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D.C.-area XC runners are the best in the business

by Charlie Ban December 21, 2015 at 10:20 am 0

Photo: Marleen van Den Neste

Photo: Marleen van Den Neste

Two Foot Locker champions. Another runner one spot from qualifying. Three Nike Cross Nationals individual qualifiers, plus the rest of one of their teams. State champions and runners up. These all add up to a banner year for the D.C. area’s cross country runners.

Members of our coaches panel discussed the season in December and named the All-RunWashington postseason team. The top 10 boys and girls would be a force against any metropolitan area in the country. The D.C., Maryland and Virginia teams are no slouches either. Voting on the panel: Gonzaga’s John Ausema, Walt Whitman’s Steve Hays, Georgetown Visitation’s Kevin Hughes, Lake Braddock’s Mike Mangan, West Springfield’s Chris Pellegrini, T.S Wootton’s Kellie Redmond and Winston Churchill’s Scott Silverstein. Coaches emphasized post-season performances in their evaluations.

During the season, the Oatlands Invitational’s varsity boys race featured nine of the 10 post-season All-RunWashington team members, plus Foot Locker finalist and Virginia 6A champion Jonathan Lamogda. On the girls’ side, Glory Days had five of the 10 post-season honorees in the varsity A race.

Here’s a little bit about our postseason all-stars, and the best teams in D.C, Maryland and Virginia.

All-RunWashington

Rohann Asfaw Jr Richard Montgomery Abigail Green So Walter Johnson
Tristan Colaizzi Sr Georgetown Day Heather Holt So George C. Marshall
Andrew Hunter Sr Loudoun Valley Weini Kelati Sr Heritage
Robert Lockwood Sr W.T Woodson Casey Kendall Jr Oakton
Andrew Matson Sr Stone Bridge Taylor Knibb Sr Sidwell Friends
Jackson Morton Sr Stone Bridge Page Lester So National Cathedral
Kyle Sanok Sr Potomac School Rachel McArthur Jr Patriot
Colin Schaefer Sr Lake Braddock Kate Murphy Jr Lake Braddock
Fitsum Seyoum Sr Tuscarora Bethlehem Taye Sr Paint Branch
Jack Wavering Sr Good Counsel Emma Wolcott So Tuscarora
Rohann Asfaw right on Eric Walz's heels at the Maryland 4A championships. Photo: Charlie Ban

Photo: Charlie Ban

Rohann Asfaw/ Jr./ Richard Montgomery

After a year watching Evan Woods and Diego Zarate duke it out in Montgomery County, Rohann Asfaw ran right to the front of the line. He ultimately finished as the top Maryland runner at the Nike Cross Southeast meet with a sixth place finish, edging Jack Wavering and avenging his loss to Dulaney’s Eric Walz in the state 4A championship. His 15:21 at Nike was two seconds from qualifying for the national meet.

 

Photo: Marleen van Den Neste

Photo: Marleen van Den Neste

Tristan Colaizzi/ Sr./ Georgetown Day School

The ups and downs for Tristan Colaizzi matched the terrain at Fort Dupont Park, where he won the D.C. state championship. Though he weathered rough races at Oatlands and Glory Days,  he turned things up in October and November, running fast (15:34 at the Third Battle Invitational) and gutsy races (winning the MAC title over fellow postseason honoree Kyle Sanok). It all came together at the Foot Locker South meet (Colaizzi lives in Virginia), where he finished 19th in 15:37. He’ll run at Williams College next year, where his brother Griffin raced as a sophomore this year in the NCAA Division III championships.

Photo: Marleen van Den Neste

Photo: Marleen van Den Neste

Abigail Green/ So./ Walter Johnson

Abbey Green’s sophomore season looked a lot like her first — front running that gave her the Wildcats an early advantage over everyone else. Her consistency gave her teammates something to aim for as they rounded into shape by the end of the season to claim their third Maryland 4A title. At the state meet, she lost only to Foot Locker finalist Maria Coffin, though Bethlehem Taye was just a second behind. Along the way, she won the Montgomery County and 4A West titles, running 18:04 for the former.

