By Jeff Nations
WOODSTOCK -- Every bus went home with at least one trophy after Wednesday's annual Shenandoah County Cross Country Meet.
Max Middleton provided the hardware for Strasburg by winning the boys individual title, and Stonewall Jackson's Ashton Davis did the same by claiming the victory in the girls race.
Host Central ended up with the most -- and biggest -- trophies by sweeping the team competition. The Falcons flashed strong depth throughout their lineup in reclaiming the traveling trophies that have been residing at Strasburg.
The Falcons snapped the Rams' four-year run as county champions in the girls meet with a combined 28 points. Strasburg was second with 40, followed by Stonewall Jackson with 64.
The boys competition was a nail-biter, with Central edging Strasburg by a point with 28 to end the Rams' two-year reign as county champions. Stonewall was third with 84 points.
"We were hoping last year," Central coach Melissa Wright said. "We felt like we had a pretty good chance of doing well, but Strasburg ran really well then. Strasburg ran well today, as well. It was very competitive. We knew going into the meet that the boys score would be extremely close, so we told them they were going to have to give it all that they had. I'm very proud of having six boys in the top 10, being all-county, and that made the difference."
Strasburg got good efforts from Middleton (16 minutes, 39.07 seconds) and second-place finisher Timmy Wallis (16:58.30), who Middleton said stayed within "seeing distance" throughout the race.
Central's depth was just too much. Ivan Alvarado (third, 16:59.14), Tristan Lucy-Speidel (fourth, 1:00.85), Taylor LaFever (sixth, 17:32.52), Wyatt Robinson (seventh, 17:33.91) and Ryan Freiwald (eighth, 17:34.19) delivered a dominating top-10 scoring punch, and Nick Waldron (ninth, 17:34.58) also made all-county without cracking the Falcons' top five.
"Taylor LaFever had an outstanding day for us, and Wyatt Robinson was right in there," Wright said.
Also scoring for Strasburg were Nic Campbell (fifth, 17:20.71), Nealon Davis (10th, 17:35.66) and Dylan Campbell (11th, 17:42.20).
"Really good day for Max, chalking up another victory and getting that under his belt," Strasburg coach Jeff Rudy said. "The boys ran well. There's just a lot of depth. To Central, congratulations for a great race by them and for what they did for both boys and girls this season."
Stonewall's top finisher in the boys race was Pedro Jacuinde (14th, 18:21.37).
The Generals got a predictably solid effort from Davis in the girls race, as she topped the field with a winning time of 19:53.10.
"We're real pleased with Ashton and where she's progressing," Stonewall Jackson coach Mary Clanahan said. "She's going right where she's going."
Davis said she wasn't really thinking about trying to win a county championship on Wednesday, even though she'd never before claimed one.
"It's not about like, 'Oh, the county title.' It's about me doing the best I can for myself," Davis said. "This is my first county first-place title. It's pretty cool."
Central's Lexi Keller (second, 20:15.18) and Heather Landes (fourth, 20:36.71) challenged Davis early in the race, but the Generals' top runner was up for that.
"I try my best to pace myself, to find the spot and then go with it," Davis said. "Then as I go through the miles, I try to crank it up a little bit. So by the time I'm at the third mile, I'm basically at my hardest and then the finish line, obviously, is the hardest part where you push yourself the most."
Joining Keller and Landes as scorers for the Falcons were Elsa Garcia (third, 20:26.57), Bethany Neri (seventh, 20:56.51) and Emily Walker (12th, 22:35.11).
Wright was impressed with Garcia's third-place finish, a bit higher than she normally scores for the Falcons.
"Elsa Garcia wanted to bring home the trophy, and she ran really well for us today," Wright said.
Strasburg's Morgan Carter (fifth, 20:40.13), Caroline Miller (sixth, 20:47.97), Sarah Peer (eighth, 21:05.46) and Haley Garrett (10th, 21:42.92) all cracked the top 10 to earn all-county honors.
"Morgan did a great job, and it's good to see Caroline up there," Rudy said. "The girls ran strong, it just wasn't their day."
Stonewall's Brandy Webb (ninth, 21:28.40) also earned all-county honors.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>