Despite losing two national-class runners to graduation, the Chantilly boys and Lake Braddock girls started their state title defense with victories at the Monroe Parker Invitational Saturday in which was, for the most part, an early preview of the Northern Region meet.
Louis Colson staked his claim to the northern region, and perhaps the state, which has been vacated by three seniors who finished ahead of him last year. Before today, Colson, a Thomas Edison senior, had never broken 15:00 for the 2.98 mile course at Burke Lake. On his first race back, he won in 14:43 after breaking away from George C. Marshall’s junior Mackenzie Haight after two miles (9:48).
He’s had a strong summer, including a 15:37 at the Crystal City Twilighter 5k in July.
“I’ve been hitting some great long runs,” Colson said. “I just wanted to run the first two miles evenly and see what kind of kick I had.”
Quite a kick, with some wide-eyed spectators remarking that he looked like a sprinter in the home stretch.
He’s eyeing the Foot Locker championships, but wants to be a low stick for his Edison team as they try to make the state meet.
Haight, an All-RunWashington nominee, was thrilled with his 30-second PR.
“I ran even with Louis the first two miles before he pushed away- he’s a little too strong right now,” he said. “But I held off the chase pack and ended up pretty happy.”
The hilly course mixes grass, pavement and packed dirt trails to compose a loop, a little shorter than 5k, that has been run consistently since 1974. A small railroad track crossing hits runners with roughly a quarter to go, forcing dexterity out of legs that probably have not run that fast since track season.
West Springfield senior Caroline Alcorta jumped to an early lead over Lake Braddock’s Hannah Christen that she never relinquished to win by 30 seconds in 16:58.
While no surprises came out of the race, meet director Mike Kiernan said it served its purpose to preview the regional qualifier for the state meet, a road that got tougher for the Northern Region with the state’s recent redistricting, which enlarged the candidate pool.
“It confirmed that redistricting is going to make this a brutal region to get out of,” he said after the results were in.
At the top of the pile for team qualifications, Chantilly’s boys, despite graduating four of its top seven from the state championship team, had a comfortable lead over second-place Patriot, which will now figure in to the region.
“I feel like the miles we put in over the summer are working,” said Chargers coach Matt Gilchrist. “They definitely did the work. We have a nice blend of guys who were on the state team and guys who hadn’t run varsity at all last year. It was a new experience for them and they did well.
“We have six weeks until the postseason but this is as good of a start as you could hope for.
Junior Ryan McGorty and Utah native Dakota Lange finished third and fourth to lead the Chargers.
Robinson, despite finishing third, also figures to challenge Chantilly. John Tolbert, a RunWashington All-Virginia team preseason selection, dropped out after suffering a calf injury, one assistant Matt Lewis said would need evaluation before they determined what it would mean to his recovery and return to racing. Another Ram lost his shoe.
Christen and Katy Kunc led the Bruin girls to a four-point win (159-163) over James Madison, with Chantilly eight points behind.
“I wasn’t sure how we won and I didn’t believe it until I saw the results, but the way our girls ran said it all,” said coach Mike Mangan. “Mary Krump (a senior) had never scored a point before today, but she finished fifth for us. How awesome is that? She’s small, so I worried she’d be pushed around, but she kicked down a bunch of girls and made the difference.”
Sonya Butsea (19:10) hadn’t broken 20 minutes at Burke Lake before, but she nearly eclipsed that by a minute to finish third for the Bruins.
Teams had an opportunity to race 10 athletes in the varsity races, but from here on they’ll have to select their top seven in invitationals and the postseason.
Even off the podium, the first major race of the year gave teams a chance to see where their summer training took them.
Westfield coach Debbie Long knew the race would be frightening for her runners, 10 runners competing as individuals in five different races.
“They’re all young, all new to it and all really nervous, but when the gun went off they relaxed and ran some good races,” she said. “Every member of the team was there for the starting line for every race. They supported each other there and out on the course and that was even better than how they ran.”
Langley coach Gifford Krivak saw a lot to get excited about from his freshman trio of Erin Frederick, Marina Smith and Emma Saunders, who competed against other ninth graders but among the Saxons’ varsity figure to be in the top five. “They’ll be moving up, this was a great test.”
Marshall also saw some good put a big freshman team to the test. Aiden O’Leary and Patrick Lynch had great races in the freshman race, said assistant Alex Hill, and their number of classmates is a good sign for the program.
“A few years ago we fielded 30 for the entire team. This year we have 15 freshmen and we’re pushing 70 for the entire team. It’s a nice growth.”
