Wil Zahorodny was first told of the idea of a Montgomery County All-Star DMR at the county B championship where he was in attendance to support his team. When he heard about who was supposed to be on the team, he smiled from ear to ear. His response? He had to talk it over with his coach.
Two days after smashing the county championship meet record in the 800-meter run with a personal best time of 1:51.15, Zahorodny had one goal on his mind: break 1:50 before the end of his high school career. For this reason, he almost turned down the invitation to run on the All-Star DMR. A novel relay race might have gotten in the way of his goal, but a loaded 800-meter field assembled by meet management at the Milestat.com Elite Track Gala enticed him and his coach to make an attempt at 1:50 at the Gala before the DMR.
Zahorodny along with three other boys and four girls accepted the invitation to represent Montgomery County at Virginia's elite post-season meet. Talented sophomore from Damascus Thomas Arias entered the open 800 and Blair's Jonathan Haughton made the trip down with his teammate Louis Varella to run a fast outdoor 300-meter dash. Ten Montgomery County athletes competed. Many more teammates and coaches came down to support them. Even three athletes from Walter Johnson who had no teammates competing came to witness the glory.
There would be no escaping the heat on this 104 degree day, but thanks to Katie Wolf and her mother, who arrived first along with Alexandra Giedd, a tent was available to the Montgomery County athletes and fans to try to get some shade.
Most of the athletes trickled in between 5 and 7pm when the temperature was still around 100 degrees. They found the group under the tent near the finish line and tried to stay cool while meeting the students and coaches from other schools. Some knew each other, and others did not. SAT's from earlier in the day and the hotness of Wil Zahorodny were popular topics of conversation.
Wolf, who was the only athlete from Montgomery County who would start a race out of blocks, actually had to make contact with the track surface. She describes her 100-meter race at about 5:30pm as "boiling out there." She didn't run the time she wanted in the 100, but came back later to break her school record in the 400-meter hurdles. Not knowing what to expect, she was pleased with her time of 1:07.27, and rejoined everyone in the stands for the countdown to the DMR.
When it came time for Arias to run, the Moco crowd lined the edge of the bleachers to see what he could do. Instructed by his coach to come through the first lap in 57, he stayed near the front of the pack and came through in 59. Short of his target pace, he then took the lead. He set the pace for the next 200-meters before two runners passed him, and then a third. He held on for fourth in his heat in 2:00.91, a personal best for the open 800.
Two heats later would be the much-anticipated fast heat of the boys' open 800. Wil Zahorodny had the top seed and took the race out hard, but Andrew Hendrix from New Bern, North Carolina stayed hot on his heels and a tight pack of Anthony Hendrix, Peter Dorrell, Allante Keels, and Logan Collins just behind them. Zahorodny would get the challenge that he wanted.
Zahorodny came through the first 400 in 52, just as his coach had instructed him. Anthony Hendrix moved to lane 1 and took the lead. Zahorodny held on to second place with Dorrell in third. The three pulled ahead, but with 200 to go, Zahorodny slowed up and Dorrell passed. Then Collins moved around the outside and passed Zahorodny and Dorrell before the finish. Anthony Hendrix won in 1:51.55. Collins was second in 1:52.63, Dorrell third in 1:53.10, and Zahorodny in fourth in 1:53.83. Ramsey Chapin from Georgetown Prep was also in the race placing 15th out of all of the combined heats with a time of 1:58.09. Neither Zahorodny or Chapin ran their personal bests as they had hoped, and both would turn around less than two hours later to tackle the All-Star DMR.
There was little fanfare for the 300-meter dash. Less than twenty boys and girls combined chose to participate. In the boys race, the talent was there, but Jonathan Haughton seemed like the only athlete who came to run fast. He bolted out of the blocks and was well out in front by 200-meters. He cruised to the victory in a personal best 34.87. According to Milesplit.us, it was an outdoor US #1 time for this very uncommon outdoor event. Haughton would be the only county athlete to go home with one of the coveted Gala winged-foot trophies awarded to all winners.
By 10pm, the sun was long gone, but the heat did not let up. The breeze died down, which enhanced the humidity. The ladies in red Team MD singlets jogged down the track together to the starting line for the All-Star DMR.
Addie Tousley was up first for the Mocorunning All-Stars. Initially starting out fifth in line, she jumped out to fourth place and asserted herself in the pack while the Eleanor Roosevelt lead-off leg jumped out to the lead. Oakton battled with ER for the remainder of the first leg, while Tousley established Mocorunning between the Roanoke All-Stars and Blacksburg. With a great kick, Tousley moved passed Roanoke into third place before handing it off to Katie Wolf for the 400-meter leg. Tousley split 3:52.7, an average of 1:17.6 per lap, 5:10 1600 pace.
