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State XC Recap
By: Kevin Milsted

Walter Johnson head coach Tom Martin says that it's the human condition. Days, weeks, and months after winning a state title - and he has now been a part of seven state titles in the past eight cross country seasons - athletes will remember the celebratory feelings of joy. When the news of the victory spreads from runner to runner, exhaustion gives way to relief, elation, and hugs. Photographers capture the moment: it's always seven lean athletes standing tall with arms around shoulders and smiles from ear-to-ear, framed in a memento that will last a lifetime.

But inevitably a time comes when the athletes must hit the reset button. Later in the spring, non-graduating athletes are faced with the idea of three more months of long distance running in the summer heat followed by another grueling season's worth of training and racing just to try to do it all over again.

"It's always hard," said Martin. "...Especially when you're coming back from a successful season the previous year. It's tough for everybody to get that desire up, that will up...If you're the second place team coming in to next year, it's easy to do because you want that first place. But if you're the defending champion, it's always tough to get back to that place that you were that got you there. The human condition is - you're gonna remember this hard work and then you're looking like 'I gotta face all this hard work again.'"

Martin continued: "We didn't start off where we wanted to be at the beginning of the season but those girls... they just saw it as they needed to do more work and they did it. It was really nice for them to be rewarded for that work today."

Martin was referring to an early season MCPS dual meet loss and three sub-par performances at the Woodward Relays, the Oatlands Invitational and the DCXC Invitational in September. The team began to round into shape in October when it won its heat at the Manhattan Invitational and won the Georgetown Prep Classic.

Due to the early season struggles, Mocorunning's fans did not even vote for the WJ girls to win the county title, but the Wildcats dominated the county meet with one of the lowest point totals in meet history. The regional and state meets were probably more dominant than the county meet. The girls won today with 51 points and 5 girls in the top 21 overall positions. That bettered their winning team score from 2013 (60) and coincidentally matched their score from 2014.

From 2008 to 2011, Tom Martin coached the Walter Johnson boys team to four consecutive state titles and now he has coached three consecutive girls state titles from 2013 to 2015. He described the mental strain on the athletes during a state title winning streak.

"The deeper you get into those streaks, it gets tougher. You got the giant bullseye on your back. Everybody's gunning for you. Everybody wants to get you. Kids feel that pressure after a while and they held up [referring to the 2010-11 boys teams]. These girls are the same way. They're tough....I'm just happy for them."

Abigail Green of WJ finished second behind Maria Coffin of Annapolis. Green outkicked Bethlehem Taye of Paint Branch by less than a second.

In the girls 3A race, Poolesville took seventh place while Blake High School took eighth. Nandini Satsangi of Poolesville was second and Heather Delaplaine of Damascus was fourth.

In the boys 3A race, James Blake High School took tenth place behind a fifth place individual finish by James Newport.

It should come as a surprise to no one that Dulaney and Severna Park took first and second places in the boys 4A state race. B-CC head coach Chad Young, whose boys and girls teams both placed third in the 4A classification, admitted that every other team was likely racing for third place in the boys race.

"Our goal coming into the season was to finish as high as we could knowing that Severna Park and Dulaney were as strong as they are... hoping we could be a third place team," said Young. "We knew it was even going to be a battle for that. Wootton has run really well the whole season and really beat us decisively at counties and regionals. I know the guys were fired up about having a final chance to come back and race them one more time."

B-CC took down Wootton (fifth) through strong pack running in which the emergence of two sophomores has motivated the seniors. Young believed that that motivation fueled aggressive race tactics which led to their best performance of the year.

"When you're at Hereford, it's hard to make the commitment to go out quickly but they were not shy about getting out. They were out pretty good up at the start and they weren't waiting for the dip to start the race," said Young.

Coach Kellie Redmond of Wootton was still processing the outcome shortly after the boys 4A race, but she knew that it was not what she was hoping for. Prior to knowing the scores, her mental math told her that B-CC got the best of her boys team which hadn't happened all season.

"We had some things happen out there that were a little different from counties and regionals in terms of our placings," said Redmond. "I think they ran tough. They definitely gave it their all. So I'm pleased about that."

