Wood’s Hawkins wins Third Battle Invitational
Posted: October 15, 2012
WINCHESTER — It didn’t take long for the sound of footsteps to fade behind James Wood senior Amber Hawkins at the Third Battle Invitational cross country meet at Millbrook on Saturday.
Hawkins surged right to the front of the race, running almost stride-for-stride with Patrick Henry’s Alina Woodford heading into the loop through the woods that completes the first mile of the race.
But once Hawkins completed the loop and emerged from the woods the James Wood senior standout held a 17-second advantage over Woodford.
From there, Hawkins kept pushing and ran away from the field to finish the 3.1-mile course with a time of 18 minutes, 19 seconds. She ended up finishing 32 seconds ahead of runner-up Woodford and 42 seconds ahead of Matoaca’s Bethany King (19:01) in third.
“I heard her spikes behind me for maybe the first quarter mile but after that I didn’t hear anything but myself,” said Hawkins, who paced James Wood to eighth place out of 14 girls’ teams. “I just tried to focus on getting into the 18s this time because that’s something that I’ve tried to do all season. The fact that I got in there and to get way under is a huge [personal record] for me.”
On a perfect day for running with sunny skies and temperature in the high 50s to low 60s by the time the varsity runners took the course, Hawkins showed she’s in top form heading into the Northwestern District meet on Oct. 24 on Handley’s Kernstown Battlefield course.
She missed last year’s Third Battle Invitational because of illness, but she ran the second fastest time in course history Saturday, finishing 20 seconds off former Millbrook standout and current Iowa State freshman Crystal Nelson’s course record of 17:59 set last year.
“She had a great race and we knew she had it in her,” James Wood coach Mike Onda said. “As far as a really fast time — she had shown she was one of the top runners in the state in the last few races at Octoberfest and the Millbrook dual that we had. This was just a really good race for her, and I’m just really pleased for her.”
Heritage, who placed all of its scoring five in the top 15 (and all seven in the Top 30), took the girls’ team title with 44 points. Host Millbrook followed in second with 68, followed by Patrick Henry (105), Loudoun Valley (111) and Stone Bridge (135) rounded out the top five. Sherando (160) placed second among area schools in sixth.
Millbrook, despite losing Nelson and No. 2 runner Karly Knechtel to graduation, put together a solid performance to take second place. Freshman Nadia Dahimene paced the Pioneers in eighth (19:49), Katrin Schneider came in 11th (20:05) and Rylee Learn followed in 12th (20:07). Sophia Lee (19th, 20:13) and Hannah Croyle (32nd, 20:53) completed Millbrook’s top five.
“I’m really happy with second place because the girls have really come a long way this year,” Millbrook coach Kevin Shirk said. “We almost started from scratch and we only had one returner from the top seven last year. They’ve really done well.”
While Hawkins didn’t hear any footsteps after the first quarter mile of the race, Stone Bridge’s Brady Guertin definitely did hear them in the boys’ race.
Guertin was part of a group of five runners, including James Wood senior Danny Aldstadt, Clarke senior Zach Campbell and Handley senior Jim Thomson, who surged to the front in a pack together once they exited the woods at about the mile mark.
Guertin expected to possibly race against Skyline senior and defending Group AA state champion Thomas Madden (but Madden raced at Glory Days — finishing as the runner-up Saturday instead) but he still needed to hold off Thomson, who turned in his best race of the season.
Guertin held on in the final 400 meters, edging a charging effort by Thomson to win by one second.
“I was hoping to break 16 but I just fell short,” said Guertin, who led Stone Bridge to the team title. “The last mile I could hear steps the whole time. I was just thinking ‘relax and go’ because I’m not a big sprinter. When I heard him I was just trying to pick it up. He was trying to catch me, but I just ran my heart out.”
Thomson appeared to be making up ground on Guertin as the two runners raced to the finish line but he couldn’t close in time to catch him at the tape.
“If I would have started my kick a little earlier I probably could have gotten [Guertin],” said Thomson, who led Handley to fourth place. “I felt better than I thought I would so it was really great. I feel like I’m where I need to be [with my training] and I just need to keep dropping time.”
Stone Bridge rolled to the team title on the strength of four runners in the top six. The Bulldogs, a member of the Liberty District in Group AAA, finished with 47 points, and Sherando followed in second with 128.
Senior James Reese came in 11th (16:40) to lead Sherando. Daniel Snapp (14th, 16:44), Ryan Hindle (29th, 17:05), Sam VanAlsburg (32nd, 17:09) and Justin Hammer (41st, 17:16) completed the Warriors’ team scoring.
With the Third Battle Invitational serving as the last big meet for area team’s before the district championship, Reese said he hopes his team can carry some momentum from Saturday’s race into the district meet.
“We ended the regular season on a high note, and I think it will help us carry into the postseason,” said Reese, who set a new PR. “I’m hoping that we’re going to do pretty well. District this year is tougher than it’s been in a couple years.”
Sherando coach Tim Ritter said his team has progressed throughout the year with the hope of peaking in time for the postseason.
“We’ve been trying to improve as the season’s gone on and this one was another step in getting ready for the district meet,” Sherando coach Tim Ritter said. “I’m pleased with the performance as a group.”
Fauquier (152) came in third, edging Handley (152) on a tiebreaker (the Falcons’ No. 5 runner finished four spots ahead of the Judges’ fifth runner).
Handley’s scoring five included Thomson, Cole Talton (15th, 16:44), Sam Thomson (45th, 17:21), Jared Burns (46th, 17:22) and Henry Griffin (47th, 17:23).
“I think everyone of the top seven PR-d, and I left two of my top seven at home,” said Handley coach Mark Stickley. “Henry [Griffin] had been out since the first meet, and he ran awesome.”
“Our team is looking really solid,” Jim Thomson added. “Our whole team did fantastic today.”
Millbrook, led by Nathan Burgreen (17th, 16:53) and Cal Lockley (21st, 16:58), came in sixth.
Aldstadt, who was second just past the mile marker, finished third (16:11), leading the Colonels to seventh place out of 18 boys’ teams. Campbell, who was fourth shortly after the mile marker, finished eighth (16:34). Clarke’s boys placed 15th.
— Contact Robert Stocks at firstname.lastname@example.org
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