Julia Ghiselli didn’t know much about Heather Holt before the Monroe Parker Invitational, except that she was fast.
A lot of people are getting to know Ghiselli now, and she’s pretty fast herself. And Ghiselli was pleased to learn that Holt was also “very nice.”
The Annandale freshman ran 17:29 on Burke Lake’s 2.98 mile course to win, reaching the threshold to make the all-time list for the course, where will soon be 37th.
Lake Braddock won both varsity races, with the women edging Tuscarora and Robinson and the men ahead of James Madison and W.T. Woodson. Junior Edward Cerne led the Bruins with the overall win, with Tyler Lawson following in third.
Ghiselli’s grade level belies a nuanced appreciation for the sport, which she picked up as a third grader in her private school’s once-weekly cross country practice, then fortified with a few years in the Vienna Youth Incorporated track program. She has generally been interested in running history, focusing an eighth grade project on Katherine Switzer, and she recently started reading The First Ladies of Running.
“It’s so fun to make a connection to where you are, with nature and connect with the people you’re running with,” she said about running. “I learned the different techniques for training and racing.”
Most importantly: “With training, you get out what you put into it. but you have to balance being serious about training with having fun. In racing, you should always try your best and don’t have any regrets.”
She knew she would regret not saving something for the last .98 miles, so after sticking to Holt through the first two miles “like Velcro,” as an Annandale fan yelled near the two-mile mark, she tested Holt on the shady, obstacle-laden last loop through the woods. By the time she hopped over the train tracks, she was clear of Holt and cruised to a 28-second victory. She had finished second two weeks before at her first high school race, the Great Meadow Invitational.
Holt, the Foot Locker South runner-up, had won the previous two Monroe Parker meets, and while she was disappointed to have finished second this year, she was happy that it happened early in the season, with plenty of time to refocus herself.
Tuscarora senior Emma Wolcott, who had broken up Holt’s two 5A individual state titles with one of her own during their sophomore year, nearly caught Holt in the last stretch, both of them recorded at 17:57.
“I wanted to come here, run fast and have fun,” she said.
Cerne was primarily an 800 meter runner, but tight postseason meets prompted coach Mike Mangan to double him in the 1600 meters. He responded well and found he had a little more endurance than he had realized. Still Mangan wanted him to keep his speed under control, which paid off two weeks prior when he won the PR Kickoff Invitational two mile with a strong last 1,000 meters.
He let Tuscarora senior Ben Nibbelink lead past the second mile mark, and when he was weakened from the rolling hills, made his move in the last 600 meters.
“If he was going to do the work on those hills, I was going to let him,” Cerne said.
Nibblelink, running his first healthy cross country season in two years, was part of a group of five for the first two miles.
“I was going to wait until the two-mile mark, which is what I did, but looking back I wish I had gone earlier,” Nibbelink said. “I had no idea (Cerne) was back there. I thought (James Madison’s Zach Holden) was somewhere behind me, but I didn’t realize where he was.”
He was a little gun shy on a fast first mile, after going through the start of the Great Meadow Invitational in 4:42 two weeks before. He finished fourth there.
Around the Beltway
While Monroe Parker concentrated a lot of Northern Virginia teams, other D.C.-area teams looked far and wide for early-season competition.
Walt Whitman earned wins on both sides at the Rebel Invitational in Hagerstown, Md. Einstein’s Simeon Mussie gapped Whitman’s Aaron Bratt to win, but Bratt had four more teammates in the top 18. Heather Delaplaine was the top local girl, but her second-place Damascus team couldn’t match Whitman’s top five in places 5-12.
Loudoun Valley’s boys dominated the PTXC 9 Invitational in Kutztown, Pa., sweeping the first four places with Sam Affholder, Colton Bogucki Jacob Hunter and Peter Morris all finishing in 15:55 or faster. Natalie Morris and Ricky Fetteroit led the Viking ladies to a win, too.
St. Andrews senior Luke Armbruster won the Bullis Invitational over Washington Latin’s Luke Tewalt. National Cathedral School senior Page Lester won by more than 2:30. Read more about the Bullis cross country course.
A 1-2 sweep by Mark Unger and Garrett Suhr helped the Richard Montgomery boys win the Track and Trail Invitational over T.S. Wootton. Jessica Trzeciak led Wootton to a reversal over Richard Montgomery in the girls’ race.