Road racing is a different world from cross country and track.
It’s harder on knees, ankles and feet than other surfaces. But the crowds are bigger, the runners potentially faster and the atmosphere at many races is a wild diversion from dual meets and invitationals.
For high school runners, the road is a place to experiment, learn and challenge themselves. It is also where many will continue their running careers later in life. For coaches, many of whom raced at one time, the road is fraught with risks and dangers. There is a conflict between athletes’ enthusiasm and coaches’ wisdom.
- Heritage High School alumna Weini Kealti, a sophomore at the University of New Mexico, won the NCAA 10,000 meter championship, running 33:10.84 for a roughly half-second edge over Oregon’s Carmela Cardama Baez. West Springfield alumna Caroline Alcorta, a graduate student at Villanova, was fifth in 33:20.68. The pair raced again in the 5,000 meters, finishing behind Georgetown’s Josette Norris (fourth, 15:52.05). Kelati was fifth in 15:54.46 and Alcorta was 11th in 16:18.66.
- Kelati first showed up at Heritage in the fall of 2014 and went on to win the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships in 2015. Ashley Davidson wrote at length about her for our Spring 2016 issue and Dave Devine wrote the story I wish I had about her last year of high school, when she couldn’t compete.
- The District Track Club held the DMV Meet of Champions Sunday at the University of Maryland. Check out results here.
Giovanni Reumante’s experience as a freshman at Northwood High School was a little different than most. His school had recently reopened after being used for offices for the previous 19 years, but rather than siphoning students from other schools, he and his peers were the only class in the school. The Gladiators could have been called the Trailblazers.
He was one of the first members of the school’s track team in 2005, and the cross country team in 2006.
“It was an interesting year. My freshman year, we only had freshmen,” he said. “We were always the top of the class. We didn’t have upperclassmen until we were the upperclassmen.”
When Zach Gallin wants to hang out with some of his closest friends on any given day, he knows to show up at the Bishop John Carroll Statue in Georgetown at 5 pm.
That’s where the Georgetown University Running Club, which has about 80 active members this year, meets to log some miles and have lots of fun along the way.
“It was one of the first things I joined at Georgetown,” said Gallin, a junior who recently became the club’s president. “It became the centerpiece of my life.”
For college students like Gallin who love to run and crave a team-like environment, club running has become a popular alternative to joining the varsity track or cross country team.
In 1967, college student Doug Edwards fired the gun to start a race at a track meet for the first time.
“My track coach at the time handed me a gun… and a box of shells and said you can earn $5 starting a track meet down at the local high school,” Edwards said. “And I thought that was like dying and going to heaven. And so I did. And it just sort of always stuck with me.”
After a break from officiating that included graduating from college, serving in the Army, getting married and having children, Edwards, now 72, has been starting races at track meets since the late 1980s.
Kate Murphy’s legs were burning.
It wasn’t because she had just run 4:07.21 to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Trials in the 1500 meters. Or had just run against a professional field to make it to the semifinals of those trials. Or any of the performances over three years that made her one of the University of Oregon’s top recruits in 2017.
No, this was happening months later. She had just run a routine workout around the Lake Braddock High School track, notching times she could hit in her sleep. The speed was there, but the sensation was enough to shake her. For a while, it came and went. Then, it stayed. Running, which made it worse, didn’t seem worth it.
“I just wanted to quit,” she said. “Not quit the sport, but I needed a break from racing. It was getting too frustrating.”
She hasn’t quit, but she’s spent more than two years running in circles while trying to get back to what felt right. As a college sophomore, she has retired from competing at the University of Oregon, where she never got to put on a uniform, but she’s not exactly moving to Del Boca Vista any time soon.
After years of Page Lester and Taylor Knibb laying waste to the D.C. state meet, this fall saw some more competitive races, particularly on the women’s side, both in terms of the individual race and the team standings, with Wilson upsetting defending champion St. John’s, who missed junior Cady Hyde to injury. And while Gonzaga continued to win the boys’ team title, the competitive distance between juniors Gavin McElhennon, Luke Tewalt and Cullen Capuano narrowed. Kenilworth Park continued to serve as the site of the DCXC Invitational, which managed to go off, albeit muddy, when other invitationals were forced to cancel after heavy rain.
John Ausema (Gonzaga), Kevin Hughes (Georgetown Visitation) and Jim Ehrenhaft (St. Albans and National Cathedral) selected the D.C. team.
Northern Virginia teams swept day two of the state championships, with Tuscarora winning its fourth title in five years and West Springfield and Loudoun Valley winning their first titles. On the boys’s side, Loudoun Valley won its fourth straight and WT Woodson edged West Springfield for the Cavaliers’ first team title.
Chris Pellegrini (West Springfield) and Mike Mangan selected the Virginia team.
While Northwood didn’t unseat Severna Park at the Maryland state meet, the Gladiators’ runner-up finish was the best by a D.C.-area boys team in six years. On the girls’ side, Bethesda remained home to the top team, but this year it was Walt Whitman. Private schools saw some solid work by St. Andrew’s freshman Allison Mitchell and Bullis’ Nicholas Kariyanis.
Giovanni Reumante, Scott Silverstein and Chad Young selected the Maryland team.
The 2018 cross country season in the D.C. area was marked by a lot of rain. Some races, like the Oatlands and Octoberfest invitationals, were cancelled outright. Others, like the Glory Days Invitational, were altered to preserve as much of the course as possible. Races that went on were often much slower, and forced runners to be more tactical. Times appropriately went out the window. It seemed to pay off, though, in late November when many the Nike Cross Southeast regional was run in a deluge. By that point, the conditions were second nature to most of our local runners, who took advantage and found themselves near the front of the race. Ten boys in the top 25 and three girls in the top 15. Loudoun Valley’s boys then went on to repeat as Nike Cross Nationals champions, the first boys team to do so, and improving on their record-low score in the process.
Locally, we saw the first public individual and team champions in D.C. state meet history, a first state title for Loudoun Valley’s girls, W.T. Woodson’s boys, West Springfield’s girls and Woodrow Wilson’s girls. Young runners had breakout seasons all over the place, while the veterans continued to demonstrate a mastery of the sport. Loudoun Valley’s boys won their fourth straight state title and Tuscarora’s girls won their fourth in five years.
RunWashington convened members of its coaches panel to look at local runners’ seasons and name them to the All-RunWashington Postseason Team, which comprises the top 10 boys and top 10 girls in Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. The Maryland, D.C. and Virginia teams comprise the next seven boys and seven girls. The coaches who selected the postseason teams are: Chad Young, Bethesda-Chevy Chase; Chris Pellegrini, West Springfield; Mike Mangan, Lake Braddock; John Ausema, Gonzaga; Kevin Hughes, Georgetown Visitation; Jim Ehrenhaft, National Cathedral School and St. Albans; Giovanni Reumante, Northwood and Scott Silverstein, Winston Churchill.
Coaches considered overall season progress but gave more weight to postseason performances.
See the D.C., Maryland and Virginia teams here and have a look at all of RunWashington’s cross country coverage here.