A series of bizarre circumstances led to my showing up at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Silver Spring on Monday.
1. Wheaton Regional Park is under construction and therefore Blair High School could not host a home meet at Wheaton Regional this season. Springbrook High School volunteered its home course for the meet while Blair was still responsible for "hosting" and timing the races.
2. Blair High School had a bomb threat on the originally scheduled date of this meet. It turned out to be just a prank, but the Blair cross country team missed the bus to the originally scheduled meet while they were evacuated from the building.
3. The meet was rescheduled on Columbus Day, which is not a holiday observed by MCPS, but it is a date that my full-time employer believes that I should observe as a holiday.
4. I happen to be gathering information about home XC courses across the county and I had never been to MLK.
I have a little side project going where I am trying to gather a little bit of information and history about each home cross country course. It is a tedious, yet enjoyable process. I knew that Springbrook High School had used MLK Park for a very long time for its home meets, but I had never been to one.
It is a good little park for a cross country meet, but most people would agree that the course has too much pavement to be considered a great cross country course. Nonetheless, it is not too repetitive and fairly scenic with a pond, a creek, and plenty of greenery. Coaches from both sides agreed that it was simple and would be improbable for runners to make a wrong turn.
After talking to Springbrook Head Coach Gary Frace, I think that Springbrook's home course might be the longest running unchanged cross country course in Montgomery County. Frace pulled out a document that said the course had been used since 1988. The course could not be used in 1992 and 1993 due to construction, but they resumed the same course after construction. Prior to 1988, they used a course at the Pilgrim Hills Recreation Center. The Pilgrim Hills Park is adjacent to MLK Park and still utilized by the current course which begins and ends in MLK Park.
Frace explained that the Pilgrim Hills course was convoluted and confusing. He moved the home course to MLK Park when he took over as head coach. The course became much simpler without losing the most favorable aspects of the course.
When you are one of the longest tenured cross country coaches in Montgomery County - only Gaithersburg's Herb Tolbert has a longer reign than Frace as head XC coach at one school - you definitely have had the opportunity to develop some cross country history along the way. Five of the top six male performances on the course come from 1988 to 1991. That is not because the course was faster; it's because Springbrook had studs and matched up against other studs in that era. Springbrook's David Hickey, Kevin Carter, and B-CC's Matt Ellis probably had a dozen XC and track county and state titles between them. The other top four performance on the course came from Blake's Kyle Gaffney who was a mocorunning star as I started up Mocorunning in 2006.
1991 Kennedy High School state champion Tonya Watson held the girls' course record for 21 years, but most of the top female performances on the MLK course came after 2010 when Springbrook had a distance resurgence. Current course record holder Sydney Almeida (19:32) is presently a strong four year senior at the University of Maryland.
The ninth fastest Springbrook High School female runner in course history was Trish Coffin (1991), Aunt of Annapolis High School star runner, Maria Coffin.
I digress. Frace and I were the only ones reminiscing twenty five years in the past.
The Montgomery Blair girls won MCPS Division III outright without drama. Only one Springbrook runner was able to break up Blair's top seven runners. The Blair boys dealt with more adversity than the girls when Springbrook took the top two overall positions. Blair claimed the next five positions but not without intense pressure from Springbrook's #3 man breathing down the backs of Blair's #4 and 5.
Blair's Morgan Casey outran teammate Josephine Brane-Wright. Springbrook's Moti Heda and Ebenezer Arunkumar took the top two spots in the boys race.
Top 10 Performances on Springbrook's MLK Park Course (Prior to Today's Meet):
1. David Hickey Springbrook 16:34 (1989)
2. Kevin Carter Springbrook 16:56 (1991)
3. Kyle Gaffney Blake 16:58 (2005)
4. Matt Ellis B-CC 16:59 (1988)
T-5. Matt Lake Springbrook 17:04 (1988)
T-5. Jimmy Larkin Clarksburg 17:04 (2013)
7. Matt Seymour Magruder 17:09 (1999)
8. Oliver Lloyd Paint Branch 17:10 (2013)
T-9 Harold Dorsey Paint Branch 17:11 (2013)
T-9 Lorenzo Neil Paint Branch 17:11 (2013)
1. Sydney Almeida Springbrook 19:32 (2012)
2. Karen Escobedo Springbrook 19:37 (2013)
3. Abigail Daley Clarksburg 19:50 (2012)
4. Tonya Watson Kennedy 20:00 (1991)
5. Hannah Buchek Blair 20:14 (2011)
6. Katy Orifici Springbrook 20:18 (1996)
7. Morgana d'Ottavi Blair 20:38 (2011)
8. Natalie Gradwohl Blair 20:40 (2012)
9. Halsey Sinclair Blair 20:46 (2005)
10. Johanna Lohman Springbrook 20:50 (1996)