Well before the opening gun at the AAA Northwestern Region boys' cross-country race, Osbourn senior Charlie Swartz was feeling good. Swartz was feeling even better later after a smartly run, hard-fought race that resulted in a second-place individual finish.
"I didn't believe I felt that good; it felt like I was dreaming," Swartz said. "I made a comment to somebody before the meet that I could barely feel my legs before the meet they were so fresh . . . Now, I'm just ecstatic."
Swartz, the Cedar Run champion, was the Prince William area's top male finisher at the region meet, held Friday afternoon on the hilly five-kilometer course at Panorama Farms. Forest Park senior Bryce Iverson, the Cardinal District champ, took sixth, and the Bruins' top five finishers placed within the top 31 as the Bruins' boys took second behind Colonial Forge. E.C. Glass junior Patterson Wilhelm was the individual champ with a time of 16 minutes 13 seconds.
Forest Park junior Stefanie Slekis won her seventh race of the season, finishing in a time of 19:02, and sophomore teammate Erin Caskey took fifth to lead the Bruins' girls to third place with 108 points, behind Brooke Point (70) and Colonial Forge (74).
Slekis trailed for more than a mile against Franklin County sophomore Brittany Killough before grabbing the lead for good. On a cool, breezy day, Slekis seemed to labor a bit, but she had enough energy to hold off Colonial Forge freshman Kaylan Comer and Killough, who finished second and third, respectively.
"It wasn't any one specific thing," Slekis said of her race. "I had a lot of schoolwork this past week, and I wasn't doing things the way I normally do them. So I didn't [run] the time I may have wanted, but that's okay. . . . Next week will be a better week."
The top four teams and top 15 individuals from the region meet qualified for the AAA state championships Saturday at Great Meadow in the Plains.
Along with the Forest Park girls, Osbourn Park senior Emily Arena, the Cedar Run girls' champ who finished eighth, and Potomac senior Allison Hess, who finished 12th, qualified for the girls' state meet. Battlefield junior Jason Driscoll finished 13th and Osbourn sophomore Glen Weaver took 14th to qualify for the boys' meet.
Iverson ran with a bandaged left knee, the result of a strain that has nagged him all season. The preseason region favorite could not come up with the strength to stay at the front.
"We're going to try anything and everything [on the knee] for next week," Bruins Coach John Rock said. "He gave everything he had today, and the rest of the team did a great job to pick up some of the slack."
Swartz, too, has battled a knee injury this season and because of it had maintained a high workout rate throughout the year, logging 55 miles per week. But last week, he cut back on his workout to rest up for the region meet.
To save energy, Swartz stayed behind the lead pack until the final mile of the race. He found himself in good position with 500 meters to go, and although he was too far behind to pass Wilhelm, Swartz raced by Culpeper junior Devin Cornwall near the finish line to take second in 16:21.
"All I knew was what my training was, and that I was working as hard as anybody out there during the summer and this season," Swartz said. "I didn't know it would be this good today, but I knew it was going to be good."