Hayfield senior Melissa Dewey had dominated every race she ran this year, but she still found herself battling doubts before last Saturday's Virginia AAA cross-country championships at Great Meadow in The Plains.
"I had gotten myself worked up about this race," Dewey said. "Before the race, I just said to myself to go out, run your race and have fun. The jitters always go away."
By the second mile of the race, Dewey had built a commanding lead over Western Branch freshman Aurora Scott. She ended up crossing the finish line in 18 minutes 10 seconds, 72 seconds better than Scott and plenty fast enough for the state championship.
The two-time All-Met heads to the Foot Locker South Regional meet on Nov. 27 with her sights set on finishing in the top eight -- which would qualify her for the Foot Locker national meet, held Dec. 11 in San Diego.
While Dewey raced ahead of the pack, Lake Braddock's team held strong to earn a surprising championship. Senior Kelsey Snowden was sixth, sophomore Michelle Presley was 15th and the Bruins finished with a total of 82 points. Second-place James River had 97, Maggie Walker had 130 and Oakton had 134.
Oakton had been ranked first in the Southeast Region in the Nike team rankings and appeared poised for a berth in the Nike Team Nationals. At the Northern Region meet, Oakton dominated, putting four runners in the top nine, and the Bruins said that loss gave them a wake-up call.
"We really wanted this [state title], and I think that gave us some motivation," Snowden said. "We wanted to show that we could do it."
Jefferson's boys, also considered an underdog by many coaches, won the title with 76 points, well ahead of West Potomac (119) and J.R. Tucker (127), a team that also had been ranked highly in the Nike team rankings. Tucker's Michael Chapa won the individual title easily, but it was not enough for the team to overcome Jefferson.
The Colonials' five lead runners finished within 15 seconds of each other, and the school from the Alexandria section of Fairfax County won its second title in three years.
West Potomac's second-place finish may have been the most surprising result of the day. The Wolverines had finished second in the Patriot District, and then they barely qualified for the state meet by finishing fourth in the Northern Region -- scoring one more point than fifth-place Herndon.
Wolverines Coach Don Beeby said he told his team that once they got to the state meet, they could have a chance to surprise some people, and they took the advice to heart by putting together a group of peak performances.
At the Northern Region meet, the Wolverines' first five finished between 14th and 38th place; on Saturday, the Wolverines' top five finished from 19th to 53rd in the state.
Senior Nick Jachowski was the top West Potomac finisher at both meets, and he crossed the finish line Saturday in 17:10.
"I told them that we had numbers that no other school had except for [Jefferson]," Beeby said. "I said that if you just get to this meet, you'll be surprised how well you do. And, boy, they really responded."