Vince Hancock placed seventh in the Northern Region Athletic Directors Invitational Cross Country Meet last year. His goal this year was to make the top three. Last Thursday the Lake Braddock senior more than met his goal in the three-mile course at Burke Lake Park with his victory over more than 170 other runners from 25 high schools.

The girls race was won by Anne Evans of South Lakes. Evens held the lead throughout the race and finished more than 26 seconds ahead of Chantilly's Hollie Moore, and more than 160 other runners from 24 schools, in 17:57.6. Lake Braddock won the boys and girls titles.

"The course wasn't difficult, it was the competition," Hancock said.

The competition of Chantilly's Lance Muniz almost cost him the race. Although Hancock took an early lead, Muniz overcame him and held a steady position in front going into the final 1600 meters. But Hancock charged into the final hill and left Muniz behind for good to finish almost 17 seconds ahead in 15:18.3.

Afterwards, as Hancock paced slowly, sweating and out of breath, he admitted he had no idea how much of a lead he had. After looking back once in the final stretch to see a pack of threatening competitors, Hancock kept his eyes in front of him and concentrated on the finish line.

Muniz was caught by surprise when the winner stole his lead and he couldn't recover.

"Vince went passed me so fast, I wasn't strong enough mentally to catch up," said Muniz, who was more concerned about strengthening his team's standing than individual performance. Whereas Lake Braddock, always a top team in the region, finished five runners in the top 15, Chantilly's second runner placed 38th. But that didn't discourage Muniz.

"This will be the best year for our team. We have a lot of good runners coming back (from last year)," said Muniz, who finished third here last year with his personal best time of 15:22.

Robinson's Anthony Anconetani placed third as he sped past Marshall's Mayura Bogollagama 15 yards before the finish line.

Evans, who was injured for much of last year's season but placed second and fourth in the 2-mile race in the state indoor and outdoor championships respectively, found the course beneficial.

"It's my favorite course. It's not real hilly, it's a fast course," she said. Moore agreed. "The hills are in the right place and the flats are where I need them."

As she received hugs and praise from dozens of spectators and participants, Evans said her long distance training throughout the summer played a key role in her doing so well in the meet. Evans said she had a training schedule that included running 35-40 miles per week to get in shape for the season.

Moore said the large field of runners was very intimidating but that the high calibre of competition was a good start to the season.

Annandale's Jana Beckman placed third in 18:27.7, two seconds faster than Kim Desmond of Lake Braddock.