Last year, Stone Ridge ended a two year county title winning streak belonging to Holton-Arms, and this year Stone Ridge started a winning streak of its own.
It took a while for the Stone Ridge cross country program to embrace the Montgomery County Championship Meet for private schools. Coach Peter Rook bypassed the county meet for the first several years of the meet's existence to focus on the two championship meets that straddle the relatively new county meet. When Stone Ridge decided to attend the county meet last year, they made a commitment to go all-in.
"This is our whole point," said Rook. "Our team philosophy is that we want to have everybody at every race. We never want to miss anybody and just sort of relentlessly be out there. Our four, five, six, and seven runners really buy into that and they have been working hard all year."
He said that partly in response to the ISL Champions from Holton-Arms who were missing a few key runners at the 8th Montgomery County Championship Meet for Private Schools at Covenant Life School on Saturday. While it is impossible to know if things might have turned out differently if Holton-Arms was at full strength, Rook's point was that with commitment and depth, they need not worry about what-ifs.
Said Rook, "Our strength this year is depth...our overall team goal was to improve our depth...to have our seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve be really strong and change the culture of that squad."
Several girls from Stone Ridge moved up relative to their performances against Holton-Arms a week earlier at the ISL Championship Meet. That was strategically planned and perfectly executed according to Rook. Stone Ridge scored 32 points to Holton's 34. Holton has an opportunity to respond next week at the MD Private Schools State Championship Meet.
The Heights School won the boys team title with 46 points to Georgetown Prep's 49. It was the third county title for the Heights School. It was the fifth time in meet history that Georgetown Prep finished as runners-up and the third time in three years that they lost by a margin of less than five points.
Michael Gilbert from Landon School won the boys championship race over Alexander Fendig from Sandy Spring Friends School with a personal best time of 17:10. According to Gilbert, Fendig was relentless in commanding the lead up until the final sprint. As many times as Gilbert challenged for the lead, Fendig repeatedly surged back to the front.
Said Gilbert, "I was just telling myself, 'I'm not going to be satisfied if I get second. I'm tired now, but I'm not going to be tired after this, so if I'm remembering this, I want to remember a win.'"
Gilbert made the defining move on an uphill at approximately the three mile mark. He said that he started kicking there and gave it his all to win his second race ever and his first county title.
Said Gilbert, "I got a personal best and [Fendig] definitely led me to get that PR. If he wasn't racing, I wouldn't have gotten that PR."
There was no such drama in the girls varsity race as Francesca Cetta from Holton-Arms won in a runaway. No one attempted to challenge her at any point. She topped the county field to win her first county title in 19:45.