Local cross country teams impress at Judges Classic

September 12, 2011

By Greg Brill

Special to The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER- A little touch of the flu and some muggy conditions Saturday morning couldn't keep Millbrook senior Crystal Nelson down.

Having finished second last season, Nelson was determined to win her first Judges Classic - and she did so in a dominant fashion.

Nelson won the girls race by 40 seconds, cruising through the Kernstown Battlefield course in 19:35. By the time Nelson crossed the finish line, runner-up Leanna Eisenman of Warren County was just coming into view on the last hill.

"My goal was to get the lead early on and hold it as long as I could," Nelson said. "I was just trying to go for a better time from last year (19:21), but that didn't happen. I just told myself to keep going and not slow down. I was kind of playing a mental game with myself."

Nearly a week's worth of rain kept the course a bit damp and soft at the start, even with an abundance of sunshine present. The slickness took some adjusting for all and certainly slowed some expected times for the competitors.

Handley made enough adjustments to the terrain in the boys race and had an area-best placement of third, just behind winner Loudoun County (76 points) and Northwestern District rival Skyline. The Hawks, who kept top runner Thomas Madden out of another race, finished with 140 points to edge the Judges (144) by four.


"We didn't run our best today," Handley coach Mark Stickley said. "The course was slow because there's been so much rain. I knew coming in it was going to be slow. Normally, that messes with you a little bit. But also, it takes some energy out of your legs because you're not getting push-back from the hard ground. You're used to running on roads and concrete, and all of a sudden, it's soft.

"That affects everybody, I'm not just making an excuse for us. But it still makes it tough. We did not run that well, but to get third -- I'm estactic. I'm very happy with that."

Chris Arslan, who captured the first Northwestern mini-meet, had a tough day and represented Handley's fourth card, placing 39th overall in 19:03.

"He missed two days [of practice] this week, and it's like I told him, he could have easily stepped off the course," Stickley said. "It wasn't his day, but even if you're not having your best race, you gut it out for the team. I admired [him] for doing that."

The Judges did get medals (top 20) from Jim Thomson in 14th (17:54) and a 17th-place finish from Chase Anders (18:10). Noah Vogler was 31st (18:40) and Sam Thomson 43rd (19:06) to round out the Judges' total.

The boys race won by Warren County senior Seamus O'Reilly was just as convincing -- at least at the finish.

For the first part of the race, Loudoun County's Patrick Joseph gave O'Reilly a good push. But when O'Reilly came down the final straightaway, he had the lead well in hand and came through in 16:23 to win his first Judges Classic.

"The plan was to work the uphills and downhills, and I did that," said O'Reilly, who had not run in this race since his freshman year. "I went hard."

O'Reilly, who has yet to run against his local rival Madden during the high school season, did not seem all that disappointed that another race went by without having to get a test from Madden, who ran second at last season's Group AA championships.

"I run my race," O'Reilly said. "I'm training for the end of the season and I'm sure [Madden's training] for the end of the season, so I don't worry about that."

James Wood finished ninth with 243 points and had Joseph Davet place the top-area finish in 10th (17:41). Danny Aldstadt got 15th (18:10), but the Colonels were missing several key runners and were not at top performance.

"The boys did run well, although we were missing three of [our] top six due to illnesses," James Wood coach Mike Onda said. "So that would have made a difference on how we did. We probably would have been top-five, so we need to get all those folks back to running."

On the girls' side, Millbrook had four runners place in the top 44, including Karly Knechtel in 11th (21:28). But the Pioneers did not have a fifth runner finish, thus they could not count for a team standing.

The Colonels (185 points) had the best finish on the girls side, placing seventh. Samantha Ratcliffe was sixth (21:12) and usual No. 1 Amber Hawkins placed 12th (21:29).

Handley came in eighth (194), with Eileen Wilkinson finishing 22nd overall in 22:23.

The girls winner came from out-of-state, with Preston County (W.Va.) rolling in with 61 points. Dulles District competitors Briar Woods (92) and Woodgrove (105) got the remaining trophies.


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