Osbourn Park's Anthony Arena was the highest finisher of any Prince William area boy at Saturday's Virginia AAA state meet, but he hopes to cap his high school career with one more strong race.
Arena, along with several of the area's other standouts, will travel to the Foot Locker South Regional meet Nov. 30 in Charlotte to compete for one of the eight qualifying spots for the Dec. 14 national championship meet in San Diego. For Arena, who finished 10th in the state, the regional meet is also a stepping stone to running in college.
"You can definitely get noticed, and it's good to see all the runners in the Southeast," said Arena, who has narrowed his college choices to the University of Virginia, the University of North Carolina, Penn State and Clemson.
Arena is hoping to finish in the top 50 on the flat, fast course that four-time state champion Bobby Lockhart of Handley blazed last year in 14 minutes 43 seconds. Although he had the best finish of any area runner -- 142nd in 16:40 -- in the 264-runner boys' race last year, Arena said the size and intensity of the meet was intimidating.
"I was a little overwhelmed -- it's nothing like any of the invitationals. It'll be good to know what I'm getting into this year."
Other area entrants include Potomac junior Jill Porto, Forest Park's Beth Fahey and Stephanie Slekis -- the top freshman finisher (16th) at the state meet -- as well as Arena's sister, sophomore Emily Arena. Forest Park sophomore Bryce Iverson may go if he's over the minor knee injury that hindered him at the state meet.
Hylton senior Jemissa Hess was 14th last year and is Virginia's top returning runner at the Foot Locker meet. After her disappointing ninth-place finish at the state meet, a top-eight qualifying time would serve nicely as redemption.
"I was physically ready [for the state meet], but just being physically ready doesn't mean it's going to go your way," Hess said. "I'm looking forward to [Foot Locker]. Just because you have one bad day doesn't mean you'll have another."
"Jemissa's like a hornet's nest -- she doesn't like to be beaten," Potomac Coach Bill Stearns said.
Stonewall Jackson junior Kristin Milot earned her own redemption at the state meet. She said she "fell off the face of the earth" before the Northwestern Region meet, but qualified sixth and kicked her way into 15th place and her first all-state medal two weeks later.
"I slipped a couple times, and I probably saved some time sliding down the hills," Milot said, laughing. "But the difference between 15th and third was about 20 seconds, so I'm right up there."
After a season of ups and downs -- at the early-season Lake Fairfax Invitational she defeated eventual state runner-up Morgan Phelan of Hayfield -- she said she was just content to end the season on a positive note.
"I was pretty happy, but I definitely have room to improve," Milot said. "I'm ready for track season, ready to put everything that's happened this season behind me."