Lake Braddock's Alex Corbett, closing in on the Virginia 6A individual title. Photo: Charlie Ban
Lake Braddock’s Alex Corbett, closing in on the Virginia 6A individual title. Photo: Charlie Ban

But for some more fortuitous scheduling, Lake Braddock’s boys may have had “throwback Thursday” on their hands. A throwback to something none of the Bruins were alive to remember.

So they settled for a #sometimeagoSaturday. But that’s all the settling they did.

With an individual title by senior Alex Corbett and a dominating team victory, they put their names in the state championship history books as winners for the first time since 1987, when Brad Baker got the scoring started with one point, en route to a 48-60 win over Woodbridge.

[button-red url=”” target=”_self” position=”left”] Results [/button-red]The Bruins had finished a close second, 87-85, to Chantilly last year, in a 6A class team competition that saw four teams separated by four points. It wasn’t even close this year at Great Meadows, as they gapped West Springfield 41-92, placing three runners in the top seven, led by Corbett and Kevin Monogue sweeping the top two spots.

“I just wanted to be patient during the race,” he said. “I knew it would go out fast because of all the other guys out there.”

Coming in off a North Region championship and a strong senior season, with a 15:17 5k PR set in September at the DCXC Invitational, Corbett was confident his plan would play out to his liking.

Chantilly’s Ryan McGorty (fourth, 15:26), T.C. Williams’ Anteneh Girma (sixth, 15:36) and Cox’s Jonathan Lomogda (third, 15:21) led the way through the mile, and a quartet of Bruins sat in wait a little bit behind.

“Me, Kevin, Colin (Schaefer, seventh, 15:39) and Ben (Fogg, 18th in 16:10), we were just chilling back there in the chase pack,” he said. “After the second mile, I caught back up and got to work. I made my move with 1200 meters to go, and it worked. When I turned around and saw Kevin was coming in second, I couldn’t believe it.”

Monogue’s 15:19 was a PR, and put him five seconds ahead of Stoney’s winning time last year.

“I think I was able to go out faster than last year and keep it going longer,” he said. “I think I was faster in all stages of the race.”

In 2013, Monogue ran 16:16 for 31st place, so that was a bit of an understatement.

“It’s nice when your teammate is the one making the move, and you know what he’s going to do,” coach Mike Mangan said. “It gives you a great advantage. The pack moved, he held on that was enough to get him into position.”

When Schaefer moved to Northern Virginia from Nevada over the summer and joined the Bruins’ cross country team, he was introduced to a team on a mission.

“My first time meeting the guys was in July and they were running a hard workout,” he said. “They all crushed me. Really really badly. I knew these people meant business. It’s been great training with them — they’re the best in the state.”

The Bruins will see how they stack up against the rest of the Southeast and possibly the nation when they take a shot at qualifying for the Nike Cross National meet in Oregon. Mangan is used to taking runners to the Footlocker Cross Country Championships after several successful years with now-graduated girls.

“I guess I don’t get to take my December trip to San Diego this year,” he quipped.

While Lake Braddock had a year to stew over their two-point loss, their pursuers had been waiting even longer for a shot at the state title. West Springfield sent a boys’ team to the state meet for the first time since 2006, and did it in style, finishing second.

Led by Tim Ward’s 10th place finish in 15:56, the middle of the Spartans’ scoring pack came in  places 25, 26 and 27.

Coach Chris Pellegrini explained that his team, while not flashy, got the job done.

“This is going to sound like it’s not complimentary, but it is– I don’t believe that we have a bunch of blue chip individuals on our team,” he said, “Our one blue chipper (Owen Buck) moved to Seattle, over the summer, so our guys did a great job of rallying together.”

Pellegrini gave a great deal of credit to junior Andrew Lackey (27th), the only underclassman in the bunch, who was running his first season of cross country after a playing in the marching band.

“He was running 11:30 for two miles last year in JV track, today just ran 16:22 for 5k to finish in the top 30,” Pellegrini said. “He’s small, he’s skeletal, he looks like he can’t be fast, and he can’t sprint, but he can just will himself. Something clicked in his brain and he decided he was going to do that.”

