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Oatlands Invitational and Weekly Recap
By: Kevin Milsted and Ryun Anderson

Heading into the meet, Whitman head coach Steve Hays didn't think much about winning the Oatlands Invitational. He wanted his team to have a good race to see how they stacked up against the competition, but as the girls varsity A race unfolded, he began to think winning was a possibility. Sami King led the way with a top ten finish, Olivia Woods finished 19th, and freshman Julia Johnson ran in fourth position on the team, unfamiliar territory and just five seconds behind senior Erin O'Connor. Whitman's top five finished within the first 75 runners in a field of 343 runners. The result was a team victory with 190 points, 13 points ahead of second place Heritage.

The Whitman girls team of 2011 was the last team from Maryland to win the Varsity A race at the Oatlands Invitational, but all the members from that star-studded 2011 team have since graduated. Hays dismissed a comparison between his two Oatlands-winning girls teams while at the same time speaking very highly of this year's squad.

"We have great expectations. We want to do very well. B-CC and WJ are in the way...they are two state champions in their own right [B-CC in 2011 and 2012; WJ in 2013 and 2014]. We want to keep working and improving."

The Walter Johnson girls team was voted by Mocorunning fans as the preseason county favorites, but they have yet to finish as the top county team in three meets this season. Some may have been surprised by Walter Johnson's 16th place finish in the girls varsity A race today at Oatlands, but it must be noted that normal #2 runner Emily Murphy was absent. Coach Tom Martin did not use that as an excuse.

"Today we were looking for 3, 4, and 5 to step up and make a difference," said Martin.

When all but two girls on the team finished outside of the top 100 places in the varsity A race, Martin added, "...and I haven't seen it yet."

The girls varsity A race – or rather I should say the solo victory by Heritage's Weini Kelati - was a sight to behold. Kelati dominated this race last year (18:12) and went on to place 20th at the Footlocker National Championship. Today's meet record performance in 17:11 on a hilly course was a show of dominance that struck spectators dumbfounded and left fellow competitors in the dust to compete among themselves.

One of the racers in the chase pack behind Kelati was Good Counsel sophomore Claudia Wendt who got out hard and came through the first mile in third place in approximately 5:20. Walter Johnson's Abigail Green was well behind Wendt in the early going, but made up ground over the second half of the course to finish just four seconds behind Wendt. Coach Martin said that Green had stomach pains and speculated that she might have figured out in the second half that she could run through it. Wendt finished fourth in 19:02 and Green finished fifth in 19:06.

The boys varsity A race displayed the second most dominating performance of the day when Footlocker finalist Drew Hunter ran away with a commanding win and a meet record of 15:12. There are many who believe that Hunter is the heir to the Footlocker throne this year. Jonathan Lomogda of Cox ran in no-mans-land behind Hunter and finished second in 15:38. After another gap in the field, two Montgomery County competitors, Jack Wavering and Rohann Asfaw, were bumping elbows in a battle for position.

Wavering, whose main goal was simply to place as high as possible, went out decidedly harder than he usually does, clocking about 4:45 for his first mile. He said that he was probably in fifth place at the one mile marker but found himself falling back to about tenth place over the course of the second mile. And then while approaching the signature Oatlands hill in the third mile, he said that he literally bumped elbows with Asfaw.

Asfaw had started the race more comfortably with about a 4:52 mile and found himself mostly passing runners during the second mile. Asfaw didn't mention an elbow bump, but he recalled coming up on Wavering just before the big hill. Both runners look at runner rankings online and knew who the other was. While the possibility of victory was long gone with Drew Hunter on record-smashing pace ahead of them, the slight physical contact with an intra-county rival got the competitive juices flowing. Both runners agree that Wavering was the superior hill climber today and that made the difference.

"I wanted to catch him at the top of the hill," said Asfaw. "I didn't crest it hard enough and he got away."

