Heritage senior Sean Bernett had been through what seemed like a season full of near-misses running against Stone Bridge senior Kyle Kinnally. So before Thursday's AA Dulles District championship meet, Bernett took stock of what was going wrong and adjusted his strategy. "Usually I'm at the front, and then he'd pass me," Bernett said. "Today I came out behind him and waited for him."
Lurking behind Kinnally for almost all of the race, Bernett burst ahead with 200 meters remaining and held off Kinnally for an exciting win at the district cross-county championships at Great Meadow in The Plains. Bernett won in 16 minutes 19 seconds, three seconds better than Kinnally.
In the girls' race, Broad Run junior Stephanie Garcia used the opposite strategy to pull out her first district title. Garcia took an early lead on the five-kilometer course in Fauquier County and held off the competition in a close finish to win in 19:33. Stone Bridge freshman Kelly Dunn was second (19:36), followed by teammate Megan Malacarne (19:41).
"I wanted to start out and get the lead," Garcia said. "Then don't let them pass you."
The top four teams and top 15 individuals in each race qualified for the Region II meet, to be held Thursday at 2 p.m. at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington.
Potomac Falls's boys dominated to win the team title, having its first five runners finish in the top 11. Stone Bridge (64), Heritage (87) and Loudoun County (88) also qualified.
With three finishers in the top six, Stone Bridge took home the girls' team title with 41 points. Loudoun Valley had 53, followed by Loudoun County's 98. Potomac Falls had 118 points, one point better than Broad Run's 119, to take the final automatic berth.
The last 200 meters were challenging for Garcia, who looked winded as she held off Dunn in the end. Yet, when she regained her breath, she let out a big smile and raised her arms.
"I really wanted this so much," Garcia said. "At the end it hurt, but I really wanted to win."
Bernett trailed close behind Kinnally for almost the entire race Thursday before using a final hill near the finish line to take the race-winning lead. Bernett didn't look behind him as he held off Kinnally.
"My coach tells me that if you're looking behind you at the end, it means you're running scared," Bernett said. "I wasn't going to look back at the end."
The Liberty girls finished third in the Northwestern District meet, also held at Great Meadow, to qualify as a team for the Region II meet this week. Deanna Andrews and Rachel Fichthorn were sixth and eighth, respectively, to spark the Eagles.
Brentsville swept both team and individual titles. Sophomore Becky Stewart won the girls' race, while senior Pat Eggleston won the boys' race. Fauquier's Ben Chrisinger was 12th in the boys' race, and teammate Julia Wanch was 14th in the girls' race to qualify for the region meet.
Fauquier senior Sarah Bowman, a six-time All-Met considered a state contender, quit her team and did not run. Bowman said she quit after a dispute last week with Coach Anita Murphy, who said Thursday that Bowman left the team to pursue individual interests.
Bowman said that she will train for the Foot Locker national cross-country meet in November and that she likely will run this winter for Fauquier's indoor track team, which is not coached by Murphy.