Walter Johnson High School brought home its fourth consecutive girls cross country 4A state title on Saturday, a remarkable feat which the school had
done twice before - once with the girls from 1996 to 1999, and once with the boys team from 2008 to 2011.
WJ senior Katriane Kirsch remembers a time when Walter Johnson was not expected to be the premier cross country team in the state year-in and year-out.
Said Kirsch, "My freshman year I just remember we were all so excited to win the state title
because it was so unexpected coming from the year before which wasn't that great of a team."
The team that had to fight its way into the state championship meet in 2012 had a sudden influx of talent in 2013, which included the transfer of Holy
Cross star runner Kiernan Keller, the emergence of Emily Murphy, who began as a junior varsity runner and now runs D-I at JMU, and the arrival of the
talented freshman, Katriane Kirsch who had an older sister on the team.
Head Coach Tom Martin contends that getting there the first time was never the hardest part. Sustaining that excellence is harder than most people
believe, no matter how much talent the team has.
"They're happy about this result. In the 90's when our girls went for the fourth, they were
nervous from August all the way until the last step of the state meet. All they felt after that state meet even though they won was relief. I always
thought that was sad. These girls are happy as they should be because they worked hard to get here. It's awesome to see them enjoy it."
Said Kirsch, "It's been super great to see how the team has grown over the past four years...We've been able to keep that excitement this whole time."
Martin was the assistant coach during the title winning teams of 1996 to 1999 and the head coach by the time the boys won four straight between 2008 and
2011, but he credits former head coach Greg Dunston for teaching him perhaps the most valuable aspect of coaching: the team dynamic.
"Every one of these successes: he's a part of it. Everything that I know, what I do in keeping a team together, I learned from Greg Dunston. This is all
All of the team members listed above and some that continued practicing with the varsity team through the end of the season deserve a part of the
Junior Abigail Green contributed to perhaps the greatest race in state championship history. She unfortunately came up on the losing end of a battle
with defending state champion and previous Footlocker National qualifier, Maria Coffin of Annapolis High School, but not before both girls went under
18:00 with times of 17:49.4 and 17:54.4. Those are the top two all-time female performances at Hereford High School according to the MPSSAA record book.
When asked how she felt about the race, it was first and foremost about the team:
"I'm feeling pretty good. We came in here with a big goal for trying to get our fourth state championship in a row. So I think that we are all really
happy to be able to accomplish that and just be able to say that everything we've done...all the hard work was worth it in the end.
"Individually, I was really proud with the time. I knew that it was going to be us two probably pushing each other in the front. I really think that we
bring out the best in each other and so I think that we both ran really great times so that's nothing to be disappointed about."
She said that they paced it well and ran consistently. According to Green they switched off the lead in the second mile before Coffin really took over
in the third mile.
Returning up the dip for the final time, Coffin had at least a ten second lead. Green's mind wandered to last year when she was in a similar position
but had only enough strength left in the final quarter mile to finish the race. In fact, she was very nearly caught by Bethlehem Taye at the finish
line. This year she said that she noticed a difference in her energy level and was able to give a little more to finish strong.
"I was at the top of the dip and I still had something left. I wanted to give it my all and so
just through that 800 I tried to speed up more and more and just finish as strong as I could because I had more energy than I expected."
By finishing within six seconds of Coffin, she most likely closed the gap slightly in the final minutes of the race. She certainly demonstrated that she
closed the gap on the Annapolis star runner since a year ago when Coffin won by 35 seconds.
While Green was not 100% decisive on her postseason plans, she believes that she will run the Footlocker Northeast Regional meet in New York City where
she may meet up with Coffin again. If she qualifies for Footlocker Nationals, she will be Montgomery County's second all-time female qualifier in
history and first since 1994. She would be the first Montgomery County qualifier, male or female, since 2008.
Churchill's Julia Reicin clocked a time of 19:06.32 which was the second fastest time by a Montgomery County girl and seventh fastest time statewide on
Jessica Trzeciak of Wootton was a surprise sixth place finisher. She defeated several runners she had not yet beaten and led the Wootton girls team to a
second place finish in the 4A competition.
