Taylor Knibb repeated as D.C.’s champion at Fort Dupont Park to kick off a slew of state meets over the next eight days of state meets for local cross country runners. She’ll also have a chance to defend her D.C./Maryland Private Schools championship next Saturday in Derwood, Md.; Virginia’s public schools have their state meet Friday and Saturday in The Plains; and Maryland’s public schools will face off Saturday at Hereford.
Though she faced scant competition on her way to a 71 -second victory in 19:32, an improvement over her meet record that left her wobbly-legged afterward, Knibb hammered the entire course, not with disregard for next week’s private school state meet, but with an eye toward it.
“Every race can be a different kind of workout for me,” she said. “Today was a chance to work on feeling good even after a hard start, Page (Lester, of National Cathedral School) and I went a little hard at ISLs (the Independent School League championship) last weekend, and hills that start this race made me feel just like that again.”
Adding to that effort, the Fort Dupont Park course was a little longer than in years past, and a steady rain added a few slick spots to an already-technical course.
“I stopped hearing other runners a few minutes in, but I didn’t to look back,” she said. “I had to watch the ground the whole race; I almost few a few times.”
Had she looked back, she wouldn’t have seen much. Though she had a strong lead over Georgetown Day School senior, Katherine Treanor, Treanor, with senior Abigail Doroshow in third, were focused on leading the Hoppers to a 37-53 win over Georgetown Visitation. Georgetown Day won the ISL championship 42-57, also over Visitation, a week prior in Derwood.
“It was kind of narrow in the beginning, so everyone was getting boxed in,” Treanor said. “People go out so fast.”
They have to, because less than 600 meters into the race, the course narrows for series of trails that don’t open back up to allow for much passing until after the first mile mark.
“We have no problem letting anyone else take the lead,” Doroshow said. “I’ve started races in dead last, but you can tell you’ve made the right choice when you pass people and you can tell their breathing is hard and I’m still feeling good.”
Treanor slowed down to speed up, so to speak, a few times on the course.
“There were turns where I just jogged in place and waited for the course to clear,” she said.
On the boys’ side, Georgetown Day senior Tristan Colaizzi won the title in 17:12, a meet record by 22 seconds. He tied with teammate Aiden Pillard in 2013, with Pillard getting the win. Colaizzi and the rest of the GDS varsity sat out last year, but this year they were back, again going 1-2 with junior Jackson Todd in second, but the Hoppers lost a close race with Sidwell, 41-48.
Like Knibb, Colaizzi used the race as an opportunity to test himself on hills.
“They’re my weak point,” he said. “Hills take it out of me, for sure, so today I wanted to go after them and also try to have enough of a gap that I could focus more on my footing when it got slippery and protect my ankles. That added a fun element because I didn’t have to fight for the tangents and I could pick my footing a little more.”
Todd shook off a disappointing race a week ago and tried to remind himself that he was out there because he loved the sport.
“I was doing a little better this week than I was last week,” he said. “I just tried to relax and enjoy the race and try to stay on my feet.”
The team score against Sidwell was an improvement over their Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference meet a week prior, which they dropped 29-47. Both teams ran without top-five contributors, Sidwell sat Christian Roberts and GDS left Josh Shelton on the bench.
GDS coach Anthony Belber said although he as a D.C. native appreciated the opportunity for an all-District championship race, it came at a busy time in the season for the private schools, which fielded nine of the top 10 individual girls and six of the top 10 boys. With the league championship a week before and the D.C./Maryland meet a week after, this is often the ideal weekend for runners to rest.
With Roberts out this weekend for Sidwell, junior Amal Mattoo took charge with a third-place finish in 17:50, edging defending champion Tyreece Huff, of Phelps, by two seconds.
“I knew I wasn’t going to get a great time on this course today, so I tried to have fun with the race,” he said. “I love the thousand-meter downhill to finish the race. That’s my favorite part of the course.”
In beating GDS, putting five runners in the top 15, Sidwell demonstrated they’ll be a force in D.C. running for a while. Only one scoring runner, Sam Blazes, is due to graduate in the spring.
“It’s exciting because we have such a young team and we know there’s even more we can do,” Mattoo said.