Her first instinct usually tells her to push, to grab an early lead and stave off the pack. The hardest part for Brooke Point's Brittany Copeland can be taming that miler's fervor and channeling it into a three-miler's patience.
This, she knows, could be the difference between winning and losing. That was evident in the sophomore's victory in the girls' A division race at the Oktoberfest Invitational yesterday at Great Meadow in The Plains. Trailing Broad Run's Stephanie Garcia for most of the race, Copeland simply waited until the final half mile, when she assumed control. Finishing the 5,000-meter course in 19 minutes 58.63 seconds, Copeland placed eight seconds ahead of Garcia (20:06.13) and claimed her first career victory.
"She was patient out there today," Brooke Point Coach Teresa Jones said. "Since she had never won a race before, I wanted her to go out there and sort of sit and wait. What I'm trying to push with most of them is to stay in control in the race."
Copeland, a half-miler and miler on the Stafford school's track team, found her middle-distance speed was at times her best asset and biggest obstacle during her freshman year. Fast starts would often give way to exasperating finishes. So Jones worked with Copeland and her teammates on reining in some of that energy and preserving it for the final stretch.
Copeland's newfound approach is working thus far. Her goal was to break the 20-minute mark this season, and with her title yesterday she has done so twice over the past two weeks. Last weekend she set a personal record of 19:21.9 at the Black Hawk/Wolverine Invite, finishing second.
"I feel like now that I [broke 20 minutes], I should be doing it more often," Copeland said.
Lake Braddock captured the team title in the A division race. Led by third-place Erin Klein, four Bruins placed in the top eight as the team scored 29 points to beat second-place Brooke Point (113).
In the boys' A race, Jefferson won with 42 points, ahead of second-place West Potomac (120). Chantilly's Brad Siragusa raced past Lee's Dawitt Legesse during the final 150 meters to claim his third straight individual victory.
After titles at the Monroe Parker and Lake Fairfax invitationals last month, Siragusa's time of a 16:14.63 yesterday was a personal best. He said he figured he'd see Legesse (16:17.65) near the finish line, since he needed a furious sprint over the last 500 meters to pass Legesse at Monroe Parker.
"That was my plan going in," Siragusa said. "I have a pretty good kick at the end, and I try to use it to my advantage."