Only two years ago, Woodbridge's John Stein looked up to fellow runners Shannon McCarter of Stonewall Jackson and Jeff Slater of Monacan High School. Last Saturday at the George Mason Invitational, the Vikings' senior ran away from McCarter at the 2 1/2-mile mark, but couldn't catch up with defending champion Slater and placed second on the Burke Lake Park course in 14:53.
Slater's 14:45.8 performance produced the ninth best time recorded on the three-mile course.
Before the race, Stein planned to take the lead early, and try to hold on for the victory. He went out fast, but so did Slater and McCarter. Stein led through the mile in 4:42, but at two miles, fell five yards back from McCarter. Slater was 15 yards behind Stein, and the rest of the field was not of sight.
Slater made his move from third to second on a gradual hill over the next half-mile, with Stein still keeping the lead. With 600 yards remaining, Slater sprinted home for his second victory in as many years.
"That was as fast as I had ever been through the mile," said Stein, who placed fifth last year in 15:23. "Normally we take it out at five minutes."
The Vikings finished second in the team standings,11 points behind South Lakes, even though they had only five runners in the boys seeded varsity race.
Said Woodbridge Coach Ron Helmer, "It was the first time I let them open up and run. I only ran five in this race and five in the nonseeded race and won the nonseeded race by 30. Right now we don't have the depth that South Lakes has back in the fifth, sixth, and seventh positions.
"We felt good about his (Stein's) race. We're trying to stay low key on what we are doing. We'll do that (race all out) once more before the state meet . . . maybe at the Georgetown Prep Invitational."
Augmenting Stein's performance were John Knapp in fourth place (15:19) and Tom Johnson in sixth (15:24), but the team finished second to South Lakes, 62-73.
"It makes me feel good even though South Lakes won," Stein said. "It shows me how badly we'll beat South Lakes later in the season."
Though only two South Lakes harriers (Jeff Graves and Sandy Sanford were 12th and 13th, respectively) placed in the top 20, the Seahawks' superior depth was the key to beating premeet favorite and last year's state meet runner-up Woodbridge.
The Langley girls team surprised more than a few coaches by romping over second-place Robinson, 25-78, and by placing freshmen Erin Keogh and Jody Clark third and 12th, respectively. Saxons' senior Vicki Verinder easily won the race in 17:21, the fifth best time for a girl on the Burke Lake Park course. Only Andrea Volpe of Lake Braddock, who graduated last year, has recorded faster times. Volpe has the best four times on the course.
Three other girls, second-place finisher Tonja Welch of South Lakes, Keogh, and Kristi Cassell of Lake Braddock have times that place them in the top 15 all-time performances on the course.
Verinder was first in a 1-3-5-7-11 finish by Langley, 53 points ahead of runner-up Robinson. But it was the performance of Keogh, who ran with Verinder for most of the race until Welch overtook her at the end, and Clark, who finished 12th, that shocked Saxon Coach John Platt.
"She is phenomenal," Platt said of Keogh. "We don't know where it's going to stop. I hope it doesn't. Both freshmen were a complete surprise. We're trying not to push them, we're not pressuring them."
Another freshman who stood out in the race was Kathy Graves of South Lakes, who ran 10th in 18:25.
In the Pallotti Invitational, Cliff Holtz, Bill Boatright, and Steve Bottom placed second, sixth, and eighth, respectively, to give Annandale the team title on the Laurel, Md., three-mile course.
In the girls race, High Point edged Fort Hunt, 52-53, as Terri Snell ran fourth for the runner-up Federals.