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By Dennis Atwood - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Seumas O'Reilly, Patrick Joseph and Josh Showalter were linked, arms around shoulders, in a post-race act of good sportsmanship and amicability.
O'Reilly, a Warren County senior, had just won the boys' cross-country race, finishing at 16:31, in the 37th annual Judges Classic meet at the Kernstown Battlefield course Saturday morning.
Loudoun County's Joseph, whose 16:46 was good for second place, was being assisted by O'Reilly and Showalter (Loudoun County, sixth place) in walking off the after-effects of his effort.
The pre-meet buzz billed the boys' race as a showdown between O'Reilly and Skyline senior Thomas Madden as the two top-rated Group AA runners in Virginia.
"It was slippery, and my coach told me to work the up and down hills, so I slacked a little where the ground was wet," O'Reilly said. "Also, I'm training for the end of season, so this was just a workout, really. It was a good race, the hills are a great workout, it's fun, and I like the people who are here.
"I guess [Madden's] coach held him out, but I try not to worry about what he was doing. I just ran my own race. But the pace was definitely slower [than if Madden was running] I went out at about 4:58, or 4:59 [first mile]. I'm training for the end of season, so I suppose he's training for the end of the season."
Millbrook senior Crystal Nelson displayed her typical get-out, and stay-out in front style, to cross the finish line at 19:33, capturing first place in the girls' race.
Nelson was 12 seconds off her 19:21 second place effort in last year's race, but 40 seconds ahead of the second-place runner, Warren County's Leanna Eisenman, who clocked 20:15.
"I'm kinda sick today," Nelson said. "I just wanted to get the lead early on and just try and hold it for as long as I could, until the finish. After going down [Pritchard's] Hill, you go down this kinda rocky hill and it was muddy, and I kinda slipped there.
"I was breathing hard from the start, so it kinda threw me off a bit, but I just tried not to think about it."
There were 21 schools, and more than 1,100 runners in the event.
Among the leaders from area boys' teams were Skyline's Sean Park (seventh, 17:14), Skyline's Clay Jones (eighth, 17:16), James Wood's Joseph Davett (10th, 17:41), Skyline's Marshall Eckert (11th, 17:44), Handley's Jim Thomson (14th, 17:54), and James Wood's Danny Aldstat (15th, 18:00).
Loudoun County took first place among the boys' teams with 76 points, followed by Skyline (140), Handley (144), Preston (WVa.) (146), and Woodgrove (182).
The James Wood boys placed ninth (243), Warren County 13th (305), and Millbrook 16th (377).
"Madden ran today at the course [but not in the meet], but we're still being cautious with him and holding him out until we know he's 100 percent ready to roll, because obviously the end of season is more significant," Skyline coach Mike Tanner said. "Our two, three, and four [Park, Jones, and Eckert] ran really well today. Our former number five, Sean Johnson, fractured his femur at the Northwestern District mini-meet [Aug. 31], so he's out for the season.
"We're having a tough run at it now, with people having injuries, but if we get all healthy for the post-season we're looking pretty good."
Other area girls earning awards were James Wood's Samantha Ratcliffe (sixth, 21:12), Millbrook's Karly Knechtel (11th, 21:28), James Wood's Amber Hawkins (12th, 21:29), and Skyline's Noa Sager (14th, 21:35).
Preston (WVa.) earned the girls' team championship trophy with 61, Briar Woods took second (92), then Woodgrove (105), Loundoun County (108), and Tuscarora (132).
Warren County took sixth (167), James Wood seventh (185), Handley eighth (194), Clarke County 12th (355), and Skyline 13th (382).
"I don't think we ran anywhere near our best, but, to get third, I'm very pleased with that," Handley boys coach Mark Stickley said. "There's a lot of room for improvement. My one and three [Thomson and Chase Anders] were dinged up today and had take a couple of days off this week, so they didn't run their best. They could have easily stepped off the course and we'd have been fifth or sixth today.
"When you're not 100 percent, it's frustrating to be out here, but sometimes you've just gotta gut it out for the team. We came out a little flat today, and everybody had the same thing. All the rain this week softened the course and you don't get any bounce-back or spring-back in your legs like you normally would.
"Last year, the ground was as hard as concrete [due to a drought], but you're getting spring-back on that. When you come out on this stuff, it's so much softer. Times across the board were slower. Pretty much all teams were 30 seconds slower [than last year]."