Each week, The Washington Post will chronicle the race experience of an area cross-country runner. This week, we are featuring Handley sophomore Bobby Lockhart, who has not lost to a Virginia opponent during the regular season since the first varsity race of his freshman season. He successfully defended his AA title on Saturday at Great Meadow in The Plains, crossing the line in 15 minutes 39 seconds -- more than 24 seconds faster than his winning time last season (16:03.6). His race, as told to correspondent Bryan Tucker.
"I was not really nervous about the competition. I just wanted to run the time I wanted to run [15:25]. I was also really concerned about how our team would do.
"I was thinking about what kind of splits I would run. Hopefully, I would hit the splits and run in the 15:20s. Once the gun went off and I got out at the half-mile, my legs felt a little heavy. I knew I wouldn't have a great race.
"Once I felt my legs weren't springy and I did not have the leg turnover, I knew I wouldn't produce a really fast time. After I went through a mile at 4:42 and I was not feeling up to par, I just tried to stay consistent and tried to finish the race out and tried to win.
"[Jamestown's] Bryce Ruiz was within two seconds of me [at the mile]. It was pretty weird [having someone that close]. I figured it was Ruiz right behind me because I knew he was a great runner. Once I went through the mile, I knew if someone went with me they would break down soon. I figured, even if I was not running great, usually no one goes through the mile that fast with me. I tried to keep running hard, and at the mile, my stomach was feeling bad and my legs were really flat. My legs had felt really flat through the whole time but especially through the first mile.
"After the mile, I had a pretty big lead ... it was not a tremendously large lead by any means, and I tried to push the pace as much as I could even though I was not feeling that good. My two-mile split was 9:53. After I saw that, I thought I was going to have to really kick it in. Once I ran through that split, I knew I was not going to run a fast time. I felt horrible. I'm not really sure why ... maybe I did not drink enough water that morning. I think it was a combination of not having enough water and having a bad day. After that, I was pretty mad. I was trying to run as hard as I could under the circumstances.
"I remember hearing a couple people saying `Harrisonburg's Jorge [Ruiz] is gaining on you,' so I picked up the pace a little bit. That was the fastest time he has ever run [15:53.80]. I had beaten him by 31 seconds at regionals and 58 seconds at the Dixie Classic.
"I heard the stands cheering [Ruiz] on, but I was not worried about him beating me. Going down the hill [at the two and three-quarters mile mark], I tried to open my stride a little more to gain a little lead, but I just did not have it. After I came through the gate, I just held on to the lead and won by  seconds, which was not very good. It was better I had a bad race at states than at Foot Locker," Lockhart said, referring to the Foot Locker South Regional championships in Charlotte, on Nov. 27. That meet is considered one of the largest national high school cross-country events of the year.
"I was pleased that I won ... I was not really concerned about the state title or running in 15:20s, because I am capable of doing it but on that given day I did not have it. I'm not going to worry about it too much because I am going to run a faster time.
"[Our team] ended up finishing fifth, which is a good race for us. If everyone ran up to par, we probably would have finished fourth. We were not disappointed by our performance.
"Hopefully, in North Carolina, I can go faster than that. Like most people train for states, I have been training for North Carolina. Hopefully, I will peak there."