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By Dennis Atwood - email@example.com
NEW MARKET -- Strasburg's Anthony Wallis gutted out a finishing kick to clock in at 18:01, two strides and one second ahead of friendly rival Central's Brandon Poff, and the Rams broke the Falcon's nine-year hold on the boys team championship in the Shenandoah County cross country meet Saturday morning on host Stonewall Jackson's 3.2 mile New Market Battlefield course.
Last week it was Poff who clocked a 17:53 for first place, and nipped Wallis by 11 seconds, in the 19-school Stonewall Jackson Invitational on the same course.
Also returning to the course, Strasburg's Katlyn Ayers resumed her usual front-runner position, taking first place with a 20:51 outing, shaving three seconds off last week's second place finish, and seven seconds ahead of teammate Kirsten Campbell, as the Rams also won the girls title.
Wallis, Poff, and Strasburg's Mark Colson all passed the two-mile marker at 11:29.
Wallis and Poff were in an all-out sprint on the straightaway to the finish line. Wallis was able to pull it out and cut three seconds off last Saturday's time.
"This Saturday, I tried to save a little more energy, but I let loose a little early," Wallis said. "Coming into the race, I wasn't feeling too good, mostly a leg problem. But, I wanted first today, so I went for it.
"I tried to take the lead at a mile and one-half, but Poff stuck with me, so we battled it out in the third mile, and I ended up pulling ahead by a little bit."
"It was [Wallis] trying to stick with me, and me trying to make sure he didn't have a kick at the end, but he sure did," Poff said.
Ayers, the two-time defending Group A state champion, clocked 12:49 at the two-mile point, with a sizeable 44-second lead on Campbell.
"I think we all had a goal of getting faster times than last week, because the course is still fresh in our minds," Ayers said. "My strategy is changed this year. My running abilities have changed over the years, so I just try new things each race, to see what works for the ones that count."
"I guess some people would love to think that they could catch up to [Ayers], but I don't really think much about that," Campbell said. "I just try to think about a personal record and do better than last time."
On the school's homecoming weekend, Strasburg won both team events convincingly, with 23 points in the boys' event, followed by Central with 35, and Stonewall Jackson tallying 67.
The Rams took first, second, third, fifth and seventh places in the girls event to win by a huge margin, scoring 18, to Central's 57, and 61 for Stonewall Jackson.
"It's an exciting weekend for the kids, both on the athletic level, and the personal level, getting to enjoy homecoming," Strasburg coach Jeff Rudy said. "It's a tough season, overcoming a lot of injuries and tough competition. In our fifth year, [assistant] coach [Katherine] Klus and I are putting things together and we're seeing it develop. But it would be nothing without the kids and their dedication to the sport."
The Falcons will host the Rams on Wednesday in the last regular season meet for both schools.