Brentsville senior Holly Smelser was the Tigers' top finisher in the Virginia A girls' race at the state cross-country championships. The order of finish was incorrect in the Nov. 17 Extra. (Published 11/24/02)

The Brentsville boys' cross-country team proved its reputation as "mudders," running as a strong pack on a soggy course to win yesterday's Virginia A state championship.

Brentsville placed five runners in the top 15 to win by six points over Page County, the team it lost to by five last year. Page County junior Todd Somers won in 16 minutes 53 seconds over George Mason junior Andrew Montgomery, but the Tigers stuck to their game plan of letting the leaders go, in order to win as a team.

After winning the Region B meet ahead of Page County by four points, the Tigers strode into the state meet with confidence, but also with the mentality of an experienced team.

"We still had to race like we were No. 2," said senior Andrew Cheshire, who finished in 18:00, seventh in the team scoring. Senior Ben Truschel was sixth, freshman Nick Gehlsen was eighth, and sophomores Jacob Watts and Pat Eggleston were 11th and 12th, respectively.

Huddled tightly with fingers crossed, the Tigers erupted in cheers when the announcement was made. Walking to the podium as close to each other as they had finished, Brentsville looked at home in the dank, dismal conditions.

"We knew Page's strategy was to go out fast and hang on, and we knew on a course like this -- mud, high grass -- it might give us an advantage," Truschel said. "We knew adverse conditions weren't going to knock us off our game. Others complain about it -- we just run."

The Tigers will enter Virginia's AA classification next year, but their reputation is set in stone -- and mud.

"The guys are very experienced, and that's exactly how we needed to race," Dulin said. "We have a good mentality [about bad weather] -- mud, wind, snow -- all the better."

Meanwhile, the girls' team, which had won seven straight state titles, finished third, two points behind Madison County. Central Woodstock won with 45. Sophomore Lauren Robinson, who was running despite pulled abdominal muscles, was the team's highest finisher, 19th among team scoring runners.

"The girls have been inconsistent all year, but they were thrown a lot of obstacles and had a great race at regionals," Dulin said.

In the AAA girls' race, Forest Park junior Beth Fahey finished seventh in 19:33, just ahead of Potomac junior Jill Porto (19:37) and Hylton senior Jemissa Hess (19:38). Hickory senior Jennifer Boyd won in 18:54, ahead of Hayfield junior Morgan Phelan -- the only runner in the top six from the Northern Virginia area that was closed down during the sniper attacks.

"I kept a positive attitude through it all," said Fahey, who was 10th last year. "I think I like running in the rain, though. I consider it fun."

Potomac Coach Bill Stearns said that while the three-week layoff during the sniper attacks hurt the Northern and Northwestern region teams, it may have helped Porto by delaying the state meet by a week. Porto, who has a nagging case of bronchitis, had twice been unable to finish workouts during the past week, but had enough kick to pass Hess at the finish line.

"I saw [Hess] at the end, and I told myself I have to beat her," Porto said. "I've been trying to get up to her level."

The Forest Park girls were eighth and the boys were ninth. Osbourn Park senior Anthony Arena placed 10th the boys' race.

"It felt great, because I did well at regionals last year and then kind of choked at states," Arena said. "I slipped a little and had to grab a pole to stay up, but we run in mud a lot, so I wasn't worried."

Note: The meet was the final one for Woodbridge Coach Jim Rodgers, who is retiring.

"It's very sad, I'll miss it," Rodgers said. "Rain, snow, whatever -- it's been part of my life for 36 years."

Forest Park's Beth Fahey, left, and Potomac's Jill Porto placed seventh and eighth, respectively, in the girls' AAA state championships.Maria Cheshire and the Brentsville girls finished third at the Virginia A state championship yesterday, ending their run of seven consecutive state titles."We knew adverse conditions weren't going to knock us off our game," said Brentsville senior Ben Truschel of the muddy course at the state championships. "Others complain about it -- we just run."Above, Brentsville's Kelly Linsday, right, gives teammate Erin Germain a supportive hug after the girls' A race. At right, Osbourn Park's Anthony Arena gets a hug of the congratulatory sort from teammate Beth Pacentrilli. Arena placed 10th in the boys' AAA race, the highest finish among local boys.