Look to the left, then to the right.
Everyone on this starting line started crawling and somehow ended up here, in a pair of spikes.
Some found their niche after trying other sports. Others found their identity as a runner in their parents or siblings’ path. A few became runners out of dumb luck. A couple didn’t have
When I was your age, they would say we could become front runners or kickers, that is to say, you could be a runner since you could walk, or you just took it up a few years ago.
Today, what I’m saying to you is, when you’re facing a loaded starter’s pistol – what’s the difference?
For most high school students, summer is a time to kick back, relax and finally turn off that annoying alarm clock. But for runners on the Northwest cross country team in Germantown, the summer season is when they set the alarm clock even earlier. The team holds summer practices on weekdays at 5:30 a.m., just before sunrise.
“At the beginning it’s so difficult,” senior Marissa Branham admitted. “You know that it’s supposed to be summer and here I am waking up earlier for practice than I do for school. I wake up around 5 to get ready and when I drive to school it’s literally still dark out. But by the time I warm up and stretch, I’m pretty much awake and ready to run so it’s not that bad. At the beginning it’s hard, but you get used to it after a few weeks of waking up at 5 a.m.”
New School, New Team, New History
When Charles J. Colgan, Sr. High School opened last year, there were no championship banners hanging in the gymnasium. No trophies lined the trophy cases. No records existed to be broken by ambitious younger generations. Traditions, legends, the stuff of student mythology was yet to be written. So when administrators chose to field a varsity cross country program in the school’s first year, there was only potential before them.
They hired Dave Davis and Bill Stearns, two of the most accomplished coaches in local running, to build their team. Davis was a 2012 finalist for the Brooks Inspiring Coaches award and was inducted into the Virginia High School League Hall of Fame in 2011. He has won seven state titles to Stearns’s five. Stearns, for his part, has coached a Marine Corps Marathon winner, state and national champions, and All-Americans across his career. With Davis’s longtime assistant coach Melissa Tirone rounding out the leadership, they formed a kind of coaching dream team. Their task? Develop their athletes until they could challenge any of the other eleven schools in Prince William County.
Three years ago, we introduced the running community to Matthew Hua, a runner at J.E.B. Stuart High School who would not allow his unique medical condition slow him down. In the time since, Matthew has proven unstoppable. In fact, within four days, Matthew hosted a dinner for the many champions who’ve supported him and his family over the years, graduated from Stuart with an international baccalaureate diploma and underwent surgery to further improve his breathing capacity.
RunWashington caught up with Matthew and several of his champions to find out what has changed in his life since 2015, and how running has changed him.
Between the Techs and the Wolfpacks, the Hoos and the Hoyas on the starting line, there are dozens of other college teams. Their uniform designs might be a little funkier. There might just be five runners in their boxes, if that. And they might need to give you a hint as to what state their school is in, but what they lack in scholarships they make up for in passion for running.
The 90 Division III schools that carry D.C. area natives on their rosters are giving them an opportunity to continue their love for running, for being part of a team and for pushing their bodies’ limits. The non-scholarship division, mostly small private schools, represents the NCAA’s largest division, with 451 colleges and universities, besting Division I by 100.
You think Virginia Tech is the college destination of choice for local runners? The Hokies sport 15, but on the other end of the state, 18 runners are on Christopher Newport University’s roster. Freshman Eric Speeney is one of them, picking it over Division I schools because of the freedom the program would give him to live his life as a student athlete.
On a rainy, windy day, Cindy and Katie Walls talked about all kinds of things during their 26.2-mile run.
It wasn’t just any run. It was the Boston Marathon. They had been planning to each take the race at their own pace, but the mother and daughter decided to run it together as they were walking to the start on April 16.
“We trained throughout the winter all together so it was just kind of like another long run with a couple more spectators and a much grander finish line,” said Katie Walls, 28, of Washington, D.C.
Even though they normally run at different paces, Katie’s mom, Cindy Walls, 60, of Arlington, said because Katie was dealing with an injury, they were able to do most of the long runs in the training cycle together, too. Those runs provided an opportunity for them to chat for a few hours.
Coach Herb Tolbert can’t go anywhere in Gaithersburg without someone calling out, “Hey, Coach!”
It’s a testament to his commitment to the community. A retired Gaithersburg High School guidance counselor and one of the school’s track and cross country coaches, Tolbert has been a pillar in the Montgomery County running scene for over 40 years. Still proud and enjoying what he does, Tolbert is nearing the point where he’s coaching his kids’ kids’ kids.
“It’s kind of like six degrees of Coach Tolbert,” he said with a smile.
Tolbert, 70, has spent his entire teaching and coaching career at Gaithersburg, and simply put, it’s the kids and close-knit community that have kept him there.
Military academies are some of the most revered institutions in the country. Many only take in around 4,000 students in total. Among that small number of students, even fewer compete in varsity athletics. Meet three local athletes now running at the United States’ military academies.
Cross country races are tough, guts-out, lung-ravaging affairs, and for most high schoolers, 5k is long enough.
But some want to ride that feeling a little longer. Like Zachary Zhao.
- The transfer period for Cherry Blossom bibs ends Wednesday at 11:59 p.m.
- Kensington’s Cindy Conant was named the long distance runner of the year for the 55-59 age group by USATF.
- A taxi drove onto the Custis Trail in Arlington the afternoon of Feb. 19.
- College and high school teams continued their indoor track postseasons with conference and state meets, respectively. Here are the local distance event winners or local sweeps. On ths high school side, Northern Virginia girls dominated the 6A 1600 meters, and Loudoun Valley’s boys swept the top six spots in the 4A 1600 meters.