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.
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.
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.”
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.
Loudoun Valley hasn’t truly flexed its cross country muscle yet.
Not in winning the Great American Cross Country Festival a week ago and not in scoring 18 points to win the Third Battle Invitational, taking six of the top seven spots in the process. The defending Nike Cross Nationals champions haven’t even figured out who their top seven will be, and two runners who raced in Winchester did well enough to only make coach Marc Hunter’s job harder as the Vikings pick their seven runners who will compete in postseason races.
“It’s a good problem to have,” he said. “I’m always amazed at how the boys do. It’s a revolving door for 6-7-8-9, and it’s been a short season, so we’ll have to make some tough decisions. When they run well like this, it makes it harder.”
Luke Tewalt isn’t the kind of hold back, especially when he has a chance to really be part of a race.
The Washington Latin junior took that opportunity Saturday at the Glory Days Invitational at Clifton’s Bull Run Regional Park, leading W.T. Woodson’s Jack Leech and Bishop O’Connell’s Max Greczyn through the rolling course. For Tewalt, it was a Goldilocks race, not too fast, like the DCXC Invitational a week earlier when he faced off against a Lynchburg area runner with a much faster personal best; and not too slow, like many of the smaller invitationals his charter school team had been racing.
“I don’t mind setting the pace because I’m used to that in a lot of my races, but it was even better to have guys to run with,” he said. “We were all out there pushing each other and it wound up being a really fun race.”
Woodrow Wilson sophomore Vincent Kamami spends a lot of his time before races wrapped up in his nerves. This week, coaches and race directors were right with him.
As rain continued to fall on the D.C. area, the fates of weekend invitationals were once again in doubt. On Friday, Fauquier County, Va.’s Octoberfest Invitational pulled the plug, like Oatlands two weeks before and Maryland’s Track and Trail before that, driven by concerns about how courses would survive the onslaught of spikes and body weight.
But the DCXC Invitational at Northeast D.C.’s Kenilworth Park was a go, and runners would have a chance to face off and get dirty. Coaches, and Kamani, could stop fretting and start planning on actually racing. The flat, usually fast course was not immune to the rain, and long muddy stretches and iffy turns forced many races to become tactical, which as T.S. Wootton senior John Riker remarked after his third place finish, would ultimately be more beneficial in the long term for runners.
Tom Martin isn’t sure what he’d do without the towers field in Bethesda, Md. Maybe his cross-country runners would have to do more workouts on the track, he says. Maybe he’d even think about retiring from coaching. That’s how important the roughly 1.25-mile, grass-and-dirt loop around the WMAL radio towers is to him. It’s more than just a 75-acre field nestled between two highways and not far from Walter Johnson High School, where Martin coaches. It’s a crucial piece of the local running culture in Montgomery County.
“For me, it’s almost as if, when that goes away, I might consider retiring,” Martin says. “It’s invaluable just to have… this nice open space where we can do all different kinds of workouts. It would be a tremendous loss to our program.”
Long, dewy grass at Fort Washington Park presented a challenge at runners at the Prince George’s County Invitational. So did “the General,” a long hill from the bank of the Potomac River.
That was alright for Eleanor Roosevelt coach Nayda Pierla, whose teams won the boys’ competition 36-90 over Parkdale and girls finished second behind Flowers 27-54. Roosevelt junior Brandon Lewis on the individual title in 17:49, while C.H. Flowers junior Javon Watts remained undefeated at Fort Washington Park for her career, winning by more than 90 seconds in 21:14. It’s a few seconds slower than her winning time last year, but the grass on the course had not been mowed.
As students at St. Albans School and National Cathedral School prepare for the cross country conference championships, many of these runners are also getting ready for the fall play.
Jim Ehrenhaft, who coaches cross country for both Washington, D.C., schools and is also the assistant track coach in charge of distance, is just one of the coaches in the region who works with students balancing other commitments outside of running and school.
“It’s something that we just have to help them manage,” he said. “Because their interests certainly should be encouraged, and at the same time, when they made choices, there are consequences or repercussions, and we just, again, have to help them understand that and put it in perspective — that’s one of the big challenges.”