The regular 2007 cross country season is over. Sweat, blood, and tears were shed as teams spent months practicing, resting, and going to meets in preparation for this: the postseason, the pinnacle of every athlete's year. It's during this time that miracles happen, when dreams shatter, and when upsets are pulled off that are remembered for years.
One of the area's most historic and celebrated championships is the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC), which annually occurs in late October on the notorious Lake Fairfax Park in Reston, VA. This Saturday, the twelve teams of the WCAC will be lining up together for one last time to settle the score once and for all this season. Who will be on top? What team will win? It's hard to say; nothing is set in stone until Saturday. However, judging by their performances during the season, the following athletes and teams have the potential to do well:
12. Tom Hill, Gonzaga, Sr- Has been in Gonzaga's top 3 for several meets this season. Finished 10th at last year's championships, but has faltered a bit this season. Experience should give him the edge over his teammates.
11. Will Fleury, Gonzaga, So- Usual Gonzaga #1 finished well in last year's freshman race and made a huge jump to the top of Gonzaga's varsity. Has finished behind several key conference opponents this season, however.
10. Brian Benkhadra, DeMatha, Jr- Talented 4:30 miler has been injured for part of the season, but ran a solid 13:43 2.5 mile race at Van Cortlandt Park last Saturday. Has the potential to finish much higher.
9. Kyle Graves, Good Counsel, So- Rapidly improving sophomore made the jump to team's #3 man by Georgetown Prep meet. Finished 2nd in Glory Days Invitational JV race with a swift 17:07 PR.
8. Kevin Gottleib, Ireton, Jr- Quietly led Ireton's team this year in most meets, but staying off most people's radar until a 17:19 5K in Georgetown Prep's Varsity B race. Time placed him above all but two conference competitors in the meet.
7. Ian McGinn, Paul VI, Jr- Has been PVI's usual #2 man behind Charles Horne. Beat Horne at Glory Days Invite with a 16:29 PR, but finished below Good Counsel's top 2.
6. Charles Horne, Paul VI, Jr- Other half of PVI's talented tandem led PVI most meets this season, highlighted by a 17th place finish at Octoberfest Invitational in 16:24. Has the potential to finish a bit higher.
5. Drew Collins, Good Counsel, Sr- Led Good Counsel in early meets this season, but has faded as of late. Highlight of the season was 16:30 at William and Mary Invite, placing 11 seconds behind reigning WCAC Champ Robert Patterson.
4. Ian McDermott, Good Counsel, Sr- WCAC 3200m Champ has battled injury this season but still consistently places well in meets. Defeated Paul VI duo at Glory Days with 16:23 PR. Did not run on Saturday, which raises a few questions.
3. Sam Rainard, Good Counsel, Jr- Swapped places with Drew Collins as team's usual #1 man at Glory Days Invitational with a 16:20 PR, becoming the highest placing WCAC finisher. Also was highest placing WCAC finisher at Georgetown Prep.
2. Cory Puffett, DeMatha, So- One of the area's best sophomores, has exchanged team's #1 spot with Robert Patterson multiple times this year. Runner-up at last year's Championships ran a very strong 13:12 at Van Cortlandt last Saturday. Could easily become first sophomore to win WCAC Championship since 2003.
1. Robert Patterson, DeMatha, Jr- Reigning WCAC Champ. Led DeMatha in several meets this season, including Mount St. Mary's, Furman, and Eastern States Invitationals. Ran one of the area's swifter times at Van Cortlandt last Saturday with a 13:07 2.5m. Could become the first male athlete to win back-to-back WCAC titles in eight years.
Watch-out list: Billy Lewis, GZ; Chris Hogan, GC; David Sullivan, GC; Joey Novello, GC; Dan Welch, OC; Chad Rogers, DM; Phil Adams, DM; Lloyd Foster, DM; Kevin Rivero, BI.
5. Bishop Ireton- Led by a pair of runners named Kevin; Bishop Ireton is almost equal to O'Connell, but defeated O'Connell by a slim 12-point margin. Stong #1 runner gives them the edge, though.
4. Paul VI- Very strong top two pushes PVI past Ireton, but relatively weak 3-7 prevents PVI from climbing them much higher.
