As the Brentsville boys' cross-country team showed with a decisive victory at its home meet Saturday, there is no undue pressure from being nationally ranked.
If anything, the rankings -- 23rd in the nation overall according to Harrier magazine, third in the Southeast Region for the Nike Team Nationals -- brought out the Tigers' best at the Brentsville Relays, which they won in record time a week after finishing second at the Great Meadow Invitational.
"It kind of motivates us more," said senior Nick Gehlsen, a second-team All-Met last year. "Last weekend we lost, and we all came into practice a little more focused. And then we come out here today and really try to get after it."
In the unique meet, a 5x2,500-meter nighttime relay held under artificial lights around Brentsville's rural campus in Nokesville, the Tigers' quintet of sophomore Ray Delgado, junior Adam Henken, senior Eric Ekholm, junior Henry Melius and Gehlsen pulled away to win in 39 minutes 33 seconds, breaking by 18 seconds the course record set by West Springfield in 2001.
The Tigers finished 24 seconds ahead of Colonial Forge (39:57), which upset the hosts last year to win the event, and more than a minute ahead of third-place North Stafford (40:38).
"It was our home race and we lost last year," Henken said. "We didn't want that to happen again, not at our home meet."
On the girls' side, Eleanor Roosevelt won the title in a time of 46:29, five seconds ahead of Midlothian and nine seconds ahead of Brentsville.
The top six finishers broke the previous meet record, which had been 48:20. Brentsville junior Becky Stewart, a second-team All-Met last year, ran the meet's fastest split as the Brentsville anchor, tying the meet record by completing 2,500 meters in 8:53.
Brentsville's girls are ranked sixth in the Southeast by Nike Team Nationals. Midlothian is fifth; Roosevelt was ranked 10th in the preseason poll.
No other Prince William County girls' team finished in the top 20 of the 53-team meet. Area boys' teams fared somewhat better, with Osbourn Park taking sixth (41:10) and Forest Park finishing ninth (41:27).
Battlefield placed 20th in 42:32, but the Bobcats got the meet's second-fastest split from senior Jason Driscoll, who clocked a 7:36 as Battlefield's first runner.
Only Eleanor Roosevelt senior All-Met Mikias Gelagle ran a faster split, clocking a 7:27.
But Brentsville took the lead on the third leg and kept it, led by Melius's team-best 7:47 split.
Battlefield led after one lap thanks to Driscoll, and North Stafford and Colonial Forge both were in front after that, but by the fourth lap Brentsville had established a commanding lead.