The Lee Lancers, in one of the most heralded cross country meets of the season, made their presence felt in a big time way on both the boys’ and girls’ sides at last Saturday’s renowned, mid-season Oatlands Invitational in Leesburg. The spectacular, showcase event is known as the second leg of the Virginia high school cross country triple crown.
Bailey Kolonich, Lee’s outstanding freshman girls’ runner, finished fifth overall among a field of 224 runners in the varsity `A’ girls’ race. She timed at 19 minutes, 32 seconds.
Meanwhile, in the varsity `A’ boys’ race, Lee’s Abraham Yacob, a senior, also garnered a fifth place finish with a time of 16:25 amongst a field of 277 runners.
At the annual Oatlands meet, high school teams from throughout Virginia as well as other states compete in a variety of races on the scenic 5K course set on the grounds of Leesburg’s historic plantation. The course is mostly grass with rolling hills as well as some wooded trails. There are also two creek crossings in which runners must navigate. This year’s Invitational, which took place on a hot, autumn day, was hosted by both Tuscarora High of Leesburg and Freedom High of South Riding.
Earlier day races included two JV Frosh/Sophomore (separate boys and girls races) competitions; two JV Junior/Senior races (boys and girls); two varsity B races (boys, girls) and two varsity A races (boys, girls). In all, 97 schools, both public and private, participated. Most of the schools were from Virginia and several from around the metropolitan area as well.
Both Kolonich and Yacob earned top 25 medals for their terrific showings for the Lancers at Oatlands. Lee coach Barry Mensh is thrilled with what newcomer Kolonich has brought to the Lancers’ program this fall.
“Rarely, perhaps only once in my 31 years of coaching, does a young lady freshman come along with the natural talent and pure love of running as does Bailey,” said Mensh. “She is fearless, tough, and a pleasure to coach. In only her second full 5K [at Oatlands], she ran with some of the state’s best, and beat not only a state champion [in eighth place finisher Myah Hicks of Edison] but several other young ladies who were tops in our region. If I can keep her healthy and teach her a bit more about `pacing,’ she will continue to be a force on the local and state cross country scene.”
The Lee girls are a young squad overall this season. But the team shows lots of promise.
“They are improving each and every week,” said Mensh. “Our team goal is to qualify for the [16-team] regional championships out of the Patriot District, no easy task, as three of the top four teams at last year’s state meet were from our district. We definitely have two front-runners - Bailey and Nina Srikongyos, and have some dedicated newcomers that are capable of running at or below 20:30.”
<b>ON THE BOYS’ SIDE</b>, Yacob, the Lancer senior, showed just how far he has come since suffering an injury earlier this year. He was at or near the top of his game on Saturday.
“I feel he will be one of the challengers for the state title if he remains focused, healthy and driven,” said Mensh. “He caught [first place finisher Cody Pelliccioni of Morgantown High, West Va.], but the heat later got to him. However, he did beat all Northern Region finishers and was the top [state AAA] finisher.”
The coach said both Yacob and Kolonich are becoming bigger names among the Northern Region’s top tier of runners.
“I feel both [Abraham] and Bailey have been under the radar in Virginia,” said Mensh. “Not anymore.”
Lee’s top boys’ runner behind front runner Yacob is Jackson Henry.
“If my three-to-six [runners] can narrow the gap to Jackson, I feel we will also be in the top four at districts, which is our goal,” said Mensh.
<b>SOUTH COUNTY RUNNER</b> Dylan Morgan earned a top 25 medal at Oatlands with a 23rd place overall finish in the varsity `A’ boys’ race on Saturday. Morgan, a junior, timed at 17:10.
“I'm very proud of Dylan's performance,” said South County coach Bob Christie. “He has put the work in and I believe his performance on Saturday has given him the confidence to execute his race strategy. He's getting stronger everyday and I know he is hungry for bigger and better things.”
For the Stallion girls, sophomore Mary Cate earned a medal in the girls’ varsity `A’ race with a 25th place finish.
“Mary was an inspiration to her team, finding a kick in Saturday's race that earned her a top 25 medal,” said Christie.
Cate and her teammates are looking for a strong second half of the season. A year ago, the South County girls’ team had a disappointing showing at the Patriot District championships. Several of the team’s runners were dealing with the swine flu illness. The Lancers, healthy now, are looking forward to the upcoming postseason.
“The girls’ varsity now realize they can overcome adversity,” said Christie. ”Senior Alyssa Campbell is running with a new sense of purpose and I'm confident we can put all the pieces together over the next several weeks.”
Christie said the most surprising showing for his team at the Oatlands meet was a ninth place finish by newcomer junior Cody Sparker, who finished ninth out of 547 runners in the JV boys’ [Juniors/Seniors] race to earn a medal and a spot on the varsity squad.
Robinson High senior Nick Reed finished 16th place overall in the varsity `A’ boys’ race.