Before the Loudoun Valley boys' postseason run and its historic sweep of the top five places at the state meet, senior Peter Morris reflected on how he wanted his high school cross-country career to end.
Last year, Morris finished his season competing individually at Nike Cross Nationals, while the Vikings narrowly missed the opportunity to compete as a team with a third-place finish at the Southeast regional. Being there without his team was bittersweet for Morris, as he watched other athletes able to share the moment with the people they trained beside all season long.
"That just looks so cool to be pre-race at the national meet with your team, sitting in a little box, kind of talking strategy, maybe having fun even though it's going to be serious," Morris said in October. "That just would be so fun to be part of something like that."
After a commanding win Saturday at the Nike Cross Nationals Southeast regional in Cary, N.C., Loudoun Valley will go to Oregon as a team next weekend.
Led by a second-place finish from junior Sam Affolder in 14 minutes 58.1 seconds and a fourth-place finish from Morris in 15:08.6, the Vikings took the team title with 72 points ahead of Bulldog XC club (118) and Western Cary TC (125).
Brody Hastey of Tennessee repeated as individual region champion in 14:36.2. Severna Park's Garrison Clark (15:12.4) and Edison's Yared Mekonnen (15:13.6) placed seventh and eighth, respectively, and qualified for nationals by finishing among the top five individuals not on qualifying teams.
For the second straight year, National Cathedral's Page Lester, Walter Johnson's Abbey Green and Marshall's Heather Holt qualified for the Foot Locker National Cross Country championships in San Diego with top 10 finishes at their respective region meets.
Following a frustrating regular season plagued by injury, Holt started rounding into form in the postseason.
"I didn't even know if I was going to make it back in time for championship season," Holt said.
She finished seventh in 17:30 at the South regional on the 5K course at McAlpine Greenway in Charlotte to qualify for nationals once again. Rebecca Story of Tennessee won the race in 17:24.
"I was just using everything that was awful from this season so far to try to make it not end that way," said Holt, who had to halt even her pool training at one point after receiving platelet-rich plasma injections to treat her plantar fasciitis.
At the Northeast regional at Van Cortlandt Park in New York, Lester and Green booked their tickets to San Diego by finishing fifth in 18:12.7 and seventh in 18:17.9, respectively. Marlee Starliper of Pennsylvania won the race in 17:47.5.
"I went out very conservatively and then I started passing people," said Lester, who plans on going out a little more aggressively at nationals.
"It's not as realistic just given the caliber of the field at nationals," she explained. "If I go out conservatively, I probably won't be able to pass that many people."