With a Commonwealth District win over Stafford, albeit by one point, the Northwest Region championship looked like it was going to go Albemarle’s way with its top two runners finishing first and second overall. But Stafford’s last three runners made a big difference as they were able to finish well ahead of the last three Patriot runners to edge out the CD champs by 20 points for the region crown. And so while Albemarle advanced with its second place finish to the Group AAA finals, the feeling going in is one of disappointment with something left to prove.
“They smacked us today,” said Patriots coach Buzz Male. “Our top two did amazing, and somebody might ask ‘how could you lose if you go 1-2’ and that’s easy in this sport. They ran a pretty good race, we did not run well at all as a whole.”
Senior Adam Visokay and sophomore Ryan Thomas could not have scored higher for Albemarle as Visokay followed up his CD individual title with NW title by running a 15:53 for first place and Thomas nipping at his heels to take second at 15:58.
“This is the fastest I’ve ever run on this course which is nice because it’s my last race as a high schooler here,” Visokay said. “I hung with the guys like I usually do until there was 1,200 (meters) to go and then made my move. Running under 16 always feels good. I knew Ryan was coming for me at the end when I heard people cheering him as he passed all these guys on the straight away. I did my best to hold him off. We’ll see if he can catch me at states. Honestly, I think that’d be awesome if he did.”
But after that the Patriots had to wait for Ben Deal who took 13th, Chris Springer to take 22nd, William Hunt to place 46th, and Rowen Perry to come in at 48th for its five final scores. Meanwhile, Stafford ran five runners in respective order of fourth, sixth, eighth, 19th and 26th to split away with the title.
“Through five (runners), Stafford was just did better than we did today,” Visokay said. “Going 1-2 is so awesome but I think it shows how great this sport is that you can do that and still not win. It’s frustrating, but I’m excited for state’s because I know the guys will do what it takes. We’re looking forward to racing them again.”
The two teams have battled eachother all season long with the Patriots winning at the Albemarle Invitiational and CD championship and Stafford evening up the score at 2-2 with wins at the MileStat Invitational and this NW Region championship.
Ulan moves on for girls
On the girls side, the Patriots failed to advance to the Group AAA championship as the injury ridden squad placed sixth. However, Albemarle plans to head up to the meet anyways to root on junior Ciera Ulan who took 10th place overall and earn an individual ticket to the meet.
“She did so awesome today,” said Patriots coach Cathy Coffman. “We’re really excited that we still get to go to states to cheer her on because she did amazing today.”
Albemarle was snake bitten by a pair of stress factures to its top two runners. There without Allison Huschke last week and this time without Lauren Truwitt. With Truwitt, the Patriots managed a second place finish in the Commonwealth, but the loss of lose of both those two hurt dearly at the next level.
“We would have been right where we wanted,”Coffman said. “Unless someone tripped and fell and didn’t finish, we knew we were going (to states).”
25 points separated the Patriots from their sixth place finish between fourth place Osbourn Park who scooped the last team bid to the state championship. With Huschke’s likely top-5 finish based on last year’s results in this race and Truwitt’s Albemarle Invitational time at Panorama putting her likely in the top-25 or better, Albemarle would have moved on. Instead they await the return of their top five of seven runner for next season.
“I have a top seven essentially already,” Coffman said. “We have almost everybody coming back, so we’re excited about that.”