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L-town girls avenge last year’s loss to North Point; boys win twice

By DALLAS COGLE

Staff writer

Senior Chris Jones wanted to deliver a career-best time in his final race at home.

The Leonardtown girls cross country team wanted to avenge last year’s loss to the North Point Eagles that ended their program’s Herculean 98-meet win streak that dated back to October 2003.

Wednesday saw both Jones and the Leonardtown girls come through with their lofty desires.

Like the North Point boys, the Leonardtown girls (10-0, 10-0 SMAC) also kept their unbeaten record intact by nipping North Point, 24-31, and then easily handling Westlake and Chopticon by identical 15-50 outcomes.

The North Point girls (7-2, 7-2) also downed Westlake (2-7, 2-7) and Chopticon (2-9, 2-9) by 15-50 scores, while the Westlake girls nipped Chopticon, 24-32.

Finishing in the sport’s preferred pack, the Leonardtown girls featured four of the top six individual times and five of the top nine to more than offset North Point senior standout D’Atra Davis’ first-place finish of 19:52.86 and four of her teammates who also ran in the top 10.

Senior Rachel LaBatt led the Leonardtown girls with a runner-up time of 20:20.16 followed by senior teammates Samantha Zarzaca, Hannah Sweet and Dianna Aud in third, fourth and sixth, respectively, with junior Kelsey Hageman claiming ninth for the winning Raiders.

“The first mile was all about just staying together and hanging on,” LaBatt said. “We knew the first mile was going to be fast. It’s in front of everyone, of course it’s going to be fast. We talk to each other during the races. We keep each other motivated with positive thinking. We pull each other along.

“It’s a team effort. It’s not I’m out there by myself racing. I’ve got the team on my back. If I have a bad day, [the team] has a great day. [My team] motivates me so much.”

Zarzaca epitomized the joy of the Leonardtown girls when it became apparent their plan of finishing in a pack, particularly among the first six placements, had been executed to near perfection.

“For us, it’s a pretty big deal [to beat the North Point girls]. They have a strong team,” Zarzaca said after completing the course in 20:45.12 to claim the third. “Bringing it altogether as a team and working together to do what we did today is a pretty big deal. It’s all about team unity … staying together, working together, packing it up. My goal was to stay with Rachel because I knew she would lead the team to a good race. Hannah was right behind me.

“[North Point] is our biggest competition. We did want to beat them. It feels, honestly, just amazing.”

Leonardtown first-year head coach Rick Hageman, formerly an assistant for about eight years with the program, added about his girls’ success at North Point, “We’re really gearing up toward SMAC and working as a team to be successful at the SMAC meet in a few weeks. So this was a step in the process. [The North Point girls], I think, were a stronger team last year. This year, I think we’ve done a better job running as a pack. I think it’s a combination of the two [that was the difference in facing North Point last year and this year].”

Davis dominantly outpaced the rest of the female field, taking first place by almost 30 seconds. She got help from her teammates, who finished fifth, seventh, eighth and 10th, but those quality placements were not quite enough against Leonardtown.

For Davis, Wednesday’s top finish was refreshing given last week she fell on Northern’s course due to what she described as “tight knees” that “was pretty devastating,” keeping her from winning the race.

“I came back more hungry because I knew [last week] wasn’t me,” Davis said. “Today, I took it out like I knew I could. I had beaten all these girls before, but I knew it was going to be competition with the [team outcomes]. It’s senior night and we did the best we could.

“I definitely felt [the Leonardtown girls] were more determined. Not only have they beaten us at the last two [invitationals] we’ve had [this year], but we’ve lost the two seniors that allowed us to beat them last year.”

She added, “We still have SMAC, [Class 4A East] Region and state [meets] and we see [the Leonardtown girls] at all three. So you never know what could happen.”

Joneses, Eagles edge Raiders

Jones added to his already-accomplished resume by blowing past the rest of the field on his North Point course in a runaway first-place time of 16 minutes 5.45 seconds.

His closest challenger was twin brother Patrick, who finished more than a minute behind him in a runner-up 17:07.70.

The Jones twins got plenty of help from senior teammates Garrett Davis and Bobby Keim in fourth and fifth, respectively, while junior Tyler Perdue rounded out the North Point boys’ top five runners in seventh as the Eagles celebrated their senior day in style while easily remaining perfect this season.

The North Point boys (9-0, 9-0) disposed of formidable Leonardtown (8-2, 8-2) in 16-45 fashion and cruised past Westlake, 18-43, and Chopticon, 15-50.

The Leonardtown boys edged Westlake (2-7, 2-7) in 25-33 manner and then took care of Chopticon, 15-49. The Chopticon boys (2-9, 2-9) were blanked at the meet by falling to Westlake, 16-41.

Ironically, for all the winning Chris Jones is used to doing, he said Wednesday was the first race he boasted the best time all season, largely due to the type of training he’s been doing for the big invitationals.

“My goal today was to break 16 [minutes] and I was so close, just a had a little bit of a tough time in the last mile, but it’s also hard to run by yourself though it was good competition,” said Chris Jones, whose best time last year was in the 16:30 range. “This is my last race on this course ever. [I’ve been running since] my freshman year, and it was actually a little bit of a different course. I just wanted to see what I could do the last time [on this course]. Every year I’ve gotten better. The season’s been going pretty well. I had a little bit rough [going] at the Bull Run Invitational. But the last two invitationals, I’ve gotten my head on straight and it’s been working.

“It’s a beautiful day today. My body felt good when I went off the line.”

Twin brother Patrick, who laughingly admitted the only times he’s outraced his brother is when his look-alike is not feeling good, added, “[Chris] told me he wanted to break 16 minutes today. Since it was our last race, we just wanted to take down our [personal records] and see what we had. So we kind of took out the first mile a little bit quick, a little too quick for me. [Chris] has been getting stronger every race. He’s been getting in those big races and has been competing against those guys that are like top in the state.

“I was expecting something pretty good today from him. But I wasn’t sure what it was going to be.”

The Westlake boys were headlined by third-place finisher Darren White in 17:17.51. Only the Jones twins kept White from tasting first-place glory.

“I tried to keep up with them, but I still got third,” White said. “I made my second-fastest time so I was pretty happy.”

Joseph Miller, of the Chopticon boys, had his school’s best finish on the day in 23rd place.

dcogle@somdnews.com