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Ayers places second; Poff wins invitational

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Central’s Brandon Poff crosses the finish line to win the boys race in the Stonewall Jackson Invitational held Saturday at the New Market Battlefield. Andrew Thayer/Daily

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By Dennis Atwood - sports@nvdaily.com

NEW MARKET -- The 14th Stonewall Jackson Invitational cross country meet on Saturday morning was the second time course record-holder and two-time state Group A champion, Strasburg's Katlyn Ayers, had faced newcomer Hannah Rose, of Wilson Memorial.

Rose tied Ayers' 2009 course record of 19:51, finishing 1:03 ahead of Ayers' 20:54 effort, to earn the overall girls' first place trophy.

Ayers broke out into the lead and held it on the first trip up the ridge hill.

Ayers' slight frown, distracted gaze, and somewhat slumped shoulders, silently communicated her disappointment, frustration, and resolve, as she searched for adequate and appropriate words.

"I don't know, I'm just disappointed," Ayers said. "Actually, I felt all right. I just need to change a few things, I think. Just train a little harder and try to get better by the end of this season.

"After the second mile, [Rose] was way ahead of me. She's a great runner, so it's good competition."

Central senior Brandon Poff cut 39 seconds off his 2010 mark, to take overall first place in the boys' event with a 17:53 run, 11 seconds ahead of county rival Anthony Wallis, of Strasburg.

Also new on the Group A scene, Wilson Memorial moved down from Group AA this academic year, and took first place in both the boys and girls events.

Nineteen schools competed on the 3.2 miles (5,150 meters) New Market Battlefield course.

A distinctive aspect of the meet was sorting results into overall and blue and gray divisions. Designed to make the meet more "athlete friendly, and award more medals,"
Stonewall Jackson coach Mary Clanahan said. The blue division included Group AAA and AA schools, and the gray division had the Group A teams.

Strasburg finished second in both the boys and girls gray divisions.

In their first meeting, Rose's 19:36 first place finish relegated Ayers, a senior, to second place, by 1:05, at the Eastern Mennonite Invitational on Sept. 10.

Having a big impact among Region B schools, Rose, a junior, moved from Summit, N.J., to enter Wilson Memorial in January. Rose's personal record this year is 19:10, on Wilson's 5K course.

Rose's two-mile mark of 12:20, was 10 seconds ahead of Ayers.

"I just don't like to start too fast, I just kinda keep up the pace and try to stick to it," Rose said. "[With it's hill ridge] this course is somewhat challenging, and that's a good thing.
"Our team has just been working really hard. We all motivate each other, and we're all just really pumped about today. We're just ready to go."

"[Rose] is a new girl and Wilson Memorial's new [to us]," Strasburg coach Jeff Rudy said. "It's good to have competition. [Ayers] has run so many years alone [in front], having someone run [past] her is good, and healthy.

"As we mature as runners, we have to think with our heads and allow our bodies to work as we've trained. A good sign of a mature runner is running with the head, and the heart."

Poff, along with Wallis, and Strasburg's Mark Colson, were neck-and-neck, with 11:10 at the two-mile mark.

"I was planning on going out with [Wallis] and just try and stick with him until the last bit, but I knew he has a great kick, so I tried to pull ahead of him a little bit," Poff said. "We were all kinda stuck together [in a five-to-eight runner lead pack], it was touch-and-go for a little bit. People were switching places. I dialed it up [the second time] across the ridge and downhill [to the finish line]."

Wallis' 18:04 effort cut 53 seconds off his 2010 result.

"I have a good kick, and I was planning on getting him at the end, but [Poff] pulled off a little too far in front," Wallis said. "I should have stuck with him. I need to be in the low 16's [minute times], but I'm not quite there yet. But, I'm feeling pretty confident about getting there."

Wilson Memorial's 43 points topped the boys gray division team scores, followed by Strasburg (54), Central (65), Buffalo Gap (133), and Seton (178).

The girls gray division was also captured by Wilson Memorial (39), followed by Strasburg (55), Buffalo Gap (127), Stuarts Draft (142), and Central (147).

Fauquier won the boys blue division first place trophy with 39 points, followed by Harrisonburg (57), Fairfax (60), Fort Defiance (62), and C.D. Hylton (153).
Fort Defiance won the girls blue division top honors with 33 points, followed by Harrisonburg (38), Fauquier (67) and Fairfax (92).

"A very good day of racing," Rudy said. "I'm really happy with the results this season. We're having to overcome a lot of injuries on the girls team. We still have a month to get healthy and we're going to be competitive throughout the championship season."

Strasburg, Central, and Stonewall Jackson will return to the New Market Battlefield course, in the Shenandoah County meet, on Saturday.

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