3. Gonzaga- Despite lacking a stellar top runner, Gonzaga has been running well all season and is characterized by small spreads, the smallest this year being 39 seconds.
2. DeMatha- Lost to Good Counsel at Mount St. Mary's by 16 points, but gained revenge by defeating GC by (ironically) 16 points at William and Mary. Has inconsistent 4-7, but ran better in New York than GC ran at Prep on Saturday.
1. Good Counsel- This one's going to be a close one, folks. GC and DM are almost dead-even at this point, with DM having a stronger top 2, but GC's tight pack (45-second 1-5 spread at Glory Days) could very well give them the edge.
12. Stephanie O'Neill, Bishop O'Connell, Jr- Consistent top 5 finisher for O'Connell, closed gap by tightening team's spread with a solid 20:45 5K effort at Glory Days.
11. Breanna Adams, Archbishop Carroll, So- One of Archbishop Carroll's only competitors, has made a name for herself by finishing well in several meets including the William and Mary Invite and Maymont XC Festival.
10. Mackenzie Singh, Paul VI- A solid veteran leader for a depleted Paul VI team, ran a nice 20:25 at Glory Days.
9. Alex Nihill, Bishop O'Connell, Fr- Half of O'Connell's freshman duo. Finished milliseconds behind teammate Michelle Van Horn at Maymont with a 17th place finish.
8. Lizzie Greene, Paul VI- Paul VI's consistent number one surprised a 20:16 5K at Glory Days between Nihill and Van Horn.
7. Katie Koenig, Good Counsel, So- Good Counsel soph made the leap from last year's JV champion to varsity contributor with a 20:10 5K at Glory Days, a mere second faster than classmate Beth Conlon.
6. Michelle Van Horn, Bishop O'Connell, Fr- O'Connell's standout freshman who had a 20:02 victory over Good Counsel's #2 and 3.
5. Beth Conlon, Good Counsel, So- Placed 7th at last year's championship, but has faltered a bit this season due to injury.
4. Stephanie Bardon, Good Counsel, Sr- Last year's runner-up, has also faded this season but still looks okay after a 19:53 5K at Glory Days.
3. Katie Walls, Bishop O'Connell, Sr- O'Connell's lone senior has been a very solid #2 for the past two years, and looks in prime position to place very well on Saturday. Placed 37th among area's best at Glory Days Grill Invite with a 19:27 finish.
2. Ashley Seymour, Archbishop Carroll, Jr- Track silver medalist in the 800 and 1600 runs, defeated Walls at Maymont by almost 40 seconds. Placed 8th in last year's championships.
1. Megan Fitzpatrick, Bishop O'Connell, Jr (pictured above by Brandon Miles)- Easily one of the area's best. The likely All-Met candidate won Maymont Gold and Octoberfest Invites. Has a blazing 18:02 PR. One of VA's best, and should effortlessly dominate the conference.
10/24 EDIT: Julliane Tela, Ireton, Sr- LAX player didn't race much this season but placed 2nd at VA Catholic School State Championships yesterday in a time of 19:59. Also placed 2nd at Landon Invitational to Seymour. Should place top 5 at WCACs without much trouble.
5. Elizabeth Seton- Placed 15th in a field of 16 teams in the Unseeded Varsity race at Georgetown Prep on Saturday. It should be noted that only 6 teams appear to be complete in the WCAC this year.
4. Bishop Ireton- Defeated Seton at Prep on Saturday by 37 points.
3. Paul VI- Have been running incomplete teams as of late, but finished behind Good Counsel early in the season at Mount St. Mary's. Have strong top 3, basically just need bodies to run in order to finish at least 3rd on Saturday.
2. Good Counsel- Last year's team champion, who also have been running incomplete teams of late. Defeated Paul VI but came nowhere close to O'Connell at Glory Days. Similar to Paul VI in that they have a solid top 3, but a questionable 4-7.
1. Bishop O'Connell- Perhaps VA's best Independent School, took Gold in Maymont XC Festival's Gold Division and took 8th at the ultracompetitive Glory Days Invite. Looks unstoppable in the WCAC; O'Connell not winning would be the upset of the century.