That wasn't the end of the race. Wavering said that he continued to see Asfaw for the last half mile, but Wavering's strength kept Asfaw at bay, 15:59 to 16:03.

Wavering said that he knew Asfaw had better foot speed and knew he had to take it out of Asfaw on the hill.

"I know the track times [Asfaw] has put down so it really shows me the things I can do later this year."

The Richard Montgomery girls won the Varsity B race led by an individual victory from Sophie El-Masry in 20:00. Similarly, the Northwest boys won the varsity B race behind an individual victory by Branson Oduor in 17:05 and a second place finish by Komlan Attiogbe in 17:30.

Oduor nearly did not finish the race as he stumbled to the finish line in 17:05 and nearly lost consciousness. Youngblood estimated that it took him about a minute to traverse the final 200 meters. He was treated with IV fluid in the medical area following the race and according to Coach Robert Youngblood, he doesn't remember finishing the race. The Varsity B race was the final race of the day with a start time at 12:30 PM. It was hot and there was not a cloud in the sky. According to Coach Youngblood, after Oduor had established a commanding lead, he tried to catch the motorized four wheel all-terrain vehicle.

"He's learning how to run," said Youngblood. "His first race at Brunswick he did not finish. With 200 meters to go he ‘sat down'...I made him run with the team the next two races and let him take off the final half mile. Today I let him race and he tried to catch the cart."

The senior Oduor, who is a first year cross country runner, was made to focus on academics during the fall of his first three years of high school. According to Youngblood, his father did not believe that he would be a good cross country runner, but Youngblood saw otherwise. For one thing, Youngblood says that you need to see the tall senior in the weight room. But what's more is Oduor's teachability.

"Honestly, he's like Diego [Zarate]. He listens very well. He sees the results I get out of people and does the work...he's learning how to run. He's learning how to be a leader."

Around the County
By: Ryun Anderson

This busy weekend wrapped up an eventful week for Montgomery County running. Here are some of the other highlights of the week:

The B-CC girls pulled off a "mini-upset" over the Walter Johnson girls at a dual meet on Tuesday. While the Wildcats put three in the top four, the Lady Barons used their depth to secure the 5-11 spots and win in a thriller, 29-30.

Northwest's Branson Oduor, who won the Oatlands Varsity B race, won handily in a division meet over tough competition from Wootton and Poolesville. He leads a Northwest team that has entered the discussion for a top five spot at the county championships.

Paint Branch's Bethlehem Taye won by over a minute at her home course in a division meet against Quince Orchard. She currently holds Moco's fastest 5K (18:40.4) and has lost just one open race since the start of the 2015 outdoor season.

Quince Orchard, B-CC, and Churchill traveled to Cary, North Carolina for the annual Adidas XC Challenge. Notable times include:

- Liam Walsh, Quince Orchard: 16:03.4, 29th
- Dylan Kannapell, B-CC: 16:06.7, 34th
- Lucas Heinzerling, B-CC: 16:22.1, 49th
- Michaela Peterson, B-CC: 19:01.2, 22nd
- Julia Reicin, Churchill: 19:13.1, 28th
- Virginia Brown, B-CC: 19:27.5, 38th (freshman alert!!!)

The B-CC boys finished 10th and the girls 8th in their respective varsity races.

At the Hood College Blazers Invitational, the Clarksburg girls took second place with an incredible two second spread among their top four girls and twelve second spread among their top 5 girls. This comes on the heels of winning the Mountain Run a week ago.

THIS WEEK: There are no dual meets on schedule for this week, so most schools will be looking towards next weekend. Watkins Mill will be hosting the Wolverines Invitational on Thursday as a preview of their course for teams new to their region. But most eyes will be on two meets next Saturday: the (in)famous Bull Run Invitational at Hereford, and the ever-growing DCXC Invitational in Washington, D.C. These meets were extremely competitive last year and should be no different this year. Landon will be hosting its annual invitational on Saturday with a field of mostly private school teams.

We look forward to another great week in Montgomery County!


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