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By Dennis Atwood - email@example.com
WINCHESTER -- Crystal Nelson was definite about her goal in Saturday morning's Third Battle Invitational cross country meet.
"I wanted to set a new course record, because I figured I could," Nelson said.
It was crystal clear that the Millbrook senior achieved her goal, as her 18:15 effort chopped 39 seconds off the record established by Sherando's Krista DeCeault last year.
Nelson, who also took first place with an 18:20 outing in the Albemarle Invitational on Oct. 8, led from start-to-finish and finished 1:30 ahead of second-place finisher and teammate Karly Knechtel.
"It was kinda windy, but OK once I got started, " Nelson said. "[Millbrook] coach [Kevin Shirk] is holding us at high mileage in practice, then he's going to start backing off as we get closer to regionals and states. He wants us to peak at the right time."
The five Northwestern District schools were joined by Clarke County, Manassas Park, Liberty, Lee-Davis, and Brooke Point for the second year of the event, held on the Third Battle of Winchester Battlefield 5K course, adjacent to host Millbrook's campus.
Unlike Nelson, Skyline's Thomas Madden wasn't particularly pleased with his first place time of 16:01 in the boys' race, 33 seconds ahead of teammate Clay Jones, but considerably short of the 15:39 course record set by Handley's Tom Delaney last year.
"I wanted to run faster, definitely, but I'm not sure what happened," Madden said. "I tried to kick it up after the halfway point, but I don't know if I did or not. I just wanted to run fast."
"Madden was alone in front, became a little disoriented running through woods, lost some focus, and wasn't sure of his pace," Skyline coach Mike Tanner said.
Sean Park crossed the finish line at 16:47 to complete Skyline's sweep of the top three positions. Marshall Eckert's eighth place finish and Thomas Harrison's 13th place effort helped the Hawks win the boys' team event with 27 points. James Wood was second with 59.
Handley was third with 78, Sherando sixth (143), Millbrook seventh (163), and Clarke County ninth (228).
"We did what we expected to do," Tanner said. "We expected to run well, but the times weren't what we wanted them to be, especially with Thomas [Madden]. He was out to break the course record, but it's tough being out in front by yourself, and it's kinda windy.
"But I was proud of them, they all ran well. Sean Park had a nice kick in there to get third place and our team's looking good going into the post season."
Cindy Quarles (Fourth, 20:02), and Ashden Personius (Fifth, 20:14) helped Handley win the girls' team event with 57 points. Millbrook finished second with 62 points.
Key to the Judges' victory were Hannah McKiernan coming in 16th and Ellie Selzer finishing 22nd, while Millbrook's Brooke Hagenbuch and Simone Jarvis finished 25th and 27th, respectively.
Lee-Davis finished third (65 points), followed by James Wood (89), Sherando (106), Skyline (165), Clarke County (180), and Manassas Park (186).
"Whenever you know Millbrook's gonna get first and second [individually], we know that we have to be good up front, and that's what we really emphasized," Handley girls coach Emily Putt said. "Today we just went out feeling good, it's a gorgeous day, and this will be the district's course. Our actual goal today was just to personally feel good about yourself, and feel good about your run. If the team falls into play then it does, and if it doesn't it just doesn't. I was really pleased how it turned out."