As of Sunday morning, the boys of the Walter Johnson cross country team remain in suspense. The hope is that a committee of experts from Nike deems them worthy of a free trip across the country to Portland, Oregon to compete against the best high school cross country teams in the nation. It is not the position that anyone expected them to be in.
It is true that they are three-time Maryland 4A state champions, but having experienced the regional competition last year and knowing that this year's field was supposed to be even stronger, the team tempered its expectations. In fact, the team was divided 50-50 on whether to even make the trip to Cary, NC. Once the decision was finalized, they were 100% committed and executed the race perfectly.
Following the race, the initial concern was whether 8th place Alex Willett (15:25.3) and 9th place Nick Regan (15:28.5) could qualify individually. The top five runners on non-qualifying teams make the trip as individuals so there was a reasonable chance, especially for Willett.
The "unofficial results" were posted online and everyone with a cell phone immediately learned the outcome. Midlothian and Snellville took the top two spots, and neither team had an individual in the top five. Willett and Regan would not be making the trip as individuals, but WJ had exceeded all expectations as a team, missing the second qualifying spot by a tie-breaker. Rumors swirled that one entire non-qualifying team would be disqualified for a uniform violation (had this been the case, WJ would have defeated Snellville by 2 points for the #2 spot), but this rumor was stomped during the awards ceremony.
Who knows what the committee will decide? Four at-large teams are selected from eight regions nation-wide. The southeast does not have the reputation for being the strongest region and WJ's pre-meet ranking does not indicate that "the experts" believe in them, but it is the tie that makes them hard to ignore.
The WJ boys are holding their breaths. Surely they planned to take it easy today. Now they have no idea whether to rest for a day or go on a long run. In a week's time they could be wearing street clothes at a scrimmage track meet or they could be on the west coast, toeing the line at the superbowl of high school cross country.
Post-publication note: Walter Johnson was not awarded the at-large bid to NXN.
The skies were sunny all day. The temperature gradually rose from the low 40's to the upper 50's. The breeze was light.
The course is wide with good footing. The first mile is extremely fast with a 600-meter downhill start. There is a 600-meter gradual uphill following the 1 mile mark where the race often broke open. After the course levels off with a few rolling hills, the 5k ends with a second trip up the 600-meter hill. Finish times are usually fast, but the long graduals uphills present unique challenges to the runners, especially those runners who get carried away in the first mile.
Dan Reeks didn't know that teams could be deferred to the open race. He thought that that anyone who wanted in on the championship race would get in, so he was surprised to see Sherwood (Run Anyways TC) deferred to the open race. He sent in an appeal but it was not received in time.
In the open race, Jackson Reams and Kyle Tockman ran through the first mile with another runner well ahead of the rest of the pack. On the first 600-meter uphill, Reams broke away and never let up. He won the race by 15 seconds in 15:51.0. It was the fourth fastest Montgomery County time of the day behind Willett, Regan, and Churchill's Zach Weinstein (15:50.6). Good Counsel's Jack Riely had the fifth fastest Moco time of the day at 15:51.6.
This was the swan song for Anna Bosse and Camille Bouvet. The seniors ran their final cross country races in 18:49.2 (34th) and 19:37.1 (70th) respectively. Abbey Daley ran 19:11.1 (49th).