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Jacob Windle, Mateo Baretto, Kellen Hasle, Connor Wells and Jacob Hunter celebrate Loudoun Valley’s second straight Nike Cross Nationals victory. Photo: Steve Klotz/Youth Runner

There was panic in the Jungle.

People felt it at home in Purcellville, at the Commonwealth Games, in a University of Virginia dorm and beamed it back to the Gleendover Golf Course in Portland, Ore.

From all indications, Loudoun Valley was all over the standings as they raced Nike Cross Nationals. Second. Third. But definitely not first. A long way from being the first boys team to defend a national title.

“After the second mile, we heard we were in third, and it wasn’t even close,” Coach Marc Hunter said. “We were probably 30 or 40 points back, and you’re not going to make that up in a mile.”

Something had to be wrong.

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Eldad Mulugeta and Obsaa Feda fill out their paperwork for Nike Cross Nationals. Photo: Giovanni Reumente 

D.C.-area runners dominated the Nike Cross Southeast meet, putting four runners in the top eight and 15 in the top 50. Loudoun Valley easily qualified for the national meet that “Purcellville” won last year, with Sam Affolder and Jacob Hunter finishing second and third in 15:14. Right behind Hunter, Eldad Mulugeta finished fourth in 15:15 and his Northwood teammate Obsaa Feda finished eighth in 15:20. The course at WakeMed Park in Raleigh, N.C. was extremely muddy after days of rain, with more rain throughout the races.

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Other top-50 finishers included Bishop O’Connell senior Max Greczyn in 11th in 15:29, four more Loudoun Valley runners in senior Connor Wells in 16th (15:37), junior Kellen Hasle in 17th (15:38), junior Carlos Shultz in 22nd (15:42) and senior Jacob Windle in 24th (15:44) with Washington Latin junior Luke Tewalt finishing 23rd in 15:42. West Springfield junior Sam Pritchard was 40th in 15:57, Loudoun Valley juniors Mateo Barreto and Kevin Carlson finished 45th and 46th in 15:59 (Barreto ran unattached) and West Springfield junior Chris Weeks was 48th in 16:01.

Two Loudoun Valley girls came close to qualifying as individuals – sophomore Ricky Fetterolf in eighth (18:05) and junior Elise Abbe in ninth (18:19). Rock Ridge freshman Ava Gordon finished 15th in 18:31, West Springfield junior Amy Herrema was 30th in 18:56, Washington Latin sophomore Zoe Edleman was 32nd in 18:59.

Loudoun Valley’s boys scored 52 points to beat Florida’s Bolles with 117. They’ll race Saturday, Dec. 1. Northwood was the top local Maryland team in 13th with 327 (trailing 12th place West Springfield  by six points), and Gonzaga was the top D.C. team in 24th, with 569 points. The Loudoun Valley girls were sixth, scoring 217 points.
At the Foot Locker South regional on a drier McAlpine Park course in Charlotte, N.C., George Marshall senior Natalie Bardach led local finishers in 18th place in 17:52, with Annandale sophomore Julia Ghiselli 27th in 18:14. Broad Run junior Ellie Desmond, 31st in 18:17, Woodbridge senior Laura Webb, 47th in 18:35, and John Champe junior Bethany Graham, 50th in 18:37 rounded out the top 50. Herndon junior Colin McCauley’s 81st place finish in 16:18 led Northern Virginia finishers, though DCXC Invitational senior race winner Daniel O’Brien, a junior at the Virginia Episcopal School, qualified for the national meet, finishing third in 15:07.

Maryland and D.C. runners competed at Van Courtlandt Park in New York City for the Foot Locker Northeast meet. Poolesville senior Nandini Satsangi led local Maryland finishers in 49th place in 19:40 and Sophia Hanway, a sophomore at D.C.’s National Cathedral School, finished 65th in 19:55. Bullis junior Nicholas Karayanis led local Maryland finishers in 40th place, running 16:29, and St. Albans sophomore Damien Hackett was D.C.’s top finisher in a tie for 53rd place, running 16:41.

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West Sprinfield’s Hope Stephens and Katie Orchard run in the 6A race. Photos: Bruce Buckley

Three Virginia teams won their first state championships Saturday at Great Meadow, while two regulars kept their annual appointments on the podium.

Tuscarora girls and defending national champion Loudoun Valley boys repeated as team champions in 5A and 4A, respectively, but Loudoun Valley and West Springfield’s girls an W.T. Woodson’s boys (6A) were both new to hoisting a trophy. LV’s Sam Affolder repeated and his teammate Ricky Fetterolf won her first individual title. Three Northern Virginia runners finished in second: Broad Run’s Ellie Desmond in 5A, and West Springfield’s Chase Kappeler and Woodson’s Jack Leech in 6A.

