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Week in Sports (Oct. 29 - Nov. 5)

<b>Lee’s Meseret Learns on the Fly</b>

After Lee junior Natnael Meseret was passed by Annandale’s Scott Plunkett at the end of the Oct. 23 Patriot District cross country final at Burke Lake Park, Meseret threw his hands toward his head, noticeably upset at the opportunity he’d let slip away.

With a cross-country career that’s only in its eighth month, Meseret has been forced to learn some things the hard way. Meseret, who moved here from Ethiopia three years ago, has always loved to run but never decided to do it competitively until this season.

“I’ve learned to just train hard and believe,” said Meseret, who finished second with a time of 15 minutes, 31 seconds. “If you believe in your heart, you can do everything.”

“We’re going to talk things over,” said Lee coach Barry Mensh. “Our goal is to get into the state meet, and then next year we’ll really get serious about competing at the state level.”

The Northern Region cross-country championships will be Thursday, Oct. 30, 3: 15 p.m., at Burke Lake Park.

<b>Team To Note at Edison</b>

Five years ago, the Edison girls cross-country team wasn’t a team. It was a person. With only one runner on the roster, the Lady Eagles weren’t able to compete for much.

Five years later, Edison has emerged as the National District’s deepest and most talented group.

Bolstered by a first-place finish from sophomore Myah Hicks (18:10) at last week’s National District cross country championships at Burke Lake Park, the Edison girls held off Yorktown for a 31-50 win.

“I told the girls that Monday that was the best practice they ever had,” said Edison coach Bernadette Flynn, whose boys team also won its district title. “That was exciting, and I think that gave them a lot of confidence.”

<b>Leoule Degfae Surprises Himself, Friends</b>

With his normal running partner, twin brother Tihut Degfae, unavailable for most of the season with a nagging hip flexor injury, Edison senior Leoule Degfae found an alternative plan.

Every Sunday, Leoule Degfae would run with Jared Berman of Robinson and Chris Foley of Chantilly, two of the Northern Region’s top cross-country runners.

When Leoule Degfae heard that Berman finished the 2.98-mile course at Burke Lake Park on Wednesday, Oct. 22, in 15 minutes, 22 seconds to win the Concorde District individual title, Degfae had all the inspiration he needed during the National District cross-country championships one day later on the same course.

“I heard that [Berman] got a 15:22, so I was thinking I should get around that time and be in good position for [regionals], but I just went all out,” said Degfae, who surpassed his own personal-best mark by 14 seconds, finishing with a time of 15:13.

<b>It’s Old Hug for Lake Braddock</b>

After his boys and girls cross country teams captured their 12th and 21st district titles, respectively, at the Patriot District cross country championships Oct. 23 at Burke Lake Park, Lake Braddock coach Mike Mangan smiled and posed for the obligatory coaches-only picture.

As soon as the last parent finished, Mangan’s girls team swooped in for a celebratory hug.

“It’s two of my knuckleheads,” Mangan joked.

By holding off West Potomac, 41-48, the girls team won its fifth consecutive district crown.

“They’ve won a few times before, but every year is special,” said Mangan, whose team was led by a first-place finish from senior Liana Epstein (17 minutes, 55 seconds). “It’s really a big deal for them to win.”

For the Lake Braddock boys team, top runner Alex Clark made his much-awaited return from an injury. Finishing third individually with a time of 15:37, Clark was cut on the thigh during the New Balance State Invitational on Sept. 26-27 in Rhode Island.

“It’s hard to win ‘em,” Mangan said.” The Patriot District is always tough.”

The Northern Region cross-country championships will be Thursday, Oct. 30, 3:15 p.m., at Burke Lake Park.

<b>Robinson Football Upsets Herndon</b>

With only three wins through the first eight games of the 2008 football season, the Robinson Rams could’ve folded. But after a 41-23 upset of Herndon on Friday, Oct. 24, Robinson has taken the opposite approach.

The Rams ran for more than 400 yards as a team and amassed a total of 19 first downs against Herndon, an offensive explosion keyed by senior running backs Alex Murray (256 yards, three touchdowns) and Wynton Fox (174 yards, one touchdown).

“There’s no quit in our program,” said Robinson coach Mark Bendorf, whose team improved to 4-5 overall, 2-3 in the Concorde District. “There’s just too much of a sense of pride and tradition.”

On Oct. 17, the Rams scored 31 points in a loss (43-31) to undefeated Oakton, which has been the largest offensive output and the toughest test the Cougars have faced all year.

In the two games combined, Robinson has compiled 927 yards of offense and a total of 34 first downs.

“It’s a great life lesson that when adversity hits and you’re faced with a challenge, you respond to it,” Bendorf said.

The Rams will travel to Fairfax (4-5, 1-4 Concorde) on Friday night.

<b>Woodson Captures Second Straight Liberty Crown</b>

Shelly Montgomery, this year’s Liberty District field hockey Player of the Year, said she and her Woodson teammates were motivated to defend last year’s district tournament title.

Many of the girls who were a part of that 2007 championship team graduated last spring. This year’s team had a new look about it, and Montgomery and her teammates wanted to garner a district crown with a new cast of players.

Woodson successfully achieved that goal on Thursday night when, in the finals of the district tournament at Madison High School in Vienna, it defeated a solid McLean team, 3-0, for its second straight district tournament championship.

“We’re still a good program,” Montgomery said. “We all just really have lots of support for each other.”

Woodson (17-2), who beat Edison 5-0 on Tuesday night, is next scheduled to play Lake Braddock in the region quarterfinals Thursday night.

<b>Historical Performance for Stallions</b>

In Patriot District field hockey action Thursday night, Oct. 23, South County won its first-ever district crown with a 2-1 win at Annandale. The Stallions secured the district’s top seed in next week’s Northern Region tournament and will face McLean in the region quarterfinals on Thursday night.

After a scoreless first half, South County struck first in the second. Junior Megan Wears scored with 22 minutes, 43 seconds left, and senior Tierney Smith put South County ahead by two when she scored at 18:43.

“We played good possession hockey and that’s what we strive to do,” said Stallions coach Leah Conte, whose team improved to 16-3 this season. “They had a great passing game, and they finished in the circle when they needed to.”

Though Annandale scored after its only penalty corner with 1:56 remaining, Conte’s team held strong down the stretch.

“We only gave up one corner the whole game, Conte said, “and defensively we were just awesome.”

<b>Under-the-Lights at Paul VI</b>

On Oct. 20, Paul VI hosted its annual Under the Lights Special Olympics Soccer Tournament. Like in years past, the tournament was a great success thanks to the participating soccer teams and to all the Special Olympics and Paul VI volunteers. A total of eight teams participated in the tournament: Fantastics, Fairfax Blue, GMU Women, GMU Alumni, United Blue, GMU Men, Hawks and PVI Panthers.

To kick off the tournament, Sara Capp, Rachel Hope, Rebecca McKenna and Matthew Tierney gave a rendition of the “National Anthem,” while the rest of the Options students and also Panther players held a banner to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Options program.

Each participating team played two games in the fields that had been set up in the football field. The Panthers played the George Mason women’s soccer first and won the game 2-1 thanks to goals by Sean Cross and Natalie Mills.

The second-round game was a 9-0 blowout by the Panthers against the Fairfax Blue. The goal scorers were Tasha Adkins-Blanch (2), Brenna Cannon (1), Sean Cross (2), Matthew Tierney (2), and Kyle Young (2). Next, the PVI Panthers will be participating in the Special Olympics Fall Championships, on Nov. 1-2 in Virginia Beach.

<i>Connection Sports Editor Rich Sanders contributed to this report.</i>