It’s been a banner year for northern Virginia cross country, but it’s not over yet.
[button-red url=”http://runhigh.com/2012RESULTS/R111012AA.html” target=”_self” position=”left”] Virginia State Meet Results [/button-red]Four local runners are headed to the Footlocker Cross Country Championships this Saturday in San Diego to take on the nation’s best high school runners. It’s the largest contingent the area has sent to the race since 1996 and two of the runners have legitimate national title hopes.
No Virginian has won the Footlocker meet since Langley High School’s Erin Keough in 1985 and 1986.
Chantilly’s Sean McGorty and Lake Braddock’s Sophie Chase, both winners of the Footlocker south regional Nov. 24 in Charlotte, also lead their teams to state titles Nov. 10 at Great Meadow in the Plains. It was Chantilly’s first team title and Lake Braddock was somewhat of a surprise to many after not qualifying for the state meet the year before.
McGorty teamed with senior Logan Miller to go 1-3and lead the Chargers to a 15-point win over Midlothian. The two had finished second and eighth the year before when Chantilly finished fourth, with McGorty chasing Annandale’s Ahmed Bile, whom he passed at last year’s Footlocker final to finish 10th.
This year, he’s been on his own, winning every race so far.
“He creates his own challenges,” said Chantilly coach Matt Gilchrist. “Even though his goal has been Footlocker, we’ve treated each meet as an individual challenge. He really wants to make his mark in northern Virginia.”
McGorty is shooting for a top five performance, and his dominating races so far support that goal. He’ll have to contend with defending champion Edward Cheserek of New Jersey. After track season, it’s off to Stanford University.
Most of Lake Braddock’s girls team had to stay on the sidelines in 2011 as they watched Chase and
Hannah Christen race, with Chase winning her first cross country state title. Illnesses during the run up to the regional meet led to an off day. Despite his team’s nonqualifiation, coach Mike Mangan knew the Bruins could compete.
This fall, after solid performances against nationally-ranked teams in Richmond and Texas, he knew they had a shot at the state title, though he didn’t know what to expect from Midlothian, which had been shuffling its lineup all year.
This year, Chase, a senior, defended her title and Christen, a junior, followed in third, with sophomore Katie Roche in sixth, giving the Bruins a formidable score after three runners.
Junior Katy Kunc’s ascension to the varsity team was a pleasant surprise to Mangan, which helped spur the team’s dominance.
“You’ll often have some freshmen who are new to high school running come in and assert themselves,” he said. “Katy hadn’t run track before, so we really didn’t know how good she was going to be.” She wound up 18th at the state meet, ahead of senior Misha Suresh (38th) whom Mangan said made a dramatic improvement in the last year.
Despite training two miles away from Chase and facing her five times so far this year, West Springfield’s Caroline Alcorta hasn’t backed down from any challenge so far.
“I sell it to her this way,” said her coach Chris Pelligrini. “She can hang back and run with her people she can already beat, or she can push herself to run with the person she wants to beat. Some people let Sophie go, but Caroline aspires to be that fast, so she takes her on her tail and hopes that’s the day she is stronger.”
So far, a good day has meant a 15-second margin from Chase, so that’s her goal on Saturday. She also aims to finish in the top half of the race and the top five among southern region qualifiers.
Her problem in the past had been her nerves, which would sometimes boil over into physical manifestation before races. Pelligirini made her a team captain this year, but with an important caveat.
“The other girls will look toher and if they see her freaking out, as good as she if, they would do the same. She had to set a good example, at least on the surface. I think in doing so, she’s relaxed, herself. ”
Oakton’s Allie Klimkiewicz, a sophomore, also qualified for the Footlocker final.
Northern Virginia and Footlocker facts
- Since Keough’s victories, several Virginians have come close, including John Handley’s Bobby Lockhart in 2001, South Lakes’ Alan Webb in 2000, West Springfield’s Sharif Karie in 1995 and 1996.
- The D.C. suburbs have only been shut out twice- in 2007 and 1992.
- In 1988 and 1995, eight northern Virginia runners qualified.
- In 1986 and 1996, northern Virginia sent six runners.
- In 1996, Karie finished second and Centreville’s Laura Heiner finished fifth
- The girls’ best tandem was in 1985, when Keough won her first of two titles and Wendy Neeley of Lake Braddock finished third.
- The best boys’ tandem was Karie in second and Eric Kweder in ninth, in 1995.
- 2000 runner-up Webb holds the American record for the mile
- 1982’s 28th place finisher Alisa Harms still competes, as Alisa Harvey, and coaches the George Mason High School Mustangs