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Oakton Gets 2nd Chance at 1st Place
One Year After Falling Short, Boys Win It All

By Preston Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Oakton boys' cross-country team had just won its second Virginia AAA title in four years, so the Cougars did the only logical thing -- they hung a pineapple in the middle of the team tent, clapped their hands, chanted and took turns biting off it, a team ritual of sorts.

Theirs was not the only fruitful performance for Washington area representatives yesterday at Great Meadow in The Plains.

Mountain View senior Thomas Porter, the AAA runner-up a year ago, snagged the boys' individual title and the George Mason girls and Clarke County boys each won Virginia A crowns. Individual champion Ben Veilleux, a senior, paced the Eagles, who dusted the competition by 54 points for their fourth title in five years.

A runner from outside the area, Jamestown senior Andrew Colley, finished in 15 minutes 2 seconds, one second faster than the state meet course record, set in 2000 by three-time state champion Alan Webb of South Lakes.

The girls' state meet course record also fell, with Glenvar junior Megan Marsico finishing in 17:38, 10 seconds faster than the mark set by Northside's Catherine White in 2005.

Oakton claimed no top finishers but placed five runners between seventh and 25th place in the team scoring, led by junior Andrew McCullen (ninth overall) and senior Neal Hendricks (17th). The Cougars' team total of 71 topped the next-closest finisher by 46 points.

Oakton had entered the 2007 championship as a front-runner and fell short, which made yesterday's victory all the more satisfying.

"They did the hardest thing, which is to win when everyone expects you to win," said Oakton Coach Phil Tiller, who got a good feeling when the team's No. 4 runner, senior Chris Weil, wore a wide smile as he approached the latter part of the race. "We knew that anything other than first was going to . . . feel like a disappointment for this team."

Porter finished in 15:13 to pace Mountain View to a fourth-place team finish in a race that featured several lead changes. Porter had some helpful advice shouted to him down the stretch, courtesy of his brother, Michael, who coaches cross-country at Colonial Forge.

Jefferson took third in the AAA girls' meet, two points behind the runner-up, thanks in part to a fourth-place finish by freshman Sarah Stites. Oakton finished fifth. The top local individual finisher in the AAA girls' race was W.T. Woodson junior Erica Howes, who just took up cross-country this season after moving to the area from Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

In the Virginia A girls' race, George Mason claimed four of the top 11 spots in the team scoring to edge four-time defending champion Clarke County, a Bull Run District and Region B rival, by three points. Freshmen Natalie Young and Eva Estrada led the senior-less Mustangs with third- and fifth-place finishes, respectively.

It also was a memorable day for Potomac Falls, which took third in the AA boys' race and fifth in the girls' race. Loudoun County junior Julie Strange finished third in the AA girls' race, just two seconds off the lead.

As Colley came down the homestretch in the AA boys' race, about 10 seconds from the finish line, he was eyeing the automatic timer and was pleasantly surprised to see that he had a shot at Webb's course mark. Not bad for a guy who three years ago was the No. 7 runner on his Jamestown team.

"That's going out to all the runners out there who are maybe not in the front of their team," Colley said. "They can really get up there if they work at it."

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