Twice at yesterday's Oatlands Invitational, Chantilly senior Brad Siragusa surged forward to Herndon junior Abe Dagnachew's heels, and both times, without looking, Dagnachew pulled ahead.
Despite the best efforts of Siragusa, an All-Met last fall and one of the area's most dangerous runners at the end of a race, Dagnachew pulled out his second victory of the cross-country season, winning the Leesburg five-kilometer race in 15 minutes 45 seconds, two seconds better than Siragusa.
"He's got great instincts," Herndon Coach Pete Sherry said of Dagnachew, who was an All-Met during indoor and outdoor track season. "I don't do a lot with him, to be honest, I guide him more than anything. I just let him do his own thing, because it works."
The girls' race was similarly exciting, as Brooke Point junior Brittany Copeland and Broad Run senior Stephanie Garcia were neck and neck for nearly the entire race. Copeland took the lead late and used a strong kick to win in 19:04, seven seconds better than Garcia.
Garcia had the lead after climbing the course's most daunting hill at the 2.5-mile mark, but Copeland pulled away during the final stretch to win.
"I'm both happy to have done as well as I did and upset I couldn't win it," Garcia said. "It was so close the whole way, but she just made a move at the end and I couldn't catch up."
Northwest's girls won their third consecutive team title to start this season, scoring 104 points to beat Westfield's 174 in the 43-team meet at the Oatlands Plantation. Sophomore Emma Eckerstrom took eighth and senior Rachel Forcino was 10th, helping Northwest win easily a week after capturing the title at the Bull Run Invitational and two weeks after winning the Mount St. Mary's Invite.
A year after finishing second in Maryland 3A, the Jaguars were reclassified into 4A, but they appear to have a team that could contend for a state title with favorites Eleanor Roosevelt and C.M. Wright.
On the boys' side, Clarke County, the defending Virginia Group A state champion, used its strong pack to win with 91 points, ahead of North Stafford's 109. While some of the area's top teams were absent -- Jefferson took the week off, while Brentsville traveled to North Carolina for the Great American Cross-Country Festival -- the win was still impressive against a collection of mostly larger schools. Junior Simon Biddle-Snead, who won the state title last year, led the Eagles in 11th place.
Dagnachew, who took third in the Virginia AAA Northern Region last year -- a race that Siragusa won -- grabbed the lead early in the boys' race. On the final straightaway, which was slightly downhill, Siragusa entered an all-out sprint, but Dagnachew sensed the threat and picked up his speed, racing into the finish line for his second win. Three weeks earlier, Dagnachew won the Virginia Tech Invitational by 30 seconds.
"I tried so hard to close it, but I couldn't," Siragusa said. "He was definitely strong last year, but this year he's even stronger."