The final stages of the Northern Region Cross Country Championship at Burke Lake Park on Nov. 5 seemed all too familiar to Chantilly High School Senior Chris Foley.
One week before the race, at the Concorde District finals at Burke Lake Park, Foley watched as Oakton High School's Andrew McCullen pulled ahead near the end of the 2.98 course, snatching first place from Foley.
But at the Northern Region Championships, Foley knew what to expect out of his rival.
"I wasn't sure because [McCullen] pulled up on me about the same place where he did at [the district meet]," Foley said.
"But then I knew it was narrow at the last turn, so if I got through it first I could hold him off."
As the two runners ran grimacing through each exhausted step to the finish line, Foley positioned himself slightly in front of McCullen for the final stretch.
One hundred meters turned into 50, then 10 and then the finish.
McCullen was unable to jostle past Foley, but finished neck-and-neck with the Charger, both recording a time of 14:59.
Because Foley crossed the finish line just tenths of a second before McCullen, he was credited with the victory.
Foley said that his knowledge of the course's turns and layout helped give him an edge in the competition.
"There's a lot of narrow points on this course and if you give a gap, it's hard to make it up," Foley said. "I didn't want to be the last one to go through the narrow curves."
But for Foley the victory wasn't just about claiming the Northern Region title or defeating a rival runner, his time of 14:59 also was a personal goal.
At the Concorde District finals, Foley turned in a time of 15:14, making his Northern Region finals race time a significant improvement of 15 seconds.
"I told my coach I really wanted to go for sub-15," Foley said. "It's been a goal of mine since freshman year. Getting the win was important, but I was going after the time."
As the exhausted Foley took a moment to catch his breath and take a swig of water, Chantilly head coach Matt Gilchrist ran towards Foley and embraced him with a congratulatory hug.
"[Foley's] the hardest worker I've ever been around," Gilchrist said. "This was one of his goals and he wanted to win."
Gilchrist said that he was proud of his senior runner and that the competition from Oakton's McCullen helped drive Foley through practice.
"Andrew McCullen is a great runner," he said. "But [Foley] wanted to prove something today. He wanted to see his workouts start to make a difference.
Gilchrist also said that the Regional Title win caps off a season for Foley that was tainted by an injury.
"It's been up and down this season because of an injury that cost him two weeks," he said. "But [Foley] never lost confidence in himself."
The Chantilly boys' cross country team finished in eighth place at the Northern Region race with an average time of 16:13.
Chantilly's Sean McGorty finished 26th overall with a time of 16:08, and Matthew Cumpian finished 35th overall with a time of 16:16.
While Oakton's McCullen did not take first place in the individual competition, his team did manage to win the Regional Title.
Oakton placed first with a total of 79 points and an average time of 15:47.