Jefferson cross-country coach Matt Ryan knows the importance of his team being patient. So far this season, it's been a virtue for the Virginia AAA champions both on and off the course.

In their first big meet of the year, the Colonials broke out yesterday with a convincing team win in the "A" race at the Octoberfest Invitational at Great Meadow in The Plains.

"We really haven't had anything challenging to this point," said Ryan. "But this was a good field today, and I know these guys have been itching to prove themselves."

Jefferson has held back from competing in larger invitationals this year in favor of training hard as a team and working to maintain championship form.

Yesterday, the Colonials displayed the top-to-bottom consistency that not only earned them a state title but has them ranked as one of the top teams in the nation. They placed five runners in the top 28 spots for 83 points, distancing themselves from Herndon (145) and North Stafford (188).

Paul Norland was the top finisher for Jefferson, finishing eighth. He was followed by Hersh Singh (11th) and Brian Landry (15th).

Richard Prevost, who finished 21st, has boosted the Colonials by cutting an average of two minutes from his times from last year.

While the Colonials were happy to win, they expect to keep improving and remain businesslike in their approach.

Jefferson ranks second in the southeast region of the Nike Team Nationals rankings, placing it among 16 teams that would receive an invitation to the elite event held in Portland, Ore., on Dec. 3. In order to be an elite team, the Colonials talk about closing the gap between their fifth and sixth runners.

Rather than splitting their practices runner-by-runner, the Colonials work as a team to make sure they push everyone.

"They have high expectations, and they're really tough on themselves because they know what it takes to win," Ryan said. "It keeps them humble."

Chantilly's Brad Siragusa won the 5K event in 15 minutes 44 seconds. It was his first win at a major invitational after claiming second-place finishes the past two weeks.

"Last year I really felt pressure to win every single race," Siragusa said. "And even though I finished second a couple times, I really felt like I was running well."

"I have to admit, though, it does take some of the pressure off to get a win."

Rachel Rose of Albermarle won the girls' race in 17:59, followed by Forest Park's Stefanie Slekis (18:16) and Brooke Point's Brittany Copeland (18:19).

"I improved my time from the beginning of the year on a tough course," said Slekis, referring to the Great Meadow course, which will also be the site of the state championship.

"But right now we're at the core of our training, so a lot of us are really running on tired legs."

The Blacksburg girls won the title with 150 points, and were followed by Westfield (161) and Fairfax (185).

Thomas Porter from Mountain View and Diana VanVleet from Loudoun Valley won the "B" races.