Thais Rolly’s dad Philippe wanted her to grow up playing a lot of sports, so she did.
Soccer, tennis, swimming, rock climbing.
“Ultimately, I wasn’t good at any of them,” she said.
Cross country? The sophomore is very good at that. While she didn’t follow dad’s advice to do something besides running, she did learn one thing from him – the devastating kick that he employs regularly on the D.C. road racing circuit.
She attacked the last quarter mile of the Oatlands course during the 6A state championship and passed Battlefield freshman Sailor Eastman right before the finish to win her first state title, 18:36 to 18:38 on the 5k course. Eastman is in her first season of cross country, having grown up a swimmer. Herndon Sophomore Gillian Bushee was third in 19:13.
“At the end, I just gave it my all,” Rolly said. “I wasn’t expecting to win.”
She had run the Oatlands course as a freshman, but with the 2020 cross country season delayed until spring 2021, whatever experience she gained from that race had faded. She and her dad walked the course earlier in the week to plan her strategy. She finished 44th in 2019.
“I always get progressively faster in races, so I just tried to stay in the second pack early on,” she said.
Eastman, Bushee and Centreville’s Camilla McKinstry (7th in 19:43) lead the first half of the race, with Rolly moving up with Bushee to chase Eastman in the last mile,
“She’s been very patient,” McLean coach Kyle Jemison said. “When she was hurt, she didn’t rush back.”
West Springfield (78 points) and Battlefield (83) finished second and third behind team champion Ocean Lakes (63). Freshman Aidan MacGrath and senior Jane Bruenjes led the Spartans, who won the 2018 title. Herndon, in fifth with 121 points, made its first state championship appearance since 2007.