Fighting for the individual 4A state title was Richard Montgomery's Rohann Asfaw, but you might not have known it by watching the first half mile. Asfaw was seemingly lost in the middle of the pack, around 20th place for three puzzling minutes.

"I heard a lot of people like 'Where's Rohann? Where's Rohann?'" said Asfaw. "You know...I'm running my own race. I don't like to go out super hard. It usually messes me up for the rest of the race so I like to take it out a bit more controlled. It is a little tough having to weave through the crowd but I make my way through it. I get up there and finish strong."

By the one mile mark, three race leaders separated from the field and Asfaw pulled right up there with them. He said that he ran in the pack until about the two mile mark where the pack began to string out even further.

"It was the four of us. Andrew, Josh, Eric, and I. We were all together up until the end of the soccer field...the hill after the soccer field. That's where Eric and I really separated from the Severna Park boys and I just drafted off him for a while and he got me on the hill."

Asfaw spoke on finishing second as a junior, approximately 15 seconds behind Eric Walz of Dulaney. "I don't want to say it was a disappointment. It was still a great effort today. It's such a tough course so I think I pulled away with a pretty solid accomplishment today. I'm definitely not going to be looking down on this."

Fifty miles south of Hereford High School, another Montgomery County athlete took second place when he was hoping for one place better. In the DC-MD Private Schools State Championship at the Agricultural Farm Park in Derwood, Maryland, Good Counsel's Jack Wavering took command of the championship race after allowing others to dictate the pace for roughly the first four minutes.

As hard as he pushed, Wavering could not shake Dalton Hengst of McDonogh for the entire 5k race. Turning the corner for the final straightaway, the two were neck and neck. But oh, what a long final straightaway that is. After making that final turn to bring the finish line into view, most runners are still looking at a minute of running before they cross the finish tape. With the finish line in sight, the two leaders tried to outdo each other for more than 200 meters. Ultimately, Wavering ran out of steam and finished two seconds behind Hengst, 15:49 to 15:51.

Wavering was in rough shape immediately following the race and did not see what his teammates accomplished behind him. Kevin McGivern, Matt Lopez, and Jimmy Vazzana also finished in the top six positions while Good Counsel's #5 and 6 runners, Jeremiah Melton and George Drewyer, took 9th and 11th places. Good Counsel scored 26 points to runner-up Gonzaga's 69.

Photo Credit: Brian Crilly

"I was really impressed," said Good Counsel head coach Tom Arnold. "...Sometimes our one-to-two gap changes pretty drastically dependent on whether Jack is red-lining the whole way (if he's running all out). There's no doubt that Jack was hammering the whole way and still our two, three, and four pack was much closer to him than I think we would have expected them to be. So I was really impressed. Our guys ran really nice."

Arnold's team, which secured its third consecutive state title today, cut back on mileage and the volume of their intensity work this week to have a "semi-peak" for the state championship. He said that next week the team will "scald the dogs" and really go after it and work hard before tapering again for the NXN southeast regional on Thanksgiving weekend.

As for the girls race which was won by Georgetown Day School, Arnold told his girls prior to the race that they would have to run out of their minds to beat Georgetown Day. At a mile and a half, Good Counsel girls were in position to win the race, but it appeared as if Georgetown Day moved up throughout the second half to pick off just enough runners to outscore Good Counsel, 44 to 47.

Individually, Taylor Knibb of Sidwell Friends controlled the race from the gun. Page Lester of National Cathedral was the only runner within ten seconds of Knibb at the one mile mark. Claudia Wendt and Megan Crilly of Good Counsel were in third and fourth positions at the one mile mark but were over thirty seconds behind Lester. While Knibb increased her gap on Lester up to 28 seconds by the end of the race (18:25 to 18:53), Wendt slightly closed the gap on Lester to finish third in 19:22. Most important to Coach Arnold was the fact that Wendt was "ambulatory" [his word, not mine] following the race after missing six weeks of racing due to hip flexor problems.

The St. Andrews Episcopal girls won the DC-MD small schools team title. The Heights took second to Bishop Walsh in the small schools boys team race.


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