Fauquier sophomore Sarah Bowman left the Region II cross-country meet Thursday much more pleased than a year ago. A short time later at Panorama Farms, the Potomac Falls boys finally overcame five years of frustrating regional results.
Bowman, who has won all but one of her races this fall, turned in another dominating performance with a comfortable win on a five-kilometer course that Falcons Coach Mike Stanislaw said was "very difficult." Bowman shaved 10 seconds off her personal record and cruised to victory in 18 minutes 22 seconds.
Runner-up Jessica Fanning, who transferred this summer from Loudoun Valley to Western Albemarle, finished 38 seconds later.
"That's how she's been doing it all year," Falcons Coach Mike Stanislaw said of Bowman. "She pretty much is her own competition."
Disheartened last fall after an eighth-place finish at the Region II meet, Bowman had no one to push her Thursday toward her goal of 18 minutes.
"If someone was there," she said, "I probably would have run harder."
Bowman will have that opportunity at the Virginia AA meet Saturday at Fauquier's home course, Great Meadow. The easier course could help her quest to break 18 minutes, Stanislaw said.
Potomac Falls's boys will be there, too. The Panthers had individual qualifiers in years past but finished fifth as a team in three regional meets -- twice in the AAA Northern Region (1997 and 1998) and once in Region II the next year. The top four teams from each region advance to the state championships.
This year, Potomac Falls bucked the trend as six of seven runners set personal records and the team finished third with 104 points.
"We've won a lot of district titles, but we've never broken through at this race," said Panthers Coach Brian Blubaugh, whose team was 20 points behind first-place James Wood. "The guys couldn't have run any better."
Senior C.W. Moran led with a third-place individual finish. His time of 15:42 was eight seconds off the winning pace of Rockbridge County senior John Crews. Teammate Chris Mir finished eighth for Potomac Falls, Adam Smith was 26th and Torrin Patrick, Sean Wilson and Andrew Shanley placed in the top 40.
Thursday was not as satisfying for the Potomac Falls girls, who, like the boys, won the Dulles District meet last week. The Panthers finished fifth, three points behind fourth-place Harrisonburg. Junior Katie Endres and senior Meredith Cleveland advanced to states by placing in the top 15, but no teammate was in the top 50.
"We didn't run well today," Blubaugh said. "I'm happy for the guys, but then there's part of me that's not excited to do cartwheels because the girls didn't make it when they should have."
The Panthers were part of a field with little chance against juggernaut Western Albemarle, which placed five girls in the top 30 and won with 66 points, 63 points ahead of second-place Handley.
Three local boys advanced as individuals -- Liberty senior Dan Nally (fifth), Loudoun County senior Justin Kirk (ninth) and Fauquier junior Matt Bierlein (13th).
In team competition, most area entrants had little success. The Loudoun County boys and Loudoun Valley girls, each of whom placed seventh, were the only ones to finish better than 10th.
"A lot of fast people were here today," said Loudoun County Coach Courtney Campbell, whose girls were 13th. "The first mile was flying. My kids can do about 5 minutes, which is generally fast enough to be leading any race, and they were, like, 20th place."