Once again, the Oakton girls' cross-country team presented an imposing sea of burgundy jerseys at the front of the pack in yesterday's Virginia AAA Northern Region cross-country championship meet.
With an impressive display of pack running, Oakton's top four runners -- junior Kayley Byrne, senior Danielle Light, sophomore Meredith Tighe and senior Allegra Smith -- finished within 15 seconds of one another for second, third, seventh and eighth, respectively. The Cougars had 37 points, well ahead of Lake Braddock's 68, to capture the region crown and qualify for the AAA state meet on Nov. 13 in The Plains.
Oakton has five wins this year as well as a fourth-place finish among elite competition at the Great American Cross-Country Festival. The Cougars are ranked No. 1 in the Southeast Region; the top four teams from each of eight regions will qualify for the first Nike Team National meet on Dec. 4 in Portland, Ore.
"This whole year we've been focusing on pack running, it's helped the team go so far," Byrne said. "There's no pressure. We have each other, we're always looking out for each other."
Despite cold, rainy conditions at Burke Lake Park, Hayfield senior Melissa Dewey added another decisive victory to her spectacular season, blazing through the soggy 2.98-mile course in 17 minutes 7 seconds, more than a minute faster than Byrne (18:14).
Dewey is unbeaten this season, and she is a favorite at the state meet next week and possibly at the Foot Locker South Region race in Charlotte later this month. Last week, the two-time All-Met ran the third-fastest time in Burke Lake history, 16:42, to win the Patriot District meet.
"I was just trying to go out there and have a good time," Dewey said. "It's really fun to run in this, but it's also really cold. I wasn't trying to go out too fast or anything."
In the boys' race, Chantilly junior Brad Siragusa used his trademark finishing kick to pull out an exciting win over Lee senior Dawit Legesse. Siragusa stayed in the back of the lead pack for the first two miles before moving into second behind Legesse. With 200 meters left, Siragusa made his move on an incline and passed Legesse to win in 15:19. Legesse crossed the line in 15:21, and Herndon's Abrehem Daganchew took third in 15:28.
Jefferson's boys cruised to the team title with 68 points, followed by Oakton's 91. The Colonials' top five runners finished in the top 21, including ninth-place Paul Norland and 10th-place Kyle Smith.
The top four teams and top 15 individuals qualified for next week's state meet. West Springfield was third at 111, and West Potomac's boys took the fourth team spot by one point over Herndon. The Wolverines' fifth finisher, Daniel Jachowski, won a final sprint to take 38th, and sixth and seventh runners Sam Stevens and Tyler Gray finished before Herndon's fifth runner to provide the small margin of victory.