Despite a summer spent resting instead of training, Broad Run senior Stephanie Garcia has felt just fine at the start of the high school cross-country season.
With another impressive performance on Saturday at the Oatlands Invitational in Leesburg, the second-team All-Met is showing she is again one of the area's top AA runners despite missing the summer with a stress fracture in her left leg.
"I wasn't able to run for most of the summer. I basically didn't start until August," Garcia said. "I feel a little behind, but I feel I'm still strong."
Garcia came up a little short in a head-to-head battle with Colonial Forge junior Brittany Copeland on a cool, cloudy Saturday afternoon at Oatlands Plantation. Copeland pulled away at the end to win the five-kilometer race in 19 minutes 4 seconds. Garcia finished second in 19:11. It was still a strong showing for Garcia against a large collection of Northern Virginia schools, including many from the difficult Northern Region.
All of the area's cross-country teams traveled to Oatlands for the first Oatlands Invitational, co-hosted by Loudoun County and Heritage and featuring 43 teams. In the girls' race, Potomac Falls senior Kiersten Petersen finished fourth (19:37), four seconds behind third-place finisher Danielle Moyer, a Clarke County sophomore. No other area girl finished in the top 10.
Northwest of Germantown, Md., was the team champ, scoring 104 points to Westfield's 174. Stone Bridge had the best finish among area squads, scoring 264 points to take seventh. Liberty was eighth with 286.
On the boys' side, Herndon junior All-Met Abe Dagnachew won in a time of 15:45, two seconds ahead of Chantilly senior All-Met Brad Siragusa, who made a few attempts to take the lead but could not pass Dagnachew. Clarke County, the defending Group A champion, was the team champ with 91 points, followed by North Stafford (109) and Herndon (132).
Potomac Falls was the top area team, scoring 222 points for sixth place. Senior Max Werner was the Panthers' top finisher, finishing 13th in a time of 16:47. Heritage finished ninth behind the area's top performance, a ninth-place overall finish by Pride junior Nick McLaughlin (16:38), a transfer from Leesburg Christian competing for the school for the first time.
Garcia's finish in the girls' race was her second second-place finish in two weeks, after she took second at the James Wood Invitational in Winchester on Sept. 17. A year ago, Garcia was the Dulles District champion.
Garcia and Copeland established themselves as the top two runners early in the race, and after the 2.5-mile mark, Garcia had the lead. But Copeland made a surge to grab the lead for good.
"I'm very excited. I had an awesome time for such a hilly course, so I think I did really well," Garcia said.