Broad Run junior Stephanie Garcia says she does not like hilly cross-country courses. But for the second straight week, Garcia mastered one, this time the Great Meadow five-kilometer course in The Plains at the Virginia AA championships.
At last Saturday's meet, Garcia finished fourth overall with a time of 20 minutes 20 seconds.
"I feel really good," Garcia said. "I knew this one wasn't going to be as [tough as] last week's [Region II meet]. I've run on this course before, so I knew kind of what to expect."
A year after taking 21st in the state, Garcia was the Washington area's top finisher at this year's AA meet, capping a season in which she has found herself at the front of nearly every race, including a Dulles District championship and a third-place finish at the Region II meet, held on the hilly course at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington.
Garcia stayed with the front pack -- Catherine White of North Side (19:23), Tasmin Fanning of Western Albemarle (19:36) and Samantha Stafford of Western Albemarle (19:56) -- before trailing off near the end. But she had enough to hold off the rest of the pack for fourth.
Stone Bridge freshman Kelly Dunn finished 14th, and Loudoun Valley junior Diana VanVleet finished 15th. The top 15 runners and top three teams earned all-state honors.
Stone Bridge senior Kyle Kinnally capped his strong season with an eighth-place finish in the boys' race, and Dulles champ Sean Bernett of Heritage was 10th. Brentsville senior Pat Eggleston won in 17:02; Kinnally clocked 17:16, and Bernett finished in 17:17.
Kinnally was one of the area's top runners, making the top 10 of tough races like the Glory Days Invitational and the Georgetown Prep Invitational. He lost to Bernett in the district meet.
"Toward districts and regionals I was starting to feel a little iffy," Kinnally said. "I guess I was getting too confident, and it woke me up in a way. . . . I had one last meet, and I wanted to turn it up for that."
Potomac Falls's boys earned a trip to the podium with a third-place finish. The Panthers had 129 points, tied with Tabb, but won the tiebreaker because James Daffer finished ahead of Tabb's sixth runner.
Senior Sean Wilson was the team's top finisher, taking 22nd, and the next three Panthers runners, junior Max Werner, senior Torrie Patrick and sophomore Brian Holton, finished in 37th through 39th place.
"It's a team effort all the time, always stay with the pack," Wilson said. "We always push each other a lot, and that gives us a lot of confidence."
Starting last June, Garcia got a personal trainer, and she saw the positive results quickly. She said she plans on having a trainer again next summer and hopefully competing for a state title.
"I trained for six months for this race right here, starting with my personal trainer in June," Garcia said. "I'm confident, but I don't want to be cocky. I'm going to keep working hard in the winter for track."