As likely as it seemed that Lia Divalentin win the Glory Days Invitational Seeded Race, no one could have predicted the intense battle that ensued. With less than a mile to go, a pack of 6 girls were still tightly packed together with DiValentin from Chantilly leading the way as expected. Over the next half mile, the 6 girls furiously charged around the pancake-flat fields of Bull Run Park. Mustering all the strength in their bodies, DiValentin along with Kristen Wolfe of James River High School pulled away from the others. Wolfe led DiValentin around one sharp turn, and then another, until all that was left between her and the finish line was a slightly uphill 75 meter stretch. The race clock in front of her was clicking in the 17:30's. Behind her, the star from Chantilly was breathing down her neck. Some how, some way, she was able to keep her eyes forward and hold off one of the most elite fields assembled in Virginia this year for a victory in 17:49.
For most of this season, Wolfe has raced just behind the upper echelon of the elite Virginia runners. Although she has finished in the top ten at the high caliber Great Meadows and Maymont invitationals, few considered her the top candidate for the individual AAA state title. Her victory at Glory Days now puts her right at the top of the list of candidates, but she would be the first to tell you that it will be a long road before she gets there. While she said the victory was a confidence booster, she fully acknowledges the competition that she will be up against for the remainder of the year.
Follow the Star From the North
The boys seeded race was arguably more intense than the girls. Neal Darmody of Quince Orchard lagged two seconds behind Ben Dejarnette of Atlee High School and Johns Ross of Potomac School with three quarters of a mile to go. With about a half mile to go, Darmody turned on the jets and took over the lead, challenging the two Virginians to come after him. He built a 2 second lead on Dejarnette who in turn broke Ross in the final quarter mile. Just when it appeared that Darmody had broken away with not more than 200 meters left, Dejarnette surged up to meet Darmody. However, the energy that he used for his surge was mostly used up when the two rounded the final corner. Darmody held the lead by 1 second to win in an unbelievable time of 15:08. Dejarnette was 2nd in 15:09 and Ross was 3rd in 15:19.
It's possible that this region has discovered a new nationally elite runner in Neal Darmody. Having never broken 16 minutes for a cross country 5k prior to this season, Darmody has now finished no slower than 15:43 in each of his last three races. His most recent run of 15:08 is 54 seconds faster than he ran on the same course last year. Today he credited the cool weather and fast opponents for helping him set a personal record by almost 30 seconds.
Getting the Job Done
The Quince Orchard boys and the Lake Braddock girls were the only two regionally ranked teams present and were thought of as the heavy favorites. Highly regarded as the top team in Maryland, the QO boys were coming off of second place finishes at the high caliber Paul Short and Octoberfest invitationals. Putting five guys in the top 54 under 16:40 was refreshing for the men in red. Showing even more dominance, the Lake Braddock girls put 5 in the top 36, all under 19:30.