Returning stars Susanna Sullivan and Miles Butler look to lead the girls and boys cross country teams to another successful season as the Mustangs opened up the 2007 campaign with a solid showing at the Gettysburg Invitational September 8.
Running as part of Group One, the premier group of women's racers at the event, Sullivan, a senior, turned in a sterling debut performance, posting a time of 18:54 flat over the 5K course. The time put Sullivan in third place, roughly 12 seconds behind race winner Kara Millhouse of Boiling Springs in Pennsylvania.
Sophomore Karen Hamill was the next member of the Mustangs to cross the finish line, placing 51st in the 150 runner field with a time of 21:35.69.
On the boys' side of the ledger, Butler and his counterparts took part in the Small Schools division. The sophomore took 13th in the heat, in 17:57.16. Freshman Matthew Baker and junior Louis Henninger weren't far behind, placing 30th and 32nd respectively.
The highlight of the meet for the Mustangs came from some of their younger racers, namely the team's eighth grade girls who placed third as a team in a field of 23. Eva Estrada paced the effort in a time of 13:00.50 over the two-mile course, good for sixth individually. Natalie Young (13:42:59) and Michelle DeMars (13:54.86) also earned medals by finishing in the top 30, placing 19th and 24th respectively.
Sullivan snagged another third place finish this past weekend at the Altoona Invitational, leading the girls team to a sixth overall performance in the team competition, and third among small schools.
“We did an outstanding job on a hilly course,” Mason Head Coach Julie Bravin said of the effort.
The boys team placed 12th behind the near simultaneous finishes of junior Daniel Benn (18:29), Baker (18:36), and Henninger (18:40).
The Mustangs began their district competition on a dubious note however, with the boys finishing fourth in a quad-meet at Clarke County on September 12, placing behind Strasburg (third), Rappahannock (second) and the host Eagles, who dominated the meet. Clarke placed six runners in the top seven finishers, with Chris York claiming the race with a time of 17:13. Mason was paced by junior Jeff Ralph's time of 19:50 and followed by freshman Dane Warner, sophomore Teddy Ruecker, senior Will Douthitt and senior Colin Lauer.
The girls team met with its own difficulties on the 3.1 mile course, with some members in fact veering off of it and adding up to a half-mile to its distance. Nevertheless, the Mustangs still managed to place second.
“With our three meets so far this year, I have been impressed by the effort and energy that the team has put forth,” Bravin said. “The results have been fantastic.”
The early returns, as well as a squad of strong returning runners has Bravin very optimistic for a positive 2007 season. Highlighting the season schedule will be the September 29 date at the Oatlands Invititational, as well as the Glory Days Grill Invitational on October 13. The postseason will begin with the District Meet at Rappahannock on October 24, with Regionals seven days later at Panorama Farms. The State Meet will be held on the 10th of November at Great Meadows.
Expectations are high on an individual level for Sullivan, who's time of 18:54 at Gettysburg was a personal best and has bettered her times from Gettysburg and Altoona by a minute since last year.
“She's off to a great start,” Bravin said. “This looks to be a fantastic season for her and the team.”
The Mustangs will next race on Wednesday, Sept. 26 at Rapphannock.