It’s as inspiring as it is a little naughty.
T-shirts that say “Run like Schmidt,” worn by dozens of runners at Rock Ridge High School in Ashburn.
Parents love it, though. The shirts aren’t as self deprecating as you think, because Brian Schmidt, the school’s cross country and track coach, is running again despite a traumatic injury a few years ago. He had been an avid road racer and ultramarathoner, and before Rock Ridge opened, had coached at Dominion and W.T. Woodson.
“I’ve been running since 1983 and when something gets taken away from you that you’ve been doing for 34 years, it’s very difficult to come to grips with it,” he said.
It’s a tough call, but on the basis of Loudoun Valley’s Nike Cross Nationals victory and Abbey Green and Page Lester‘s top-15 finishes at Foot Locker, the D.C. area has likely put together its strongest and most diverse cross country season in recent years. D.C., Maryland and Virginia all had superlative runners who distinguished themselves throughout the season in races near and far.
If you want to keep track of the D.C. area’s graduating top runners, you can easily do it by bookmarking the University of Virginia athletics site. Five of our All-RunWashington postseason runners have committed to the Cavaliers to add to the eight underclassmen on the roster this year.
The RunWashington coaches panel met Nov. 27 to decide whose performances throughout the 2017 cross country season had earned them this honor. State championship meet performances carried the greatest weight, though other post-season performances and outstanding invitational results also figured in.
The coaches panel consisted of John Ausema, Gonzaga; Anthony Belber, Georgetown Day School; Steve Hays, Walt Whitman; Kevin Hughes, Georgetown Visitation; Mike Mangan, Lake Braddock; Chris Pellegrini, West Springfield; Kellie Redmond, T.S. Wootton; Scott Silverstein, Winston Churchill and Cindy Walls, Bishop O’Connell.
In addition to the All-RunWashington team, coaches from each state or D.C. picked their next seven top runners. Those teams can be viewed here:
Montgomery County once again dominated the D.C. area Maryland suburbs. The boys, particularly, put on a show at their county meet Oct. 21. Walter Johnson won its fifth-straight Maryland 4A title and Walt Whitman edged Bethesda-Chevy Chase for top D.C.-area boys’ team honors at the state meet in third.
Virginia’s 6A classification saw some of its traditions torn in half, as the traditional Northern Region was split and the Occoquan Region was born from it. Northern Virginia teams captured state championships in boys and girls 6A (Lake Braddock), girls 5A (Tuscarora) and boys 4A (Loudoun Valley).
This season saw the ascendance of St. John’s College’s teams, with the girls surging to the lead at the D.C. state meet and the boys into second, behind a young Gonzaga team that ran without top returner John Colucci.
Cross country runners aren’t imposing figures, and Peter Morris knows that. The Loudoun Valley guys couldn’t walk up to the rest of the Nike Cross Nationals field, stare everybody down and expect a response, but Morris knew if they could just be themselves on Portland, Ore.’s Glendoveer Golf Course, everyone would have a good reason to be scared of them. Like an alligator’s grin, a Viking’s laugh was a sign of danger to come.
“We just showed up and were united and knew if we ran our best, we’d win,” he said. “The way we’ve bonded has been one of the reasons we’ve run well, and we’ve bonded because we have fun together.”
It wasn’t quite that easy, but it was that straightforward. Hard work, smart training, bonding and some insight from Morris’ experience racing here last year all went into what turned out to be the most dominant boys’ team victory in NXN’s 14-year history as the high school team cross country championship.
The Loudoun Valley boys qualified for the Nike Cross National meet with a southeast regional victory powered by Sam Affolder and Peter Morris in second and fourth places, with Colton Bogucki and Jacob Hunter in 14th and 22nd place, and Connor Wells in 49th. LV’s Chase Dawson, running unattached, edged Wells. Thomas Edison senior Yared Mekonnen qualified individually. Loudoun Valley’s Natalie Morris, the Virginia 4A champion, was ninth. Northwood senior Obsaa Feda (30th) and Genevieve DiBari (26th) of the Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart were the top Maryland finishers and Gonzaga’s Gavin McElhennon (75th) was the top D.C. finisher. They’ll race Saturday, Dec. 2 in Portland, Ore.
All three local runners to make the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships will return after successful regional races. In New York, National Cathedral School senior Page Lester finished fifth and Walter Johnson senior Abbey Green finished seventh. In Charlotte, N.C., George Marshall senior Heather Holt finished seventh. Last year, Green finished 21st, Holt finished 27th and Lester finished 32nd. They race Saturday, Dec. 9 in San Diego.
Local boys largely skipped Foot Locker, with the exception of Maryland state champions Ryan Lockett (12th in the Northeast) and Adam Nakasaka (26th), who went to New York. Mekonnen had earlier aimed for Foot Locker but by the middle of the season switched his plans in favor of Nike. Caleb McCurdy, the DCXC senior race runner-up, was the best local finisher in the South regional.
Nobody on the Walter Johnson girls’ team has ever known a world in which they haven’t been defending state champions. That will continue for another year, after the Wildcats won their record fifth straight 4A title.
Lake Braddock girls won their third straight 6A title, once again beating Oakton, winner of the two state meets before the Bruins’ streak started.
After three years of winning team scores in the 40s, the Bruins nearly doubled that, scoring 86 to Oakton’s 92.
They did it with a tight pack of their fourth through seventh runners, who finished 31st, 32nd, 33rd, 35th and 38th.
Senior Sarah Daniels led the way in sixth (19:00) and Brielle Perry in 14th in 19:28. Rebecca Doran (20:02), Zoe Rafter (20:03), Samantha Schwers (20:07), Madeline McAvoy (20:09) and Madeleine Fleenor (20:11), respectively, also raced. Daniels, Schwers and McAvoy returned from last year’s team.
On the eve of the the most dominant team race in Virginia history, Sam Affolder was a little disappointed.
“We had a team meeting, and I was expecting an inspirational speech about how we were going to make history and we’d come out fired up,” he said. “We talked about what we were going to wear the next day. Nothing about trying to sweep or go after the state record. I’d never had a pre-race meeting like that before.”