Each week, The Washington Post will chronicle the race experience of an area cross-country runner. Brentsville senior David Aleman is the defending Virginia Group A champion and helped the Tigers win their first title in school history last year. On Saturday, Aleman had his best finish at a major invitational, placing second to Harrisonburg's Jorge Ruiz at the William & Mary Invitational. His time of 15 minutes 33 seconds was a second slower than Ruiz. Aleman said he got off to a slow start because of a series of hills in the race's first 200 meters. After the first mile, he was in the middle of the pack.
"I got out to a bad start. I did not want to hit those hills too hard and be paying for it later.
"It seemed like everyone else went out fast for the first mile and I was around the time I normally am for the first mile. I was going off what it felt like, pace-wise.
"I was real surprised the way the course runs. You run the better part of the first mile out in an open field where you can see everybody and everybody is cheering you on. Then there was a trail in the woods. I did not realize until I was in the woods that I was running with the top eight.
"The only reason I started passing at that time was that I was not wearing out like everybody else. When I hit the woods, I got extremely focused on what I needed to do to stay with the pack. It's one of the points you get to when you are competing where you can't really feel the pain you are going through. You are in the zone.
"I was told I was sixth at the two-mile marker. One through six was one big pack in the woods. I had no idea I would have fared as well as I did that day. Coming out of the woods, I had caught up and passed most of the pack and was running third or fourth at that time.
"I probably was not thinking that well when I took the lead. I should have thrown a surge probably a little bit before I did. I felt if I threw in a surge I would have lost [Ruiz] because most runners, when you get a certain length ahead of them, worry about who's on their back instead. I did not end up doing that and we ended up staying with each other in the final 600 meters and he obviously had the better kick.
"[Ruiz] was Virginia Class AA and I was Class A. The rest of the guys behind us were Virginia Class AAA. Usually at William & Mary, Virginia AAA runners take the few top spots. It shows that Virginia AA and Class A runners can get out there and run with the AAA runners."