Richard Montgomery's Rohann Asfaw was heavily favored to win the 4A state title on Saturday and he
accomplished that goal. He won his first cross country state title in 16:04, eight seconds ahead of second place Adam Nakasaka of B-CC.
While he said that he was really happy with the win, it was far from the perfect race in his mind. In a post-race interview, he repeatedly said that he
was very tired. While he is usually all about running a smart race, he did not intend to start out quite as slowly as he did.
"Actually I was trying to be with the front pack for the first mile," Asfaw said about his slow start.
"I actually just had a slow start and just got lost in the pack. I had to weave through people once again and I was able to catch up to the front pack
once the first mile came."
B-CC's Adam Nakasaka best described the middle portion of the race when the runners were on the first soccer field just after climbing the dip for the
"We were running three aside. I was on Rohann's left. He [Kieran McDermott] was on Rohann's right. Once we finished the second mile, I just decided 'go
for it.' It's what state championships are all about, you know just taking it by the helm and just going for it, not being afraid, not running scared."
Nakasaka said that he felt like the pace was not going hard enough so he picked it up as they
climbed a hill after leaving those soccer fields. He said that it felt good to take the lead, and he held that lead for about a half mile until they
descended the dip for the final time.
Nakasaka's move might have played perfectly into Asfaw's favor, but it did cause some doubt to creep in.
Said Asfaw, "For a second I was like, 'oh, man, I can't lose this!' but coming back up the dip I regained my breath and I felt confident again that I
would bring it home."
Asfaw is just the second cross country state champion to come from Richard Montgomery High School and the first to do it in Maryland's largest
classification. He will attempt to qualify for Nike Cross Nationals at the southeast regional meet in Cary, NC in two weeks.
Northwest High School took fifth place, B-CC took sixth place, and Richard Montgomery took seventh place while Dulaney edged out Severna Park in a tight
4A state team battle.
Poolesville's Ryan Lockett and Andrew Lent compete in just about everything. They compete in
practice, they compete on race day, and they compete in the classroom. Senior Andrew Lent says there is definitely a competitive edge in just about
everything that they do.
Lockett said that academics is really no contest: Lent is probably the smartest student in a high-caliber renowned academic school. But when it comes to
their musical theory class, it's on.
Said Lockett, "I'm in a music class with him and that's probably the only thing I can beat him in. I always joke around when I get a better grade than
him because everything else he's going to get better grades in."
When it comes to running, their competitive spirit has created an atmosphere in which they are both thriving. On Saturday, Lockett became the 3A state
champion while Lent finished fourth, which he said he was plenty satisfied with.
"My teammate [Lent], he's probably the main reason why I've been improving. He's pushed me every single workout, every single long run. Without him I
probably wouldn't have improved."
Both Poolesville runners were in great position entering the dip for the first time during the 3A state race. Lockett said that he didn't want to take
the lead, but he also didn't want to take risks by letting the pace lag so he moved into first place in the second half by running particularly strong
on downhills. Moving up with him was his teammate, Lent.
"On the back section my goal was to push the pace and see who we could drop," said Lent. "Me and Ryan were neck-and-neck coming out of the cornfield and
we stayed that way more or less. He got a little bit ahead of me at the tennis court by the two mile...the race was down to four. Coming into the dip,
Ryan's real good at those downhills and he took off, and then it became spaced out. Coming up the dip we all closed back on Ryan a little bit, but then
Ryan and Rahul [Reddy] started going."
Lockett won by two seconds in 16:00.7, which was the fastest time of the day by a
Montgomery County runner and the second fastest time statewide. It took a furious kick to wear out Reddy, after which Lockett pointed to his wrist to
symbolically tell people that he had ice in his veins.
"Outkicking people at the end, that's kind of my specialty," said Lockett. "I was really hyped after I outkicked Rahul."
It has been an interesting couple of years for Lockett who transferred from Poolesville to Gonzaga and back. He said that he applied to get into Gonzaga
primarily for the academics and was surprised when he got in. He spoke very highly of the cross country program there, but he said that he decided to
come back to Poolesville because he loved it in the first place.