As is their signature, ER opened up on the field in the 400-meter leg. Oakton remained the next closest. The Roanoke All-Star runner, Natalie Woodford, proved to be an even match for Mocorunning's Katie Wolf. Woodford initially caught Wolf, but Wolf split 57.6 to leave her teammate with the same small lead over Roanoke. Both Roanoke and Mocorunning closed the gap on second place Oakton.
Hannah Richardson from Mocorunning and Tatum Tyler from Roanoke swapped leads a few times throughout the 800-meter leg. Richardson split 1:13 through the first lap, giving up the lead to her competitor. Richardson took back the lead at 500-meters and fought a hard battle for 300-meters to the next exchange zone. She negative split, going 1:13-1:10 for a 2:23 split, handing off to anchor leg Alex Giedd with the biggest lead over the Roanoke All-Stars of the race (it was about a two-second lead).
Up until the anchor leg, ER safely maintained the lead and rested their hopes of victory in the legs of Teshika Rivers who had earlier run the steeplechase. Oakton was chasing with their strong anchor leg Becca Kassabian.
Although the race for third was a great battle between the only two All-Star teams in the race, the anchor leg would be a mismatch between the rising talent from Churchill, Alex Giedd, and the multiple-time state champion from the Roanoke All-Stars, Laura Rapp. Rapp took off after Kassabian, easily moving by Giedd. Rapp ran a 5:19 1600 to help her team place 3rd. Giedd ran a valiant first lap in 1:16, but then fell victim to the heat, splitting 1:28 for the next lap. She finished strong with her final lap in 1:23 to run 5:37 overall. Mocorunning placed fourth in 12:51.00.
Meanwhile, Kassabian of Oakton pushed dangerously close to Rivers of ER with one lap to go, but that gap was reopened for ER to take the win in 12:21.04. Oakton was second in 12:25.00.
Moments after the conclusion of the girls' race, the boys All-Star DMR teams were on the track. The greatly anticipated team from Germantown Friends School, and the AA All-Stars were too exhausted from competing in previous events to toe the line. Mocorunning lined up next to the almost completely fresh Central Region All-Stars. Would Mocorunning have enough left in the tank after its longest two legs competed in the open 800 less than two hours earlier? Fans were about to find out. The entire mocorunning support crew was on its feet cheering on the men in red.
Mocorunning got the inside lane while Central Region All-Stars were on the outside. The lead-off legs for the two all-star teams quickly collided out in front. Jason Witt and Wil Zahorodny led the field through the first 400 in 58. Witt opened up a two second gap on Zahorodny by the 800-meter mark, which Witt crossed in 1:59. Zahorodny, always willing to put his head down and drive as hard as he can, did not have the fight in him to keep up with the footlocker finalist, Jason Witt. Witt ran a remarkable 3:02 1200-meter leg giving his team a commanding lead. Zahorodny managed his final lap in 1:10 to split 3:12. Oakton made up ground and was a close third heading into the 400-meter leg.
Central Region's 400-meter leg Richard Aieygoro split 52 to maintain a comfortable lead for his team. Mocorunning's Louis Varella was challenged in the 400-meter leg, but finished harder than his opponent from Oakton and maintained Mocorunning's position in second place with a split of 49.1.
Central Region's Michael Hammond ran a steady 58 for the first 400-meters of the 800, while Antonio Palmer tried to make up the whole gap on the first lap. He nearly did with his 54 second first lap, but faded in the final lap to split 1:57.8 overall.
Central Region's Ben Dejarnette already had a 50-meter lead on Mocorunning heading into the 1600-meter leg. Dejarnette increased that lead with a 59 second first lap. Perhaps Mocorunning's Ramsey Chapin stood a chance if Dejarnette could not recover from that fast first lap, but Dejarnette fared quite well after that, running 4:17 to help his team win in a meet record 10:09.81. Chapin, drained from the heat and the earlier 800-meter run earlier, did not have the strength to chase down such a strong opponent. He faded and was nearly caught by Oakton's Joe Lorusso on the home stretch but held on for second place in 10:25.22. Oakton was third in 10:27.16.
There may have been some disappointment on the cool-down jogs, but frowns faded away as the athletes and coaches from the different schools in Montgomery County congratulated one another for 100% effort under extreme conditions. Lines between schools were blurred as athletes from Blair, Gaithersburg, Georgetown Prep, Damascus, Churchill, and B-CC all wore one uniform.
Special thanks to the Battle of the Potomac Cross Country Championship for donating the Team MD uniforms. It made the event very special for the enthusiastic athletes who participated.