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Eldad Mulugeta and Baraka Sila, early in the 4A race. Photos: Vanessa Junkin

Seniors Obsaa Feda and Eldad Mulugeta led their Northwood High School cross country team to a second-place finish on Saturday at the Maryland state meet. It was also a D.C.-area school’s top finish in the 4A boys’ race since Walter Johnson’s runner-up finish in 2012.

The teammates ran together toward the finish line in the 4A boys’ race, but Feda crossed first, running the hilly three-mile course at Hereford High School in 15:44.05. Less than a second later, Mulugeta finished the race, earning a time of 15:44.29.

The third- and fourth-place runners finished 18 seconds after Feda and Mulugeta.  

Northwood  Coach Giovanni Reumante was amazed by what his team was able to accomplish.

“We set this goal at the end of last cross country season,” he said. “And so throughout indoor, outdoor and the entire summer, they worked toward this goal of being a competitor at the state meet.”

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Former Montgomery Blair runner Morgan Casey. Photo: Marleen Van den Neste

As the Montgomery Blair High School cross country team geared up for its weekly long run, Morgan Casey felt a pang of hunger. She would silently grind through the discomfort, and eventually it went away. This habit only worsened as the year wore on. By the end of her junior year, Casey was at least seven pounds lighter than the beginning of the year, a state champion, and anorexic.

She is not an anomaly. A 2007 study found that around 20 percent of female high school athletes self-reported disordered eating. Athletes tend to underestimate disordered eating and eating disorders, however, so the actual number could be much higher. This problem continues, and may even intensify, in college. One Columbia University study found that 35 percent of female college athletes were at risk of developing anorexia nervosa, and 58 percent were at risk of developing bulimia nervosa. Those with eating disorders face worsened physical health and a are also a high risk of suicide. With a mortality rate of about 10 percent, anorexia has been called the “most fatal mental health disorder” by the National Institute of Mental Health.

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Marshall coach Darrell General has a laugh with Oliver Church in 2017. Photo: Doug Stroud 

George Marshall cross country coach Darrell General, winner of two Marine Corps Marathons, is in the running for a $25,000 prize from the 2018 Hometown Heroes Award. Voting closes Friday, Nov. 16.

General is the only cross county or track coach among the finalists and the only East Coast finalist. For years, General has maintained a rigorous work schedule to support his family and his competitive running career, which included five Olympic Marathon Trials qualifications and two Marine Corps Marathon victories. Read all about that here.

He has been coaching cross country at George Marshall High School, and aside from his coaching of the 2016 state 5A championship team, two individual state championships and a handful of Foot Locker finalists, has had a hand all of his athletes’ developments. Check out a video produced for the contest, located below the ballot.

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The girls’ lead pack shows no sign of breaking shortly after the first mile mark. From left: Katie Hirsch, Claire Wigglesworth, Zoe Edelman, Ave Nicely and Sophia Hanway. Photo: Charlie Ban

In the last five years, D.C. state championships have had the most drama in the middle, where teams’ fourth and fifth runners battle on the margins while Taylor Knibb or Page Lester run away with the individual title. Spectators got better shows this year, The race this year stayed interesting much, much longer, with Woodrow Wilson sophomore Ava Nicely kicked past Washington Latin sophomore Zoe Edelman in the last tenth of a mile to win the individual title, 19:41-19:43.

Nicely and fourth-place finisher Claire Wigglesworth (20:03) led the way for Wilson upset of defending champion St. John’s, 44-49. It made Wilson the first public school to win a title since the DCSAA championship race started in 2013.

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Eldad Mulageta leads Obsaa Feda in the second mile of the 2018 Montgomery County Cross Country Championships. Photo: Charlie Ban

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.”

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Chris Pellegrini provides guidance to West Springfield seniors Sarah Coleman and Chase Kappeler. Photo: Ed Lull

Chris Pellegrini has spent almost half of his life coaching at West Springfield High School.

After he graduated from the Fairfax County school, he returned to his alma mater to serve as an assistant coach to the cross country program he cherished.

Now, 17 years later, Pellegrini leads three sports, coaches more than 200 high school students and maintains a nearly year-round sports schedule. On top of that, Pellegrini is leading a girls’ cross country team that could be in contention to win a state title. Perhaps the boys, too.

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