Defending Va. state champs kick off season on top

West Springfield's Katie Kennedy, Robert E. Lee's Bailey Kolonich and Robinson's Lauren Berman bust the rust at the Monroe Parker Invitational at Burke Lake Sept. 7. Photo: Ed Lull
West Springfield’s Katie Kennedy, Robert E. Lee’s Bailey Kolonich and Robinson’s Lauren Berman bust the rust at the Monroe Parker Invitational at Burke Lake Sept. 7. Photo: Ed Lull

Despite losing two national-class runners to graduation, the Chantilly boys and Lake Braddock girls started their state title defense with victories at the Monroe Parker Invitational Saturday in which was, for the most part, an early preview of the Northern Region meet.

Louis Colson staked his claim to the northern region, and perhaps the state, which has been vacated by three seniors who finished ahead of him last year. Before today, Colson, a Thomas Edison senior, had never broken 15:00 for the 2.98 mile course at Burke Lake. On his first race back, he won in 14:43 after breaking away from George C. Marshall’s junior Mackenzie Haight after two miles (9:48).

He’s had a strong summer, including a 15:37 at the Crystal City Twilighter 5k in July.

“I’ve been hitting some great long runs,” Colson said. “I just wanted to run the first two miles evenly and see what kind of kick I had.”

Quite a kick, with some wide-eyed spectators remarking that he looked like a sprinter in the home stretch.

He’s eyeing the Foot Locker championships, but wants to be a low stick for his Edison team as they try to make the state meet.

Haight, an All-RunWashington nominee, was thrilled with his 30-second PR.

“I ran even with Louis the first two miles before he pushed away- he’s a little too strong right now,” he said. “But I held off the chase pack and ended up pretty happy.”

The hilly course mixes grass, pavement and packed dirt trails to compose a loop, a little shorter than 5k, that has been run consistently since 1974.  A small railroad track crossing hits runners with roughly a quarter to go, forcing dexterity out of legs that probably have not run that fast since track season.

West Springfield senior Caroline Alcorta jumped to an early lead over Lake Braddock’s Hannah Christen that she never relinquished to win by 30 seconds in 16:58.

While no surprises came out of the race, meet director Mike Kiernan said it served its purpose to preview the regional qualifier for the state meet, a road that got tougher for the Northern Region with the state’s recent redistricting, which enlarged the candidate pool.

“It confirmed that redistricting is going to make this a brutal region to get out of,” he said after the results were in.

Read about Virgina’s redistricting here.

At the top of the pile for team qualifications, Chantilly’s boys, despite graduating four of its top seven from the state championship team, had a comfortable lead over second-place Patriot, which will now figure in to the region.

“I feel like the miles we put in over the summer are working,” said Chargers coach Matt Gilchrist. “They definitely did the work. We have a nice blend of guys who were on the state team and guys who hadn’t run varsity at all last year. It was a new experience for them and they did well.

“We have six weeks until the postseason but this is as good of a start as you could hope for.

Junior Ryan McGorty and Utah native Dakota Lange finished third and fourth to lead the Chargers.

Robinson, despite finishing third, also figures to challenge Chantilly. John Tolbert, a RunWashington All-Virginia team preseason selection, dropped out after suffering a calf injury, one assistant Matt Lewis said would need evaluation before they determined what it would mean to his recovery and return to racing. Another Ram lost his shoe.

Christen and Katy Kunc led the Bruin girls to a four-point win (159-163) over James Madison, with Chantilly eight points behind.

“I wasn’t sure how we won and I didn’t believe it until I saw the results, but the way our girls ran said it all,” said coach Mike Mangan. “Mary Krump (a senior) had never scored a point before today, but she finished fifth for us. How awesome is that? She’s small, so I worried she’d be pushed around, but she kicked down a bunch of girls and made the difference.”

Sonya Butsea (19:10) hadn’t broken 20 minutes at Burke Lake before, but she nearly eclipsed that by a minute to finish third for the Bruins.

Lake Braddock's Alex Corbett, James Madison's Matt Callem and Chantilly's Dakota Lange try to maintain their gap on Battlefield's Aaron Hill. Photo: Ed Lull
Lake Braddock’s Alex Corbett, James Madison’s Matt Callem and Chantilly’s Dakota Lange try to maintain their gap on Battlefield’s Aaron Hill. Photo: Ed Lull

Teams had an opportunity to race 10 athletes in the varsity races, but from here on they’ll have to select their top seven in invitationals and the postseason.

Even off the podium, the first major race of the year gave teams a chance to see where their summer training took them.

Westfield coach Debbie Long knew the race would be frightening for her runners, 10 runners competing as individuals in five different races.

“They’re all young, all new to it and all really nervous, but when the gun went off they relaxed and ran some good races,” she said. “Every member of the team was there for the starting line for every race. They supported each other there and out on the course and that was even better than how they ran.”

Langley coach Gifford Krivak saw a lot to get excited about from his freshman trio of Erin Frederick, Marina Smith and Emma Saunders, who competed against other ninth graders but among the Saxons’ varsity figure to be in the top five. “They’ll be moving up, this was a great test.”

Marshall also saw some good put a big freshman team to the test. Aiden O’Leary and Patrick Lynch had great races in the freshman race, said assistant Alex Hill, and their number of classmates is a good sign for the program.

“A few years ago we fielded 30 for the entire team. This year we have 15 freshmen and we’re pushing 70 for the entire team. It’s a nice growth.”

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