For two years, four of the top five cross country teams in the boys and girls Virginia AAA state championships have been from Northern Virginia. This year should be no different.
The defending state champion Woodbridge boys team from the Northwest Region and the Langley girls of the Northern Region return with as good, if not better, teams to lead a strong contingent of area runners. Both teams should easily repeat their 1983 titles, but who will take the individual crown is anybody's guess.
If senior Bill Boatright of Annandale can recover from twisting his ankle during a training run this summer, he could be the one to beat in the boys Northern Region. Last year he was runner-up to teammate Cliff Holtz in the regionals, then ran poorly in the state meet. This year Boatright will get competition from Robinson senior Marc Lambert and Jefferson's Jeff Koppie, 11th and 13th, respectively, in the state. However, one or more of South Lakes' veterans also could make a run for the regional title.
The Seahawks will be pressured by Robinson and Annandale for the regional title. South Lakes won the the 1983 regional by 20 points over Annandale and 44 over Robinson, but it was the Rams who beat the Atoms and nearly defeated Woodbridge for the state title. Robinson has four of five returning, in Lambert, Steve Makowka and juniors Todd Coppedge and Brad Hamby. Annandale graduated its No. 1 and 3 runners, while South Lakes graduated its No. 1 and 5 runners.
The Seahawks should narrowly win the regionals on the experience of seniors Jorge Pardo and Chris Conboy and juniors Sandy Sanford and Sean Kelley, but Coach Ron Helmer and his Woodbridge squad are destined for another state championship. The Wolverines return their No. 3, 4 and 5 boys in junior Doug Stanton, senior Tom Johnson and sophomore Andrew Hudson. Helmer is a master strategist, holding back his team, despite losses to South Lakes in the major invitationals, until the only meet that he feels counts: the state.
South Lakes is almost certain to successfully defend its Great Falls District title and probably will dominate the district, much like its lopsided 16-77 defeat of Madison last year. The Seahawks, then third in the state after placing four boys in the top five in the district and five in the first 20 in the region, return all the varsity team except No. 1 Jeff Graves.
The underrated team of the season could be Langley, third in the district last year, but with experience in seniors Steve Dupree, Ross Wehner and Doug Kossler. Individually, there will be Seahawks fighting for the top spot, with an outside chance going to Dupree or senior Jeff Gerber of Yorktown, winner of last year's Arlington County meet.
Annandale should retain its Potomac District crown, returning three of its top five after Cliff Holtz and Steve Bolton graduated. Senior Brian Pettinato and sophomore Jeff Pajak placed in the top 10 in the district, but only Boatright has proved he can run with the best in the region. Last year, Annandale beat Stuart, 23-95. The runners to watch will be Boatright and Jefferson's Jeff Koppie, who took fourth in the district, sixth in the region and 13th in the state.
Another rout took place last year in the Gunston District, with Fort Hunt dominating in beating Edison, 21-91. The Federals, who finished third in the region and sixth in the state, have changed coaches and whether that affects the program remains to be seen. Marshall Windsor, who has coached the boys running program for more than a decade, has become assistant coach at Lake Braddock. Fort Hunt took second through fifth in last year's district meet, with seniors Dirk Pohlmann and Al Thresher and juniors Craig Shenkenberg and Mike Davis returning. Watch for Edison senior Sean Rice and Mount Vernon's Scott Cook.
The Northern District will be close again, but this time Robinson likely will edge out Lake Braddock. A surprise might come from West Springfield, with a strong showing in its first meet last week. Lambert and Steve Makowka are top individual contenders, and Robinson's main front runners.
Two of the top 10 boys in the state meet last year came from the Commonwealth District. Since Woodbridge's John Stein and Jim Knapp and Stonewall Jackson's Shannon McCarter have graduated, the individual title could go to North Stafford senior Nicky Embry. Overshadowed by Stein and McCarter, Embry finished fourth in the district, 11th in the Northwest region, 10th in the state and holds the boys fastest time in Virginia. Embry could be the runner to beat in the state. Even without Stein and Knapp, Woodbridge should retain its district title over Potomac, North Stafford and Osbourn Park, a transfer from the AA league.
If little else is certain in Virginia high school cross country this year, the Langley girls are to again romp over every other team in the state. Langley's most impressive accomplishment was a 26-71 state-meet victory over Robinson, posting the lowest team score in the six-year history of girls cross country in Virginia.
The Saxons lost their No. 1 and 3 runners, state champion Vicki Verinder and Jenny Pedersen, to graduation. But with Langley's depth last year, most of their fastest 10 girls could have run for any other team. In the Great Falls District, Langley took six of the top 10 spots to clearly outdistance Madison and South Lakes. Those girls returning are sophomore Erin Keogh, seniors Jenny Montgomery (seventh in the state), Kelly O'Hara, and Alyson Kelly (20th in the state), and sophomores Jody Clark and Sharon Poole.
The big question coming out of Langley will be, can Keogh run out of the shadow of Verinder, to whom she placed runner-up the last month of the season, including the regionals? Keogh must prove that breaking the freshman record on every course she ran was not a fluke, and that she can run without Verinder and Pedersen by her side. Along with Demarch Robertson of Jefferson-Huguenot-Wythe, Keogh could be the favorite for the state title. Other contenders include South Lakes' unpredictable senior Tonja Welch (second in the district, third in the region, fifth in the state) and sophomore Kathy Graves, and Lake Braddock's veteran Kristi Cassell.
Cassell should have no problem repeating her Northern Distict title, and could improve on last year's third in the region and 10th in the state. Her only competition, sophomore Holly Douglas of West Springfield, transfered out of state. The team title should be decided between the Bruins and defending champion Robinson, which has senior Katie Columbell and Molly Black back.
The Gunston District has recently been weak on the regional and state scene, and the loss of Coach Andy Tysinger from Fort Hunt to Lake Braddock could have a negative effect on the one strong program in the district. The defending champion Federals have senior Terri Snell and junior Sara Burke, and should win over the Majors' Kim Spence and Debbie Noll. Vying for the top individual spot will be senior transfer student Zenovia Koehler of Groveton, the 1983 Maryland class B state champion, and Peggy Scholzen of Edison.
In the Potomac District, Annandale should successfully defend its title with junior Libby Williams and senior Meagan Burns. Williams and Stuart senior Emily Lai could be tops in the district.
Woodbridge is back with its top four girls from the district-winning squad, led by Lisa Malloy's 15th in the state. Stonewall Jackson's Angie Cheek and Denise Griffiths of North Stafford will be Malloy's competition for the individual title.
In the Virginia AA Northwestern District, Handley returns only its No. 1 and 2 runners, AA state champion Jason Morgan and Mike Cooper, but should repeat as district and state champions. District runner-up Park View should take second again, but closer than last year's 19-77 defeat by the Judges.
Loudoun County senior Heather Chamberlain, seventh in Virginia AA, looks good for the state title, while Loudoun Valley should beat district champion Broad Run for the team title.
Strasburg's boys and Stonewall Jackson's girls return improved squads and should defend their titles in the Virginia A Bull Run District, with Rappahannock the only competition.