Northwest's top four runners can race with any team in the area, but the lack of a number five runner has been killing them this year. Sula Ndousse-Fetter was expected to be with that top group this season, but health issues have kept her out and her absence has been felt.
Whitman had already beaten Northwest twice this season, first at the Peter Geraghty Invitational and then last weekend at the Oatlands Invitational. At Oatlands, Whitman had seven girls faster than Northwest's fifth runner and unless they developed a solution, Northwest seemed destined to lose to Whitman for the third time this season with the division title on the line.
Whitman's Anna Ryba blew away the field with an impressive time of 19:47. The Churchill coaches believe that it is a new course record and that Ryba is the first girl to ever run under 20:00 on the challenging course.
Alexandra Phillips of Whitman did her job and secured second place with a time of 20:09, finishing nearly thirty seconds ahead of Britt Eckerstrom and the Northwest pack.
Eckerstrom, Kai Santangelo, Christine DiNardo, and Sarah Sekscienski claimed the next four spots.
The Northwest freshman Zoe Kaplan was in position to seal the win, but she was fading badly in the final half mile and several Whitman girls passed her. It almost guaranteed victory for Whitman.
It was another freshman, Naomi Sheppard, who pushed herself into position for a top ten spot and finished the final half mile strong for a ninth place finish in 22:46.
Northwest defeated Whitman 27 to 28.
Sheppard didn't find out that she secured the victory for her team until over an hour later. When told about what she had done, her response was simply, "Cool."
Coach Beth Muehl encouraged her to be a little more enthusiastic and passionate, but later noted that she was a great kid.
Whitman Coach Steve Hays was happy with the performance of his girls. They ran about as well as can be expected, but Northwest just ran better this day.
One of the top runners from earlier in the season, Caroline Giout, sat out as a precaution.
Whitman and Northwest will be the only MoCo public schools at the Octoberfest Invitational in The Plains, Virginia this weekend. It will be yet another rematch for a newly budding team rivalry this season.
The boys race was the most lopsided race that I've seen at the division I level. Sometimes you may see a top five sweep in the division III and division IV meets, but teams are never so dominant up in division I. Churchill took the top five spots against Whitman and Northwest, with Zach Weinstein getting the win in 17:22.
Churchill will go to the Great American Cross Country Festival in Cary, North Carolina this weekend. It will be valuable practice for the Nike Southeast Regional Meet after the state championship.
The number one man in MoCo, Chris Miller, did not run to take care of personal business. He is a busy man in his senior year, but the Northwest boys edged out the Whitman boys without him, ironically with the same score as the girls: 27-28.