Photo: Marleen van Den Neste

Photo: Marleen van Den Neste

Heather Holt/ So./ George Marshall

After winning the state 5A championship as a freshman, Heather Holt couldn’t sneak up on anybody this year. She started strong, with wins at the Monroe Parker Invitational and the DCXC sophomore race, both of which meant beating fellow 5A sophomore Emma Wolcott. While she let Weini Kelati go at the Glory Days Invitational, she raced Kate Murphy hard but wound up third. Wolcott finally got her at the state meet, but two weeks later, Holt was six seconds from a trip to the Foot Locker Championships.

Photo: Ed Lull

Photo: Ed Lull

Andrew Hunter/ Sr./ Loudoun Valley

On the fourth Thursday of November, Drew Hunter gave thanks that his cross country season could finally begin in earnest. His September, October and most of November were preludes to his return to the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships in San Diego. Up to, and including the south region meet, he faced scant competition beyond the first half mile of races, and he made it through those months free of injury and ready to go after the national title. By the end, he came out as Northern Virginia’s best high school cross country runner in history and the first local Foot Locker champion on the boy’s side since Sherwood’s Solomon Haile in 2008.

He opened up the pace after the first half mile and left the pack behind, slowing only at the end of a rain-softened course in Balboa Park. Nobody challenged him and he cruised to a 12-second victory in 14:55. While not having any competition made for less-than-thrilling cross country races, it leaves Hunter fresh for a pair of track seasons, including professional-level indoor races this winter. He’ll run at Oregon next year, where his dad Marc studied while running professionally for Athletics West.

Along the way he won every race in which he set foot, moved Footlocker runner-up Sean McGorty’s Foot Locker South course record down a few seconds to 14:26(on top of the “5k” reportedly being a little longer), and collected his third individual state title, his first after the Vikings moved up to 4A. Loudoun Valley’s team, for that matter, also claimed its first 4A title.

Photo: Charlie Ban

Photo: Charlie Ban

Weini Kelati/ Sr./ Heritage

With a lot to prove, Weini Kelati has run roughshod over the competition on her way to the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships. She started out strong last year when she arrived at Heritage from Eritrea, but waned as the season went on, and though she qualified for Footlocker, finishing 20th was a disappointment for her. With a year to learn English and communicate better with her coach and teammates,  she has not just kept up the pace, but accelerated. She  turned the tables on E.C. Glass junior Libby Davidson, who beat Kelati in both the state and national qualifiers and finals and finished sixth in the latter. She led Heritage to the Virginia 4A title in November.

Kelati has focused more on time than her competition, which has helped because she wasn’t pushed late in a race until the Foot Locker final, and even then she refused to let her competitors share any of the work. She eventually gapped Maryjeanne Gilbert and got nearly a full second ahead for a 17:09 victory, the first local girl to win since Langley’s Erin Keough repeated in 1986.

She recently turned 19, and won’t be able to compete on the high school level next fall.

Photo: Dustin Whitlow

Photo: Dustin Whitlow

Casey Kendall/ Jr./ Oakton

Casey Kendall was a dependable leader for two-time defending Virginia 6A champion Oakton. The Cougars spend most of their season racing outside of the D.C. area, but when they came home, Kendall picked up where she had left off. Fourth last year in 6A, she moved up to third to lead her team’s upset bid against Lake Braddock.

Photo: Marleen van Den Neste

Photo: Marleen van Den Neste

Taylor Knibb/ So./ Sidwell Friends

Two more state titles for Taylor Knibb — D.C. and the Maryland-D.C. Private School championships. A win at the DCXC senior race. All soon after starting her cross country season late following the end of her summer triathlon season. She raced through the line and usually, that meant winning.

Photo: Charlie Ban

Photo: Charlie Ban

Page Lester/ So./ National Cathedral School

Page Lester assuredly put together a strong sophomore season, though always on the heels of triathlon training partner Taylor Knibb at both the ISL and Maryland-D.C. Private Schools meet. She won Delaware’s Lake Forest Invitational in September and bested fellow sophomore Abbey Green on the Georgetown Prep Classic’s hilly course in October.

Photo: Charlie Ban

Photo: Charlie Ban

Robert Lockwood/ Sr./ W.T. Woodson

After races in previous years that saw him unwisely taking the lead, Bobby Lockwood became a closer. and how. After licking his wounds after a 21st place finish at the stacked Oatlands race and 16th at Glory Days, he picked it up in November, finishing fifth in the Virginia 6A meet and 16th at Nike Cross Southeast, leading his team: We’re the Waldos.

