By Brad Fauber
WINCHESTER -- Thomas Madden already has his sights set on defending his Group AA cross country title, and Wednesday's Northwestern District championship proved just another stepping stone toward achieving that goal.
The Skyline senior set a blistering pace, leading the entire race at the 5K Kernstown Battlefield course to finish with a time of 16:31, nearly 39 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Danny Aldstadt of James Wood. It was Madden's third consecutive district title.
Still, Madden wasn't entirely happy with his time, which was well behind his personal course-best of 15:47 that he set two years ago.
"I wanted to run faster, but that just didn't happen today," he said. "I did want to go out faster -- I went out faster the last couple of [races], so that's good -- but I just didn't keep up a very fast pace. I don't know, it was just slow today."
The Kernstown Battlefield course begins with a lengthy uphill climb, but that did little to slow down Madden. He built a 13-second lead before reaching the first mile.
By the time Madden reached the halfway point, he had a 35-second lead over the rest of the pack. Madden slowed his pace a bit over the final third of the race, but that was just all part of the plan.
"We were running the first two miles fast, and we told him to settle on that last mile," said Hawks coach Mike Tanner. "So it was like a two-mile workout for him, just to work on his speed."
As a team, Handley won both the boys and girls events. In the boys race, the Judges finished with a score of 50, followed by Millbrook (57), James Wood (57), Sherando (71) and Skyline (99).
The standings were identical in the girls race, with Handley winning with 32 points. Millbrook (36) came in second, followed by James Wood (72), Sherando (92) and Skyline (154).
Sherando senior James Reese finished just over a minute behind Madden with a final time of 17:37, good for fourth-place in the boys event. Reese said his goal entering the race was to stick with the lead pack for as long as he could, and he was successful at doing that.
Reese qualified for the Region II meet for the third time.
"It was what I expected. I'm pretty much close to where I expected today," Reese said. "It's always nice to move on to the next level."
Reese will be joined at the Region II meet by teammates Ryan Hindle and Samuel VanAlsburg. Hindle finished 11th with a time of 18:20, and VanAlsburg (18:37) claimed the final qualifying spot with a 15th-place finish.
Sherando coach Tim Ritter said the boys team was disappointed with its fourth-place finish on Wednesday, and Ritter blamed himself for not having his runners as prepared as they should have been.
He was still happy to have three boys advance to the next race.
"The three guys there, they deserve it," said Ritter. "James [Reese] has been Mr. Consistent this year. He ran one of his better races of the year. Ryan Hindle has had his ups and downs, but has come on of late. Samuel [VanAlsburg] is a senior, and I'm real happy he was able to advance."
Sherando's Nisha Moore was the lone Warrior to qualify for regionals in the girls race. Moore finished with a final time of 22:20, good enough for 13th place.
James Wood's Amber Hawkins dominated the girls event, as she finished with a time of 19:45. Handley's Abby Swartz (21:10) took second place.
The Region II event will be held on Nov. 1 at Oatlands Plantation in Leesburg.
Madden said he struggled at the Oatlands Invitational earlier in the season, but he is confident that his second trip to the course this season will bring a more favorable result.
Tanner also has confidence in his best runner.
"He always steps up when he needs to," Tanner said. "I'm sure he will show up and do what he needs to do, do what he does."