As Nahom Teshome (25th, 16:21)and Evan Fabish (26th, 16:22) faded in the third mile, Lackey caught them and snapped them back into the goal at hand.

“When he caught up to me and said it was time to go, I knew he was right,” Fabish said, as Lackey came running over to the group carrying a t-shirt and yelling “I can run all day!”

Lackey deferred to his teammates when he explained his motivation.

“These guys, the seniors, have been working at this for a while,” he said. “I just wanted to help them get here.”

He’ll be the top Spartan returner in 2015.

“He’s the ‘how is he doing this, how is he running that fast’ kind of kid that a program needs to get over the top,” Pellegrini said.

McGorty led Chantilly to a third-place finish, with Oakton in fourth, led by Simon Iyob (12th, 15:58) Robinson in fifth led by Patrick Myers ( 14th, 15:59) and Hunter Jurtas (15th, 15:59) and Washington-Lee in eighth, behind Patrick Odlum (43rd, 16:42).

In the 5A race, Thomas Jefferson was the top local team in second, behind sophomore Saurav Velleleth‘s ninth place finish in 16:12. Heritage senior Joey Lightbody was the top local 4A runner in 34th place (16:57).

On Friday, Loudoun Valley junior Andrew Hunter broke Sean McGorty‘s two-year-old state meet record (14:47) with his 14:41, while Brentsville District took the team title behind junior Jack McNally in seventh place (16:11). McGorty went on to finish second in the 2012 Footlocker Cross Country Championships.

In the 2A race, George Mason finished sixth, behind senior Jackson Jost‘s 30th place finish (17:45).

West Springfield's Andrew Lackey drags along teammates Evan Fabish and Nahom Teshome in the final stretch of the 6A boys' race at the Virginia state cross country championships. Photo: Charlie Ban
West Springfield’s Andrew Lackey drags along teammates Evan Fabish and Nahom Teshome in the final stretch of the 6A boys’ race at the Virginia state cross country championships. Photo: Charlie Ban


Maddie 1

While she was worried about increased weekly mileage, fitting into a new team, and balancing running with schoolwork her first time away from home, Maddie Wittich‘s decision to run in college was ultimately easy.

“I can tell from the way I feel during my runs that I have so much left in me and I feel like I need to keep going,” said Wittich, who is entering her freshman year at the University of Richmond. “I still want to improve so much and get new PRs and I know that college will offer that to me.”

Wittich knew during her freshman year at West Springfield High School in Virginia that running in college was an option, having watched two of her senior teammates go on to run at Virginia Tech. She didn’t seriously consider it, though, until her junior year, when she began receiving letters from college coaches and her dad, a marathoner, encouraged her to look at her opportunities. She toured Lafayette College, Virginia Tech and Richmond without contacting the coaches first.

“If I liked the school itself, I’d contact the coach to see if the program was interested in me,” she said. “That’s what I did … because I wanted to make sure I liked the school first.”

She ended up visiting Richmond several times before contacting the coaches. The first was just a campus drive-through with her dad. When she liked the campus, her mother took her back for an official guided tour and visit. She fit firmly into one of Herndon High School coach Peter Sherry’s typical prospective collegiate runner categories: She knew where she wanted to go and thought about competing later.

Other categories include students choosing a program based on the amount of scholarship money available and students who choose their college based on whether they can run on the team.

Wittich contacted the coaches during her junior year and the following summer made her official visit. The next fall, she had a partial scholarship offer and plans made for the next few years. The Springfield native is one of three new freshman girls to join the team this year, including Osborn High School’s Emma Nowak.

Her approach to picking a college didn’t surprise her coach, Chris Pellegrini.

“She’s always been very mature,” he said. “Her teammates call her either ‘mom’ or ‘grandma’ because she’s the one they look to for leadership.”

