By Dennis Atwood firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW MARKET - The Central Falcons girls team placed third overall while the boys took fourth, and Strasburg's boys finished third, as the girls came in fifth, among the 22 schools entered in the 16th annual Stonewall Jackson High School Invitational Cross Country meet Saturday at the New Market Battlefield course.
George Mason took first place among the girls teams, with 72 points, followed by Paul VI Catholic (88), Central (104), Harrisonburg (145) and Strasburg (179).
Paul VI Catholic added to its big impact in its first appearance in the event by capturing first place among the boys teams, with 55 points, and George Mason embellished its big day by taking second (87), then came Strasburg (145), Central (153), and Harrisonburg (166).
The overall individual girls champion was Julia Wood, a Rappahannock County sophomore, whose 20:05.6 time was a comfortable 1:13 ahead of second place Blaise Sevier (21:18.6), of George Mason.
The boys overall first place medal and plaque was earned by senior Andy Stepka, of Paul VI, at 17:42.9.
The event also groups the larger schools into a "Blue Division," and the smaller ones (1A and 2A) into a "Gray Division," and awards medals to the top 20 individual finishers and top three teams in each division.
Among the six schools in the Blue Division, Paul VI captured both the girls (34) and boys (24) championships, while Central took second place in both the girls (45) and boys (67) events.
In 22-school Grey Division, George Mason took both the girls (44) and boys (51) top spots, and Strasburg earned second place in both the girls (108) and boys (86) sections.
Neither the dampness nor the extra distance phased Central sophomore Lexie Keller, who clocked in at 22:02.6, to take fifth place overall among the girls.
"Starting out, it was a little cold, I can still see my breath," Keller said. "But, I like running in the cold, so I thought it helped me. I also like running in the morning. The grass was a little tricky because it's wet and there are quite a few hills on this course, but when you wear spikes it helps to get that grip.
"I really didn't have a plan. I always just tell myself to relax, because you can't rush it."
Joining Keller in the Falcons' top five girls, gathering 104 points, were Bethany Neri (16th, 22:40.9), Heather Landes (21st, 22:56.7), Elsa Garcia (24th, 23:03.8), and Emily Walker (39th, 23:46.2).
Senior Ashton Davis led host Stonewall Jackson's runners by finishing third overall, as her 21:51.6 outing eclipsed her own school record of 22:12, set in last year's event.
"I didn't think I was gonna get a 21 [minute time] because I was doing about 24 in time trials, so I kicked it up a little bit - I was surprised when you told me my time," Davis said. "It felt really good to be at home and it was perfect cross country weather. It was a little foggy, but the air was really easy to breathe."
The Generals didn't field a full girls team, so weren't entered in the team standings.
Strasburg sophomore Max Middleton found the conditions to his liking, as he picked up fifth place, with an 18:12.7 outing.
"It was a great feeling knowing that [there were so many teams] and that you beat most of them," Middleton said. "The moisture wasn't a problem. It was just a really good day to run."
The other Rams earning boys team points were Timothy Wallis (14th, 18:42.3), Nic Campbell (28th, 19:21.7), Dylan Campbell (46th, 19:49.8), and Brian Scholten (52nd, 19:55.7).
"We feel really good about today, we had some great running," Strasburg coach Jeff Rudy said. "Max Middleton looked fantastic. Timmy Wallis and Nic Campbell medaled. We knew, coming in, what was going to happen, so we're happy with the results.
"On the girls side, Morgan Carter [22nd, 22:58.8] has been such a steadfast heart of our distance program for the past four years, and she's stepped up as a number one runner. You get to see her shine now, because she was in the shadows of some of our talent which has graduated."
The Generals' top boys runner was Pedro Jacuinde with 19:46.7 for 46th as Stonewall Jackson finished with 389 points in 16th place.
"We're very excited about how high we placed today," Central coach Melissa Wright said. "It was definitely a very competitive group of teams, so I was very pleased to be able to walk away with two second place [Blue Division] trophies.
"Lexi Keller had a great race and finished well. Bethany Neri came in second and had a really good run. Tristan [Lucy-Spiede] on the boys side is doing a great job leading out, and Ivan [Alvarado] is trying to stay close to him. Our team continues to be strong. I'm very pleased with our progress, and I like our chances going into postseason. We'll be hosting the Conference 28 meet."
Randolph-Macon Academy placed 19th in the boys event. Cameron Trexler led the Yellow Jackets finishing 50th in 19:52.8.
In the girls event, R-MA was 17th. Maria Taylor led the way with a 59th-place finish in a time of 24:36.