Known for saving his best for last, Chantilly senior Brad Siragusa lived up to his reputation in the final state meet of his high school career.
Siragusa used his signature kick to overtake front-runner Mike Spooner of West Springfield in the final 500 meters yesterday and win the Virginia AAA boys' cross-country championship in 15 minutes 22 seconds at Great Meadow in The Plains. Spooner finished in 15:25.
With 95 points, Oakton won the boys' team championship for the first time since 1998, finishing ahead of last year's champion, Jefferson (98).
The race-ending kick that had helped Siragusa dominate last season inexplicably escaped him midway through this season. He had only won two meets and finished fourth at the Northern Region championships, where Spooner won the title.
"It's strange when you win like five meets during your junior year and you don't hardly win any your senior year," Siragusa said. "But there was just something inside of me that said, 'Stay calm.' I knew I was stronger than last year, and I felt like I could make it kick if I had to."
If Siragusa had anything in his favor heading into the meet, it was his familiarity with grounds at Great Meadow. He won the Oktoberfest there last month, and won the same event last year. Though the course was restructured a bit for the state meet, its layout suited his ability to close ground on runners during downhill stretches.
"I think that sort of ties in with not winning as much," Siragusa said. "This is the course that I've won at. It does give you confidence to know you're at a course you've done well on."
James Phillips was the Oakton boys' top finisher, placing fourth with a time of 15:43. Teammate Matt Kroetch followed him in seventh (15:51) and Tommy Mason (16:17) secured 16th place with a late spurt that just may have been the difference in the final standings.
The Cougars had been on the brink of a title, finishing in the top five in each of the past two seasons. But the Cougars' depth this season was the difference, helping them win district and region titles.
"Sometimes I tell the kids you keep knocking on the door, eventually you're going to get in," Oakton Coach Phil Tiller said. "We knew that the competition would be stiff and if the guys could step up and we ran the way we did all season, we'd be able to do it."
Oakton also finished second behind Midlothian in the girls' race. Sarrah Hadiji of W.T. Woodson was the area's highest finisher, placing second behind Albemarle's Rachel Rose in 18:12. Like Siragusa, Hadiji improved upon her performance at the Northern Region championships, where she finished third.
"I got really caught up in placing myself" at regionals, Hadiji said. "With this race, I just cleared my head and I wasn't thinking about anything. As I passed people, it didn't even occur to me that I was doing that."