Lockett said that he would "actually try" at the Footlocker Northeast Regional. He does not expect to qualify for nationals but he noted that a lot of
folks just run it for fun and he was looking forward to actually testing himself.
The Poolesville boys took fourth place in the team competition while the Poolesville girls took fifth place. The top finishers from Montgomery County in
the 3A classification were Heather Delaplaine of Damascus who was sixth and Nandini Satsangi of Poolesville who was eighth.
Article Comments - Add A Comment
|Impressive senior year for Andrew, he has worked really hard for 4 years and battled through some injuries so its great he got to finish xc on such a high note. Quite the year for the walter johnson girls, too bad they wont go to NXR in Cary as a team because it would be interesting to see them go after blacksburg and braddock. Cant speak enough to Tom Martin's ability as a coach. 12 state titles in 21 seasons. Should be noted that the wildcats return 6 of their 7.
|Ryan may have beat me this time...but I will have my revenge.
|litrally nobody said Ryan Lockett beat Rohann
|Just want to take a moment and echo was Kevin said about the Coffin v. Green matchup. I got to see a lot of the race while running around everywhere on Saturday and it didn't dawn on me until last night at home that I had just watched maybe one of the greatest state meet matchups I will ever see. These two girls are two of the best the state has seen in a long time and I hope that Saturday's race will be one we can tell our kids about.
|Really excited to see how Maryland (moco specifically) runners compare to VA this year. Blacksburg, London Valley, James Madison, Deep Run, and Lake Braddock can all give MD a serious run (pun very much intended) for their money on the boys and girls sides. And don't get me started on their ridiculous individuals. Can't wait to cheer Abby and Rohan on at Nationals! Maybe someone else sneaks in too???
|I don't believe any moco boys team could come close to loudoun valley or some of the better VA teams. Saturday proved this years moco boys cannot run hills whatsoever and lack the firepower and front running style of top teams in the SE
Huh? Moco boys just won two individual state titles. Five of the top 10 4A teams were Moco teams.
|Going back numerous years I can't find one where moco had no top 4 teams. 2015 is the only other year since 2000(a year Gburg won the state title) that there are less than 2 moco teams in the top 4. Also with 9 top 25 finishers each of the past two years, these are county lows dating back the 7 years i checked.
Not trying to take away from great performances by andrew, ryan, adam, rohann, chase and all the others but i think on the guys side this year as a whole moco was less competitive than in years past.
5 of the top 10 spots sounds good until you consider 10 of the 24 teams at the meet are from montgomery county.
|I feel that Martin at Walter Johnson doesn't get the credit he deserves for all he has done in his time at WJ. In 21 seasons his boys have made the state meet 20 consecutive times (ended this year), and his girls made the state meet 18 times. Making states every year is impressive but to top that he has 12 team titles, 20 top 3 finishes, 5 individual champions, and 35 of his 38 qualifying teams in the top 10. On don't think that the wildcat dominance on the grass is a coincidence whatsoever. Congrats to Coach Martin, hopefully he will win all met coach of year again but theres no doubt Mike Mangan at Lake Braddock is also very deserving
|I concur with Doubtful|
|It's a down year for MoCo boys. Top talent is fine but teams are about as weak as they have ever been. I'd go as far as to guess it's the first year MoCo didn't have a top 4 team in 4A. You hear stories even from the 60's 70's and 80's about how dominant MoCo was. As for the Southeast Region, two of MoCo's best teams ever, 2010 WJ and 2015 Good Counsel, were just competitive in the region. MoCo teams this year aren't in the same universe as those teams.
|Rohan Asfaw and Abby Green are tremendous athletes and WJ girls and Northwest boys brought great teams to the State Championship, but MoCo cannot compare this year to the teams in Fairfax County. Asfaw would have been 4th and Green would have been 3rd; NW boys would have been 6th and WJ girls would have been 3rd if they had been competing just across the bridge, to say nothing about where they would have placed at Virginia states. Also how about Will Merritt with his 15:54 in 1A.
|except Northwest is not the best team in MoCo this year. Good Counsel is.
|CJ The Snake |
|I wonder how things will shake out in indoor team peformances.
P.S. hi ryun andyson