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Battle of the Potomac Preview
By: Kevin Milsted
Photos by: Andrew Levinson

The Battle of the Potomac Cross Country (XC) Championships is set. Your regular season's hard work, mileage and well-deserved honors are being rewarded. Saturday November 17 is the 2nd annual BATTLE OF THE POTOMAC XC CHAMPIONSHIPS: MD vs VA, or as it's known on the running trails, the XC BORDER WAR 2. Team Maryland is hosting this year's event for the second year in a row and looks poised to defend their boys and girls titles. Virginia runners will be looking to even the score after last year's inaugural losses.

Over 150 runners are scheduled to race and each will have his or her own strategy. Some runners will be using this meet as a final tune up for their respective Footlocker Regional Championship Meets. Others will be looking to end their cross country seasons on a positive note after what might have been a disappointing end to their regular seasons. Finally, some runners will be in it for nothing more than the friends, food, and fun that comes with this newly developing rivalry. The one thing that all runners will have in common is pride for their respective home states.

Nick Bax (Bethesda/St. Albans) buys into the border war concept and hopes that this meet and this rivalry grows over time. After a dominating season in the Private School circuit last year, Bax used this meet to propel himself to 32nd place at the Footlocker NE Championships the next weekend. He says that he is once again running this race to prepare for Footlockers and to show others what he can do when he is in peak condition.

"I'm glad I'm getting the chance to race against some people that beat me earlier this season so that I can track my improvement."

Bax will not be alone as the only standout runner from Maryland. In fact, Bax will have to watch his back for the three public schools state champions registered to run. The MD 1A Champion, Ryan Bowser (Grantsville/N. Garrett), the MD 2A Champion, Kyle Andrews (Columbia/Oakland Mills), and the MD 4A Champion, Andrew Palmer (Bethesda/Whitman), will all be lining up in the same jersey to take down the VA squad before heading up to the Bronx in hopes of qualifying for the Footlocker National Championship Meet.

The state champs won't be the only contributors to the scoring Maryland team. Dylan Bernard (Frederick/Urbana) was the MD 3A West Region champion and 3A State runner up. Arthur Leathers (Taneytown/FSK) placed 10th at the Battle of the Potomac last year and was 3rd at this year's 2A State Championship. Anthony Rowe finished 3rd at the MIAA Championship and the MD Private Schools State Championship. Altogether, Maryland's team looks stacked and ready to roll over Virginia's representation.

Many of Virginia's "A-listers" did not commit to run the Battle of the Potomac, but Doug Fenstermacher (Gloucester/Gloucester) regrets not competing last year. He says he likes the idea of a very competitive race in a fun atmosphere without all of the crowding of a Footlocker Championship. Referring to the goodies that every competitor walks away with, Fenstermacher added, "I don't think there are many Invitationals that are as generous as the Battle of Potomac."

Fenstermacher will be joined by Bax's teammate from St. Albans, Brian Rooney, along with Oatlands Invitational Champion, Brad Kenimer (Alexandria/T.C. Williams). Josh Hardin (Sterling/Potomac Falls) has the potential to be Virginia's top finisher after a 14th place, 15:56 finish at the AA State Championship, 12 seconds off of Fenstermacher's time in the AAA race. Alex Ott (Weyers Cave/Turner Ashby) is expected to be present but not go all out.

The Virginia girls hope to keep it close this year with more fire power and depth than last year. Senior Elizabeth Heath (Alexandria/West Potomac) was last year's Battle of the Potomac runner up, falling to meet champion Kristen Malloy by just 4 seconds. Virginia's 2nd finisher at last year's border challenge placed 7th overall, which spelled disaster for the Commonwealth. Expect them to get at least 3 in the top 5 this year with Heath and the two Parkes sisters.

Presley Parkes (Winchester/Millbrook) has had a stellar freshman campaign by winning the Region II Championship race and the Northwestern District Championship race. She followed that up with a 5th place finish at the Virginia AA State Championship and certainly has a shot at winning the 2nd annual Battle of the Potomac title. Sister Sullivan Parkes (Winchester/Milbrook) was never more than a few places behind Presley all season.

Team Virginia will also be joined by Liberty District Champion Lauren Shaw (McLean/Langley), Peninsula District Champion Hannah Varnell, and West Springfield's #1 runner Alex Watt. The team will put up quite a challenge for Maryland's star-studded roster.

Kristen Malloy (Phoenix/Hereford) is back to defend her Battle of the Potomac XC title, and this time is fresh off a 3A Maryland State Championship victory. While Malloy will be tuning up for the Northeast Footlocker Championship Race, fellow MD star runner Morgane Gay (Bethesda/Whitman) will be taking a different approach to this meet. She is already thinking about indoor track season where she specializes in the mile. Says Gay, "I'm just going out to run for fun with the other Marylanders!"

Luckily, Team Maryland has the District of Columbia helping them out with top DC public school runner JuaShauna Kelly (Theodore Roosevelt) and top DC private school runner Moira Ryan (Georgetown Visitation). Eastern Shore runner and 3A top-5 finalist Lindsay Chetelat (Bishopville/Stephen Decator) will be taking on a hilly course for the second week in a row, in hopes of helping the cause. Debbie Isen (Bethesda/Whitman), 2A State Champion Katie Harman (Clarksville/River Hill), Aimee Moores (Gaithersburg/Quince Orchard), and Jessie Rubin (North Potomac/Wootton) were all among the top 25 fastest finishers at the Maryland State Championship Meet last weekend.


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