Evan Woods decisively won the boys 4A Maryland cross country state championships Saturday, snapping rival Diego Zarate‘s winning streak for the season.
Woods, a senior at Walt Whitman, finished in 15:49. Eric Walz, a junior at Dulaney, took second in 15:56 with Zarate coming in third less than a second behind.
[button-red url=”http://www.motiontiming.com/node/144″ target=”_self” position=”left”] Results [/button-red]”It’s by far the best cross country feeling I’ve ever had. The best running feeling ever,” Woods said. “It was a hard race, there are a lot of good guys in this field. They took it out hard and this is a course where it’ll beat you up in the second half.”
Last month’s Montgomery County championships saw Zarate barely edge out Woods in a photo finish. Woods said he tried not to let that affect his performance on Saturday.
“It was really hard to get prepared mentally for this race. He out-kicked me at counties and just out-gunned me at regionals, so I felt like I was a little bit hopeless,” he said. “But I came into this race just trying to put everything behind me and come at it with a fresh mindset.”
Zarate had about a five-second lead on the pack through mile two, when Woods caught up to him and thought it was time to make his move for the lead.
“That’s a hard place to be mentally where you’re way out in front and the pack catches you. So I decided that was the best time to go,” he said. “Sometimes you can’t afford to hang out them for too long or there’ll catch their breath.”
Woods and fifth-place Amir Khaghani led Whitman to a third-place finish behind Severna Park, which placed its five scoring runners in the top 11 to win the program’s third straight title; and Dulaney, winners of the Glory Days Invitational in October. Zarate’s Northwest team edged Bethesda-Chevy Chase by a single point to claim fourth place.
In another exciting race, Nick Fransham, a senior at North Harford, won the boys 3A contest in 15:41 after a couple lead changes in the last quarter mile. Fransham was in the lead as runners headed toward the finish, but David Eisenhauer, a senior at Wilde Lake, pulled ahead. It appeared Eisenhauer would win when Fransham unleashed his kick and finished less than a second ahead.
“Near the end I just had one last push, had to make things happen,” Fransham said. “I didn’t quit, I just waited him out a little bit longer and used the hill to help me with my kick.”
Eisenhauer said the two have had close finishes before in the 3200m in outdoor track state championships.
“With 800 meters to go back then I could kick for 800 meters on the track, so I took off and ended up running nine seconds faster than him. Cross country is a whole different ball game, especially on this course when you’re either going up or down a hill, so that took all the finishing speed out of me,” he said.
Both boys races went out fast. Paul Hugus, the boys coach at River Hill, said the 3A race started at a 4:55 pace, faster than the regional meet.
Albert Einstein, led by Alejandro Arias, lost third place to Mt. Hebron on a sixth-man tiebreaker.
Nora McUmber, a senior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase, opened up a huge lead in the last half mile and won the girls 4A race in 18:40, more than 10 seconds ahead of the Maria Coffin, the second place finisher from Annapolis. Last year, the state meet was McUmber’s only hiccup in a season that saw her go otherwise undefeated until the Nike Cross National meet.
McUmber said she and Winston Churchill’s Lucy Srour, who finished in third and led her team to third place, took turns in the lead for the beginning of the race, with McUmber moving ahead on the uphills and Srour flying in front on the downhills. McUmber was able to make her move on her second lap on the huge hill rising from “the dip,” and opened up her lead over the last half mile.
“I can’t believe it. I knew this was going to be a really hard race and I think I really prepared myself. It’s great, senior year, this is now or never,” she said. “I kept thinking this is my last chance to really get it because there isn’t a next year. It means a lot.”
Walter Johnson repeated as state champions, widening their lead on McUmber’s Barons for the second straight year, 51-91. Abbey Green‘s fourth-place finish made her the fastest freshman in the race by more than 90 seconds. Behind her, Emily Murphy (seventh), Katrione Kirsch (ninth), Kiernan Keller (15th) and Jasmine Garrett (26th) took control of the race for the Wildcats to be the only team champions from the D.C. area.
They had a target on their backs all season, which added some stress to their title defense.
“I saw they were feeling all the pressure about repeating. They weren’t having as much fun,” said coach Tom Martin. “We just concentrated from beginning of October on just having fun. When the girls starting having fun again, they started racing better.”
He pointed to a couple stand out performances among girls on the team, including Garrett and Keller, who raced with an injured hamstring.
“She did that just out of sheer guts and love for her teammates,” he said.
Many of the top finishers at Walter Johnson are underclassmen, and freshman Sadie Keller was just five seconds behind Garrett as their sixth finisher, which setting the team up to have another successful season next year where they could potentially be vying for a three-peat. Martin said he’ll do his best to keep the pressure off the athletes next year as well.
“I’ll just remind them that without the fun, this isn’t worth doing,” he said.
Urbana took the top two spots in the girls 3A race, with senior Emily Mulhern winning in 19:02 and team mate Maria Carberry, a junior, finishing about eight seconds back. Mulhern, who previously won states as a freshman and sophomore. She said those wins came much easier, and the hard work she had to put in to take the top spot this year makes this the most meaningful state title for her.
“I have had a lot of ups and downs this season. I didn’t even run at regionals because of a hamstring issue, so today I just wanted to cross the finish line healthy and happy,” she said.
The teammates ran together for much of the race, which both girls say helped them keep a competitive pace.
“Just being there with Maria, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so in sync with her before as today. We just were really feeding off each other and I could just tell we were both having great races,” she said.
Carberry said it was the first time all season both girls have had a successful race at the same time.
“I’m really glad that Emily and I ran it together because both of us haven’t had our best race together and I think this is the first time we did, so I’m really happy about that,” she said.
Both the boys and girls teams from River Hill won the team competition. Coach Earl Lauer said each runner knew what he or she had to do to help the team place, and that many ran better than expected.
“We kind of punched everyone in there and we had five in the top 25. You do that, you’re gonna be hard to beat,” he said. “I told them over a month ago, it’s yours to lose.”
He said the team has the potential to be successful in 2015, since five of their top finishers are not graduating and will run next year as well.
Albert Einstein edged Urbana for second place, 105-108, with Pauline McMurry and Ciciely Davy leading the way in 13th and 14th.
In the 2A class, Zach Gascho, a senior at Catocin, won for the boys in 16:24, helping propel his team to the top spot. Hayley Jackson, a sophomore from Patuxent, finished in 18:48. Liberty took the top team spot for girls. Poolesville finished fourth for the boys and seventh for the girls.
For 1A schools, Ty Franks, a junior from Boehmia Manor, won the boy’s race in 16:26. Katie Leisher, a senior at Manchester Valley, won in 19:42. Southern Garrett boys won the team competition, and Smithsburg was the top girls team.
The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association announced realignment plans that would shift various schools, including several in the D.C. area, into new classifications and regions.
Simply put, last year was good for the D.C. area’s cross country runners. West Springfield’s Caroline Alcorta‘s third place was the best Footlocker Cross Country Championships race by a girl since Erin Keough won it all in 1986. Katy Kunc and Hannah Christen gave Lake Braddock two national championships qualifiers. Edison’s Louis Colson and Marshall’s Mackenzie Haight proved the 5A class’ depth by making it, and St. Albans’ Tai Dinger gave D.C. its first qualifier since Sidwell’s John McGowan.
But that was last year.