By Brad Fauber -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Wednesday's Northwestern District dual meet between Handley and Skyline was treated more like a training session for the coming weekend, but Handley delivered dominating performances in both the boys and girls events nonetheless.
The Judges swept the top five in both events of the 3.1-mile race at Kernstown Battlefield, giving the girls and boys squads a total of 15 points each, the lowest team score possible for the event. Skyline finished the day with 48 points in the girls event and 46 points in the boys.
"Today was kind of 'blah,' and I could feel it. There was no real motivation," said Skyline coach Mike Tanner. "I think they kind of knew they were coming and they were going to lose."
Skyline's boys team raced without defending Group AA champion Thomas Madden, who sat out Wednesday's race as he prepares for the Hawks' trip to Tuscarora High School, where they will participate in the Oatlands Invitational meet on Saturday.
Senior Jacob McConahy led Skyline in Madden's absence, finishing in sixth place with a time of 19:06. Handley's Jim Thomson led the pack with a time of 17:49, and teammates Aaron Arslan (18:06), Cole Talton (18:50), Sam Thomson (18:51) and Noah Vogler (18:51.75) rounded out the top five for the Judges.
On the girls side, Alex Zarzuela led the Hawks with a sixth-place finish, clocking in at 28:13. Teammate Amanda Bates finished just behind Zarzuela with a time of 28:14.
Handley's Megan Gaynor led the way with a time of 22:41, and Scarlett Hutchins (24:29), Olivia DeArment (25:46), Samantha Louque (26:54) and Emily Smith (26:59) followed to finish the sweep.
"We actually ran about eight girls today, and each of them had their own specific goal," said Judges girls coach Emily Putt. "It was just to get a good, solid race in. We have Oatlands this weekend, so we're just trying to keep that in mind, as well."
Laura Moran finished in 10th with a time of 28:29 in the girls event for the Hawks, and Justin Haggerty (eighth, 19:42) and Thomas Harrison (ninth, 19:52) also turned in top-10 finishes for Skyline's boys.
Skyline lost a lot of experience from last year's boys team that won the district title and qualified for a spot in the state meet with a third-place finish in the Region II competition.
Tanner said that while his team's goals differ from what they were a year ago, the Hawks' top priority is to defend their district title. Skyline has yet to run a race with its full team due to injury and illness, and Tanner said he hopes his team can put it together before the district meet on Oct. 24.
"We're just hurting in [the experience] aspect, but I have a bunch of freshmen and sophomores that came out and they're getting better. We're just not where we need to be with Handley yet," Tanner said. "We still would like to defend our district title -- looks like it's going to be really hard to do that, but that's still one of our goals."
Handley and Skyline, as well as many other Group AA and Group AAA schools from the surrounding area, are gearing up for the big event this weekend at Oatlands Plantation. Putt said she expects as many as 80 to 90 teams to participate in the event, which will include eight different races.
The Oatlands Invitational will not only provide Madden with yet another opportunity to race against some of the best competition in the country, but it will give the younger Skyline runners a chance to improve while competing on a big stage.
"I'm excited because I have so many new, young guys," Tanner said. "I'm just excited to see -- they're taking chunks of time off. I'm just excited to see how fast they can get. It's going to be an exciting season."