The Virginia High School League state cross country meet is still a month away, but local teams got a taste of the postseason on Saturday at the 36th annual Albemarle Invitational at Panorama Farms.
Western Albemarle’s Jack Eliason and Albemarle’s Arianna DeBoer seized the moment, garnering Top 10 finishes in their respective races.
Eliason completed the historic Panorama Farms course in 15 minutes, 16 seconds to finish second behind Loudoun Valley’s Carlos Shultz (15:09) for the overall individual title.
“I was just super happy with how I did,” Eliason said. “But most importantly, it’s about the effort of the team and they showed it and they put it out there. I’ve seen the guys falling, and just doing everything they can to [place] the highest they can.”
It marked the second year in a row that Eliason took home runner-up honors at the Albemarle Invitational. Last fall, he finished behind teammate Joe Hawkes.
Running in a stacked field, led by a Loudoun Valley team ranked third nationally, was special for Eliason.
“It’s awesome,” Eliason said. “Racing against them helps me get the fastest time I can get, so I’m really happy about that. I got a 20-second [personal record] and that’s really good. I’m really happy about that considering how hard this course is. It’s not an easy one at all.”
Eliason made it look easy as he crossed the finish line grinning ear-from-ear.
“I smile a lot and it brings a lot of positivity to the team,” Eliason said. “I’m just trying to inspire the young guys to be happy with whatever they get so they’ll know what they need to work on to help them get faster.”
Loudoun Valley (31) placed five runners in the top 15, including three in the top 5, to show why they are a nationally ranked program year in and year out.
Albemarle (88) finished second overall, followed by Western Albemarle (106), Oakton (164), Deep Run (198), Glen Allen (208), Lee-Davis (249), Stone Bridge (266), Ocean Lakes (267) and Princess Anne (359).
Joe Yung (15:49) finished ninth for Albemarle, followed by teammate Will Mackenzie (15:55) and to give the Patriots two runners in the top 10. Harris Naseh (16:07) was 16th, followed by J.D. MacKnight (16:16), Stephen Smith (16:19), Jack Hartogenesis (16:54) and Brett Harris (17:29).
"I'm so proud of how they ran for each other," Albemarle boys coach Adrian Lorenzoni said. "We just went to Great American and got 18th and got pretty bad by Oakton, Western and Loudoun Valley. After that race, we spent a lot of time talking about how focus needed to come back to the team. These boys are best friends and literally spend all day together. They seemed to respond well to these discussions and you could see it in today's performances. I couldn't be prouder of a group of boys. It says a lot to see how they rebounded from last week."
For Western Albemarle, Hawkes, the reigning champion, finished seventh with a time of 15:47. Joseph Taylor (16:23) was 30th for the Warriors, followed by Stuart Terrill (16:25), Will Bonner (16:28), Thomas Kallen (17:02), Owen Shifflett (17:05) and Jack Vigilante (17:11).
Louisa County’s Braden Wood placed sixth with a time of 15:43 to lead the Lions (360) to an 11th place finish. Monticello (587) was 21st, followed by Charlottesville (620), Fork Union Military Academy (796), Woodberry Forest (896), St. Anne’s-Belfield (1,041) and Orange County (1,182).
Eliason said it was a perfect day for racing.
“The ground was a little hard, but it’s better than it being too soft and slippery,” Eliason said. “The weather conditions played out perfectly, with it being overcast and perfect temperatures and the ground being pretty good. It all played out pretty well.”
On the girls’ side, Western Albemarle (123) and Albemarle (187) earned top seven team finishes in a stacked field.
Katie Ratcliffe (19:28) finished 11th, followed directly by teammates Sterling Hull (19:28) and Jenna Stutzman (19:35) to give the Warriors three runners in the top 15. Jackie Neilon (20:43) was 41st, followed by Jordan Stone (21:06), Ella Taylor (21:36), Charlotte Thomas Clark (22:04) and Maeci Frank (22:17).
Western Albemarle (123) finished second overall in the team standings, just behind winner Ocean Lakes (94). Coach Katie Pugh couldn’t be prouder of her team, especially the top group of Ratcliffe, Hull and Stutzman.
“I was really pleased with how the girls ran today, especially at this point in the season on a relatively difficult course,” Pugh said. “We told them to go out smart so that they felt good at the mile, then focus on moving up in the second mile and use the long downhill in the first part of the third mile to keep passing people. This pack really capitalized on that as they moved up an average of 11 places and looked really strong throughout the finish.”
Millbrook (162) finished third, followed by Blacksburg (174), Glen Allen (187), Stone Bridge (187), Albemarle (200), Princess Anne (251), Stafford (274) and Maury (301) to round out the top 10.
Individually, DeBoer placed seventh overall with a time of 18:56 to lead all local finishers.
“I felt great, it was a wonderful race,” DeBoer said. “It was great weather and this was my home course, so it was really fun to run it today.”
The junior led the Patriots last fall at the same event and said that experience helped her in Saturday’s race.
“I learned that you just have to take the second mile fast,” she said. “You have to start out good on the first mile, but make sure the second mile is strong when you’re going up that big hill [Cardiac] and on the third mile of Heartbreak [hill], just keeping that same pace.”
Madelyne Zarzyski (20:24) placed 31st overall for Albemarle, followed by Madeline Kronebusch (20:56), Abby Murphy (21:02), Beth Shifflett (21:28), Hanna Guyton (21:29), Cassidy Guyton (21:30) and Sarah Leach (22:28).
Broad Run’s Ellie Desmond used a strong finish to take home medalist honors with a time of 17:56 to edge Ocean Lakes’ Aniya Mosley (18:11) for the individual title. Hanover’s Alli Cryster (18:24) was third, followed by Maury’s Maeve Stiles (18:45), Forest Park’s Catherine Gregory (18:45) and Millbrook’s Madison Murphy (18:51).
Cierra Caicedo (19:00) finished eighth to lead Louisa County (309) to a 12th-place finish. Charlottesville’s Penelope Tingle (19:42) was 14th to help the Black Knights (387) finish 15th as a team. Monticello (47) and St. Anne’s-Belfield (676) also placed in the team competition.
DeBoer enjoyed competing against so many talented runners.
“I know a lot of the people here and it was really great to run with them and race against them and see how they did,” she said.