The Loudoun County High School girls cross-country team placed fourth to emerge as the lone local program to qualify for states at last week's championships for Region II, the toughest in Virginia AA.
Now the Raiders have to push even harder.
Defending state champion Louisa County--anchored by the senior duo of Jill Wilson and Charissa George--is the favorite to win the girls race, which starts at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at The Plains in Great Meadow. Western Albemarle also will be competitive.
But Loudoun County Coach Courtney Campbell believes her team could finish as high as third.
"The top three get trophies, and we have a shot if we run really well to get third," Campbell said. "We just have to move up and pick off one more person, and we just need to find a second faster from everybody."
A key for the Raiders will be the performance of junior Melissa Caudill, who is in her second season of cross-country. She was the runner-up at the AA Northwestern District championships two weeks ago and placed 25th at states last fall in 20 minutes 17.10 seconds.
Last Thursday, Caudill finished sixth in the girls race to garner the highest local showing at the Virginia AA Region II cross-country championships at Rockingham County Fairgrounds near Harrisonburg.
Caudill "ran great," Campbell said. "She went on aggressively and went out with the top people and actually led a mile and a quarter of the way into the race. She is good enough to challenge the top people."
Campbell has pleaded for Caudill to run aggressively all season.
"I guess I never tried to push myself as hard as a I could," Caudill said. "Now that I am aggressive, I hopefully now can bring my time down."
She finished in 19:44 in the Region II championships.
Meanwhile, Potomac Falls senior Jeff Maynard, the top local boys finisher at the region meet (16:20, fifth), has his sights set on not falling too far behind defending AA state champion Bobby Lockhart of Handley at states.
Maynard "knows the course very well; it will be his third or fourth time running [it]," Panthers Coach Brian Blubaugh said. "I think he will definitely improve on his fifth place in regionals. Lockhart is definitely going to be untouchable, but [Maynard] might want to focus on the number two spot."
Saturday's boys race starts at 11:15 a.m.
The Potomac Falls boys finished with 115 points, but 10 points behind fourth-place Harrisonburg--and thus just missing a state berth as a team despite junior Neil Coleman running the course in 17:01 (11th).
"I think [qualifying for states] was ours for the taking," Blubaugh said. "I think all of our guys could have gotten two more people, and our four through seven runners just did not run well. They had a good year and a lot of good accomplishments, but it is definitely one that we gave away."
Region II Championships
1, Bobby Lockhart, Handley, 15:36; 2, Jorge Ruiz, Harrisonburg, 16:07; 3, Jeremiah Cadle, Western Albemarle, 16:16; 4, Philip DeJong, Western Albemarle, 16:19; 5, Jeff Maynard, Potomac Falls, 16:20; 6, Daniel Kane, Louisa, 16:25; 7, Charles Hurt, Western Albemarle, 16:37; 8, Jonathon Tew, Loudoun Valley, 16:51; 9, James Kays, Stuarts Draft, 16:54; 10, Daniel Armentrout, Harrisonburg, 17:00; 11, Neil Coleman, Potomac Falls, 17:01; 12, David Bolton, Loudoun County, 17:01; 13, Todd Lucia, Western Albemarle, 17:03; 14, Jared O'Kane, Handley, 17:05; 15, Chris Roger, Handley, 17:06. Top teams: 1, Western Albemarle, 41; 2, Louisa, 82; 3, Handley, 105; 4, Harrisonburg, 105; 5, Potomac Falls, 115; 6, Loudoun Valley, 135; 7, Turner-Ashby, 162; 8, Park View, 199.
1, Elizabeth Wilbourne, Western Albemarle, 19:02; 2, Charissa George, Louisa, 19:12; 3, Jill Wilson, Louisa, 19:19; 4, Carissa Bazzle, Broadway, 19:28; 5, Rachel Haley, Turner-Ashby, 19:41; 6, Melissa Caudill, Loudoun County, 19:44; 7, Christy Dannenberg, Potomac Falls, 19:50; 8, Jennifer Lapetoda, Loudoun County, 19:51; 9, Teresa Davis, Louisa, 19:53; 10, Lauren Cutright, Louisa, 20:09; 11, Audrey Pietrzyk, Broad Run, 20:20; 12, Delaney Moje, Western Albemarle, 20:22; 13, Tamara Buckman, Broad Run, 20:22; 14, Natalie Pierce, Turner-Ashby, 20:28; 15, Betsy Kain, Turner-Ashby, 20:31. Top teams: 1, Louisa, 50; 2, Western Albemarle, 65; 3, Turner-Ashby, 75; 4, Loudoun County, 82; 5, Broad Run, 131; 6, Potomac Falls, 134.