By Dennis Atwood - firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- A combined eight points was all that separated the Strasburg Rams and Central Falcons boys and girls cross country teams, as the host Rams retained their team championship trophies in the Shenandoah County meet Saturday. Strasburg's Anthony Wallis and Kirsten Campbell set career personal records in winning the individual races.
The Rams took the boys event 31-35 over the Falcons, as Stonewall Jackson scored a 67, while Strasburg nipped Central 32-36, and the Generals tallied 55 in the girls race.
Wallis, a senior, cruised into a comfortably speedy career personal record 16:31, 50 seconds ahead of teammate Mark Colson, to capture first place in the boys event.
"I prepared for this race a little better than some of my other races, so I felt a little better than I usually do," Wallis said. "I just went out with the same plan I usually do, maintain the lead and maintain a steady pace.
"I'm not peaked yet -- still getting there. I feel like I probably could have gone quite a bit faster."
Other Rams populating the top 10 in the boys race were Colson (second, 17:21), Nic Campbell (fifth, 17:51), and Max Middleton (sixth, 17:52).
Central's Tony Whetzel took third with a 17:39 outing, one tick ahead of teammate Jason Ruckman (fourth, 17:40), followed by Tristan Speidel (seventh, 18:00) and Ryan Freiwald (ninth, 18:07) for the Falcons.
The speediest Generals were Jeremiah Hines (eighth, 18:06), and Pedro Jacunde (10th, 18:08).
Campbell was pushed a bit harder than Wallis in the girls race, but lead from start-to-finish, clocking in with a career personal record 20:02, 10 seconds ahead of Stonewall Jackson's Ashton Davis.
"Until the down-hill [one-half mile], I was with [Central's] Heather Landes and after that I created more space," said Campbell, a senior. "I ran a 20:07 at states last year, which was my previous best. I'm excited about our prospects in the postseason events."
Other Rams finishing in the top 10 were Sarah Elbon (fourth, 20:27), Morgan Carter (seventh, 21:17), and Madison Orndorff (ninth, 21:48).
Davis, a junior, is unusual in that she participates in middle-distance events in the spring track season, whereas most cross county runners prefer the longer, 1600 and 3200 meters track events.
"My first mile was really good, a 6:20, and I think it's because it's mostly flat, except for one hill," Davis said. "Since I run track, and I'm a sprinter, it's convenient for it to be flat. I'm surprised [to finish second].
"I was just running cross country to stay in shape and this is kind of a surprise. This is my first year."
Davis was joined by Cristy Lazaro-Luna (eighth, 21:43) in the top 10 for the Generals.
In another surprise, Central freshman Lexi Keller timed in at 20:16, to capture third place as the top Central girls finisher, a spot usually occupied by junior Landes, who came in fifth, at 21:02.
"I was kinda surprised that I ran that well today," Keller said. "The last mile was probably the hardest. [Davis] got in front of me and I couldn't catch her. This was my first time running this entire course."
"Lexi's been running up there in the two, three, or four spot all year, so she's been running well," Falcons coach Melissa Wright said. "She's gonna continue to get better as she gets more racing experience,"
Elsa Garcia took sixth (21:08), and Katie Ritenour 10th (21:54), for the Falcons.
"Coming into the meet, we felt it would be very competitive, and I felt our kids ran well," Wright said. "It was extremely close and Strasburg ran better than us today, so congrats to them."
Strasburg coach Jeff Rudy nodded to Central and focused on the postseason.
"Central is looking really, really strong this year -- coach Wright is doing a great job over there," Rudy said. "As we're entering the championship season, we're pretty healthy. We're coming around, and we're excited to see how we perform in the upcoming, most important, part of the season."