Photo: Charlie Ban

Photo: Charlie Ban

Andrew Matson/ Sr./ Stone Bridge

Matson was part of a strong Stone Bridge team that rivaled Lake Braddock for supremacy and edged Thomas Jefferson for the 5A title, thanks in large part to Andrew Matson‘s ninth place finish. He ran 15:42 for 23rd at Nike Cross Southeast and finished 11th in the competitive Oatlands Invitational and the Third Battle Invitational.

Photo: Ed Lull

Photo: Ed Lull

Rachel McArthur/ Jr./ Patriot

Rachel McArthur did not race much, giving her long racing socks — an elementary school gift from her mother — a longer lifespan. But when she lined up, she showed up. She notched a 17:36 at her season opener at the Third Battle Invitational for second behind Weini Kelati, but had an injury layoff that kept her out of the end of Virginia’s postseason,  but she made it back in time for the Nike Cross Southeast meet, where she scored her second trip to the national meet by virtue of her fifth place finish in her season’s best 5k time of 17:16. She finished 41st at Nike Cross Nationals.

Photo: Dustin Whitlow

Photo: Dustin Whitlow

Jackson Morton/ Sr./ Stone Bridge

Standing a full nine feet tall and leading the league in earnestness, Jack Morton‘s fourth place finish lead Stone Bridge to its first 5A title, but his 13th place finish at Nike Cross Southeast was also something to write home about. He was a mainstay in the top 10 in his invitationals throughout the season, with a sixth place finish at Oatlands and fifth place at Third Battle.

Photo: Charlie Ban

Photo: Charlie Ban

Kate Murphy/ Jr./ Lake Braddock

Though cross country fans were robbed of the Murphy-McArthur competition for the most part thanks to the latter’s injury, Kate Murphy had plenty to savor. She started racing late, after early August’s Pan American Junior Track Championships, where Murphy won the 1500 meters, pushed back her post-track break. After claiming the Virginia 6A individual title to lead the way for Lake Braddock to reclaim the team’s first title in three years, two weeks later her 17:00 winning time at Nike Cross Southeast led to the same team result, a 37 point win over Virginia powerhouse Blacksburg. At the national meet, Murphy moved up throughout the race to finish 16th.

Photo: Charlie Ban

Photo: Charlie Ban

Kyle Sanok/ Sr./ Potomac School

Kyle Sanok showed up to all kinds of races and mixed it up with Virginia’s public school teams. He finished fifth at Oatlands and ninth at Third Battle, but also won the Virginia Independent Schools state meet. He ran a 15:40 PR to finish 23rd at Foot Locker South.

Photo: Charlie Ban

Photo: Charlie Ban

Colin Schaefer/ Sr./ Lake Braddock

Repeating a state title after losing the first two finishers isn’t easy, but Colin Schaefer wasn’t afraid of the challenge. He finished fifth after a series of yeoman-like races, picking up top-five finishes beneath his sweatband. He qualified for the Nike Cross Nationals meet with a fifth place finish in the Southeast, then went on to finish 79th. His 15:11 time at Nike Cross Southeast was his season’s best.

Photo: Marleen van Den Neste

Photo: Marleen van Den Neste

Fitsum Seyoum/ Sr./ Tuscarora

His second year of cross country was a doozy for Fitsum Seyoum. Just a year after leaving soccer to take on running full time, he started off winning the Great Meadows, Monroe Parker and DCXC senior invitationals, with just an injury dropout at Oatlands keeping him from finishing among the other eight All-RunWashington postseason honorees. He raced smart at the 5A state meet, trusting that Waleed Suliman, whom he had beaten before, would come back. It didn’t happen, but with a commitment to run at Virginia Tech starting next year, Seyoum will have plenty of chances to build on his rapidly growing body of experience in racing. He finished 22nd at the Foot Locker South regional.

Photo: Marleen van Den Neste

Photo: Marleen van Den Neste

Bethlehem Taye/ Sr./ Paint Branch

Her track speed caught up to Bethlehem Taye‘s developing cross country strength and she saw her Maryland 4A finish jump to third place, just a second behind Abbey Greene, from from 25th the year before. What’s more, she closed out her season with a 14th place finish at the Nike Cross Southeast region meet, the third highest local finisher.

