The two long bus rides that Brentsville's cross-country team has taken the past few weeks have been pretty tolerable.
"The bus ride is a lot shorter coming back when you win," Coach Rob Dulin said.
After a pair of impressive performances at meets in North Carolina, the Tigers' boys have established themselves not only as one of Virginia's best teams but as a squad to be reckoned with on the East Coast.
At Saturday's elite Great American Cross Country Festival in Cary, N.C., the Brentsville boys finished 14th overall in the Race of Champions division, and the girls finished third in the red invitational division.
A week earlier at the Wendy's Invitational in Charlotte, the boys scored a dominating 88 points to take first place. Brentsville's girls finished a competitive third, just 12 points behind winner Chapel Hill (N.C.).The event was held at McAlpine Greenway Park, site of the Foot Locker South Region meet, the qualifier for the national meet held after the high school season.
The key for the Brentsville boys this season has been the dynamic one-two combination of junior Nick Gehlsen and senior Pat Eggleston.
Eggleston, an All-Extra track performer who missed the first few weeks of the cross-country season with an ankle injury, was 10th at the Charlotte race in a time of 16 minutes 10 seconds. Eggleston took 40th in the Great American race with a time of 16:28.
On the fast course at the Wendy's meet, Gehlsen finished fifth in a career-best time of 15:56. Gehlsen captured 44th at the Great American meet with a time of 16:32.
"Nick's worked his tail off over the summer," Dulin said. "He had a lot of success at the end of the outdoor [track] season, and he just took it to another level. I think he's made himself into one of the top 15 to 20 runners in the state."
But the Eggleston-Gehlsen duo is only part of the key to Brentsville's success. The Tigers' top five runners finished within 48 seconds of each other at Great American and within 46 seconds at Wendy's.
The girls have been powered by sophomore Becky Stewart, who was third at Wendy's and fifth at Great American.
This Saturday, the Tigers will go up against some of the Northern Region's top competition at the Glory Days Invitational.
"It's fun, it really is," Dulin said of the team's success. "It makes coaching and going to practice so much easier. It's exciting to be at this level."
Bruins Take Richmond
Junior Stefanie Slekis and sophomore Erin Caskey finished third and fourth, respectively, as Forest Park's girls won the Maymont Cross-Country Festival in Richmond on Saturday.
Slekis crossed the line in 18 minutes -- Caskey clocked an 18:54 -- as the Bruins had 111 points. Kristin Reese and Lindsay Southard of Carmel (N.Y.) were first and second to lead their squad to second place with 128 points.
On the boys' side, Bryce Iverson outlasted Walter Johnson senior All-Met Andrew Jesien to take first. The Bruins boys were third overall, behind Bishop Hendricken of Warwick, R.I., and Herndon.
Iverson won the three-mile race in 14:54, five seconds ahead of Jesien.