Bishop O'Connell girls win sixth straight VISL title
by Charlie Ban
Cindy Walls trusts that her Bishop O’Connell teams will come together in the end of the season, and cap off the cross country season in style.
Forgive her confidence, but it’s happened the last five years. When the Lady Knights posted their sixth-straight Virginia Independent Schools state championship Nov. 9, it wasn’t a surprise, but the race still held some tension for Walls.
|Senior Devin Nihill|
The finishing touches were going on the cross country legacy of her star runner, Devin Nihill. Hobbled by bunions, Nihill’s footing on her senior season was tenuous, with a two-week layoff when the pain became too much.
Walls said it got to the point where she and Nihill had to pick her battles for her remaining season, choosing more conservative running over what had been her ambition to set the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference record.
“It was hard for her to accept that there were some limits on the season,” Walls said. “She came in with some big goals for herself, but she put some of them aside to help the team.”
Individually, she did manage to win the WCAC title for the first time, as her team won its fifth area title. “The state meet was really hard for her, she came a long way during her career here to have her feet take her chances away at chasing her individual goals,” Walls said. “She fought through a lot of pain to run with her team, and she learned some lifelong lessons from that. She never complained, but you could tell how hard it was to even run at times.”
She finished her career off (she’ll go back to lacrosse soon, which she will play at Drexel University) with a sixth place finish at the state meet at the Woodberry Forest School, helping the Knights to a comfortable margin over Richmond’s St. Catherine’s School, with five runners in the top 21. Belen Rogers was close behind in eighth, with Theresa Matula in 13th, Taylor Chamness in 17th and Catherine Arendt in 21st.
O'Connell's victory might have been even more dominant, but senior Megan David, the Lady Knights' routine third-fastest runner, shattered her tibia during the race and understandably did not finish. David was a sprinter and high jumper on the track team who was running cross country for the first time.
Walls said the team’s rigorous early season schedule tempered her ru
nners for the postseason, thanks to the stiff competition in northern Virginia and the difficult courses.
|Division 1 Boys|
|Division 1 Girls|
|Division 2 Boys|
|Division 2 Girls|
“We’re running terrain that other teams can’t find nearby,” she said. “Teams from schools near the beach are running fast times early in the season, but those courses are flat. We might not finish with intimidating times early on, but we’re ready for a more tactical state meet course.”
On the men's side, Bishop O'Connell's J.J LaPointe finished second, leading his team, which graduated six runners last year, to a 13th place finish. Paul IV finished third to lead the D.C.-area contingent. Trinity Meadowview was the first area team to finish, in third, in the small school boys division, and the Wakefield School finished third on the girls' side.