Photo: Charlie Ban

Photo: Charlie Ban

Jack Wavering/ Sr./ Our Lady of Good Counsel

Going up against some heavy hitters never caused Jack Wavering to flinch. During the season coach Tom Arnold debated the merits of his third place finish at Oatlands, losing only to Hunter among the eight other All-RunWashington team members that ran the race, versus his second place finish at the Glory Days Invitational.

Nike Cross Southeast put those in perspective. His seventh place finish at Nike Cross Southeast had him three seconds from an individual trip to the championships, but it was also the start of the scoring for his Good Counsel team’s fifth place finish, 13 points ahead of Virginia’s top team from Lake Braddock.

Photo: Marleen van Den Neste

Photo: Marleen van Den Neste

Emma Wolcott/ So./ Tuscarora

Emma Wolcott had a strong freshman year and improved where she needed to in 2015. She claimed the Virginia 5A individual championship from Heather Holt, setting up two more years of tug-of-war that promises great races. She was runner up at the Monroe Parker Invitational, the DCXC sophomore race, won the season-opening Great Meadow Invitational and the Loudoun County championship. She finished 22nd at Foot Locker South.

All-D.C

John Colucci So Gonzaga A’Ishah Bakayoko Sr Georgetown Day
Jacob Floam Sr Gonzaga Emily Carroll Sr St. John’s
Tyreece Huff Sr Phelps Abigail Doroshow Sr Georgetown Day
Harry Monroe Jr Gonzaga Brennan Dunne Fr Georgetown Visitation
Will McCann Jr Gonzaga Michaela Kirvan So Georgetown Visitation
Christian Roberts  Jr Sidwell Friends Arrington Peterson Jr Wilson
Jackson Todd  Jr Georgetown Day Katherine Treanor  Sr Georgetown Day

With four runners on the All-D.C. team, Gonzaga is an easy choice for best boys team in D.C., ahead of Sidwell Friends.

On the girls’ side, Georgetown Day had what coach Anthony Belber thinks could be D.C.’s strongest team, though he gave the mantle of fastest to 2014’s Georgetown Visitation. The Mighty Hoppers proved it with a win over Good Counsel at the Maryland-D.C. Private Schools championship and a 16th place finish at Nike Cross Southeast.

All-Maryland

Michael Abebe Sr Northwood Cecily Davy Sr Einstein
Asfaw Estifanos Sr Northwestern Grace Dellapa Sr Wootton
Ben Gersch Sr Whitman Sophie El Masry Sr Richard Montgomery
Matt Lopez Sr Good Counsel Amanda Hayes-Puttfarken Sr Sherwood
Kevin McGivern Sr Good Counsel Emily Murphy Sr Walter Johnson
Colin Sybing Sr Wootton Julia Reicin Jr Churchill
Liam Walsh Sr Quince Orchard Nandini Satsangi Fr Poolesville

When you win three straight state titles, you make a pretty convincing case for the being the best team in the entire state. They’ll go for four next year.

Good Counsel’s boys dominated the Maryland-D.C. Private Schools meet and finished fifth at Nike Cross Southeast.

Brent Bailey Sr Centreville Danielle Bartholomew Jr Osbourn Park
Bryce Catlett Sr Osbourn Park Regan Bustamante Sr West Springfield
Spencer Jolley Sr Lake Braddock Jill Bracaglia Sr Oakton
Conor Lyons Jr Lake Braddock Sara Freix Sr Westfield
Brandon McGorty Jr Chantilly Sarah Daniels So Lake Braddock
Joe Valle Sr Stone Bridge Emily Schiesl Jr Lake Braddock
Saurav Velleleth Jr Thomas Jefferson Faith Zolper Jr South County

From the start, when Lake Braddock won the Monroe Parker Invitational while giving Kate Murphy a break, the Bruins looked pretty set for the season. After a hiccup in Minnesota, they came back to Virginia and plowed through the rest of the season, ending with a Nike Cross Southeast title and a 13th place finish at Nike Cross Nationals.

The Lake Braddock boys won their second straight Virginia 6A title, but they faced stiff competition from 5A Stone Bridge at Nike Cross Southeast, and 4A Loudoun Valley could have also given them a tough race.

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