With fewer than 20 women on the Richmond Spiders, the coaches’ personalized attention made her feel like she wouldn’t get lost in the crowd.

“At a lot of big schools, I think there are so many athletes that the coaches have to focus on that they don’t get personal focus,” she said. “Richmond doesn’t have that many athletes, so [the coaches] fit the program to you and make it very personalized. The coaches care a lot about each individual athlete.”

Signing day at West Springfield High School. Photo: Julie Wittich
Signing day at West Springfield High School. Photo: Julie Wittich

Wittich is already working on a personalized training plan designed by Richmond coaches Lori and Steve Taylor and assistant coach Jon Molz. It includes speed workouts, strides, and longer runs once a week combined with other basic runs to hit about 40 miles a week. Her total weekly mileage will increase to about 60 by the end of the summer.
She comes from a lower-mileage high school program that emphasized quality. While college would mean more miles no matter where she went, she was looking for a college program with a similar philosophy.

“It’ll be higher mileage, but I’m pretty sure I’m ready for that. If something starts to hurt, I’ll contact my coaches,” said the athlete, who remained injury free through four years of competitive high school running.

Other things that influenced her decision to continue running in college included the opportunity to run with and against skilled athletes, the chance to travel with the team, and the outlet of a team to make new friends. There were some negatives she had to weigh in her decision. She won’t be able to go out every weekend like a lot of college freshman, and will need to focus on eating well, taking care of herself, and getting a good night’s rest. However, she said she’s already gotten used to living this kind of lifestyle after running four years competitively in high school.

Newfound freedom, and its pitfalls, are a major obstacle for freshman student athletes. Debbie Wilson, associate athletic director for academic affairs at George Mason University, said time management skills are the crucial link between success and struggling with college academics and athletics.

“College athletes are typically sleep deprived,” she said. “They need the same seven or eight hours as a normal college-aged person, but they need additional resting time to recover from what they’re doing to their bodies.”

Wittich is a little worried about balancing school work with training her first time away at school. The Richmond team practices from 7:30 to 10 a.m. every day, with additional time spent cross training solo each afternoon.

“It’s a different team, a new set of coaches to get used to, and adjusting to college at the same time,” she said. Luckily, Wilson said, most colleges, and especially Division I schools, have full-time academic support staff on hand to assist students with their college transition. That said, collegiate athletes tend to graduate on time more than non-athletes
and with higher grades.

While Wittich may be running more miles and more hours, she won’t be competing as often. While high school
runners have races every week, college athletes only compete every other week, she said. Now that she’s formally committed to Richmond and is preparing to get started training with the team in August, she’s happy with her decision.

“I’m very confident with my decision,” she said. “I believe I’ll have an absolutely awesome time, I’ve heard nothing but positive things about the Taylors’ program.”

She can only hope her college experience mirrors her running career thus far.

“I joined cross country my freshman year to make friends before going into high school, because I’d heard how scary
it is and knew it would be good to join a sports team,” she said. “I knew there would be great people and that’s exactly
what I got. I love team and will miss them. It was a great atmosphere, the coaches were fantastic. It opened up a lot of great opportunities for me.”

Wittich is a member of the Class of 2017, but she expects to be a runner for life.

“I am unbelievably happy I decided to start my freshman year because I’ve really come to love the sport,” she said. “I will definitely continue to do it. I’d love to do a marathon at some point when I’m done with college, that’s one of my big goals.”

For athletes interested in competing collegiately, Herndon High School Coach Peter Sherry, who has 11 former athletes running collegiately now, has a few pieces of advice:• Pick the school regardless of who is coaching, or even regardless of whether you are running. “Going to school somewhere is different if you’re running than if you’re injured. Like the actual school you choose.”•When looking at a college, don’t spend too much time getting to know the juniors and seniors on the team. “They’ll be gone by the time you get there. Hang out with the freshmen and sophomores, they’ll be your teammates for a few years.”• If you want to run in college, you can make it happen. “It might be a matter of going somewhere out of state or a smaller school, but there are opportunities for everyone to run for a college team.”

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