Gibbons and Brentsville's Caitlyn Hoffman rounding out the top five. Bartols and Price's finishes helped pave the way for Brentsville, which took home the girls title scoring 24 points, less than half of runner-up Warren County's 52 points. Fauquier finished third with 55 points and Kettle Run came in fourth with 102.
"Allison, that was a huge race for her, best race of the season," Dulin said. "She ran well under 19 minutes, which is a big confidence builder for her because she definitely wanted to run in that mid-18 range and obviously she did that today."
In the end, the top three schools from both the boys and girls race advanced to regionals. Coincidentally, Brentsville, Warren County and Fauquier each had their boys and girls teams advance. For Warren County, this marks the first time the boys team will take part in regionals.
"I was happy," O'Reilly said. "My brother got a little stuck up, but we did pretty good. We're going to regionals for the first time, we've never done that before so I guess they're happy. I'm happy."
And as for Brentsville, though it didn't take a top finish to move on, taking the Evergreen District championship certainly doesn't hurt the team morale.
"Oh, that's definitely something we wanted to do," Dulin said. "We wanted to leapfrog into regionals, winning both of these races. The guys region is just unbelievably stacked, so we've got our work cut out for us. ... It's going to be a tight region race."