Northwood made history at Bohrer Park in Gaithersburg, winning the school’s first Montgomery County Championship behind Obsaa Feda’s individual championship. If that wasn’t enough, fellow Northwood senior Eldad Mulageta finished second.
“We tried to just cruise, but our pace wasn’t matching our effort because of the mud,” Feda said. After two miles, Mulageta told Feda to go on ahead. “It was just me against the mud.”
Much like the rest of this fall’s races, the course was muddy after heavy rains that extended into the meet and cancelled underclass junior varsity races. Kelvin Milsted of MoCoRunning noted that it was the first county championship with rain since 2005.
With his 16:00 victory, Feda is undefeated so far this year, taking invitational titles at Hood College and Pennsylvania’s Carlisle Invitational. Mulageta ran 16:23. Feda’s rise to the top of the county, and possibly the state, has been accompanied by the Gladiators’ improvement. The team was sixth in coach, and alumnus, Giovanni Reumante’s first year at the helm, but before that the team hadn’t finished any higher than 13th at the county meet since a third place finish in 1980 – before the school closed for 18 years.
“All of the guys are buying in,” Reumante said. “They’ve seen each other every one of the last 100 days, reaching for the same goal every single day, and it’s really coming together. This is a step toward our ultimate goal.”
While the meet had no bearing on postseason advancement, it was still a measurement for how far Northwood has come, and its potential for the state meet.
“Probably eight of the top 10 4A schools at the state meet will come out of Montgomery County, so for us to come out on top, that’s huge,” Reumante said.
Northwood was 18th at the state meet last year, finishing with just the minimum five runners. This year, their to five all finished in the top 25 at the county meet, with others close behind.
“When we’re in the weight room, coach reminds us not to be selfish,” Feda said. “We don’t feel like whatever we are doing is so hard when we think about that.”
Mulageta rejoining the team after a year off of cross country has helped Feda do workouts, and it is an endorsement of the team’s dedication and direction. The last time he raced the county championships, as a sophomore, he finished 102nd.
“I knew what we could do was special, so that made it pretty easy to come back,” Mulageta said.
Senior Baraka Sila was 16th in 16:57, freshman Lamar Wilson and senior Mulisa Reggasa were 22nd and 23rd in 17:11, with junior Henok Eshetu was 28th in 17:23.
Paint Branch also set a record, finishing second, beating the team’s previous best finish of seventh in 2016. Ezra Dessie led the way in third place in 16:27 and Newell Mulugeta was eighth in 16:41
Coach Mark Anderson said the team’s senior-heavy quartet, including Amanueal Tensaye and Vincente Maltagliati, who finished 20th and 21st in 17:07 and 17:08, have been consistent, but the real measuring stick for how high the team can go will likely come from the their fifth man, who could be James Plunkett (86th in 18:17), Yosef Tsigie (97th in 18:24), Raynold Dalton (108th in 18:31) or Yabsira Gugsa (116th in 18:40).
“In the last month, the unit’s all come together, the workouts have been going well the last couple of weeks,” Anderson said.
Dessie’s breakout has been somewhat of a surprise. His junior year left him feeling unfulfilled and he’s made up for it this year.
“He’s matured as a person and it’s awesome to watch that show up in his running,” Anderson said.
More new faces at the front
Walt Whitman’s girls rose back to the top after seven years behind Bethesda-Chevy Chase and Walter Johnson. They did it with strong pack running, with Breanna McDonald (19:47) and Alicia Lauwers (19:49) finishing third and fourth and Paula Bathalon (20:28) and Emmersen Weinberg (20:29) finishing 12th and 13th.
“We’ve been running well all year long, and we’re happy with where we finished today,” said coach Steve Hays. “They’ve been running better when they race together.”
McDonald cut it a little close, arriving 27 minutes before the gun went off. She was still a little frustrated after spending the morning taking the ACT, but Hays told her to leave that behind and come into the race fresh.
“He didn’t want me to bring that tension into the race,” McDonald said. “I just let go of everything. I felt more relaxed.”
Richard Montgomery sophomore Charlotte Turesson dropped her pursuers in the third mile with a strong surge that she timed to avoid letting anyone else hang on to her, after hanging off of the lead pack early on.
“It was easier, mentally because I wasn’t leading the whole race,” she said.
She’s in her second season of running cross country. In sixth grade, she couldn’t run a lap without stopping, but improved to a sub-5:40 mile in eighth grade.
“That process made me love running,” she said.
Sherwood freshman Katie Kaneko followed in second, running 19:20. She’s still not sold on cross country, and resisted teammate’s pleas for her to run on the track team. She’s a swimmer and diver in the Winter and lacrosse player in the Spring.
The recipe for her success?
“I had a positive mental state throughout the run,” she said. “I wanted to run well for my teammates; they’re my favorite part about cross country.”
T.S. Wootton senior Jessica Trzeciak finished third in 19:39, but not the way she had expected. The field’s fast start caught her flat-footed.
“If I had been able to go out faster, it would have been easier,” she said. “I was supposed to go out hard and hang with people, but everyone went out really fast and it took me by surprise. I had to spend about two miles moving back up.”