Northwood High School's Ayu Fantaw wanted the Consortia Championship Meet record of 16:03.58 set by Northwood's Obsaa Feda a year earlier. In the final quarter mile of the race, he realized that not only had the record slipped away, he was in danger of losing the race. Springbrook's Surafel Mengist spurted into the lead just as the trio, including Northwood teammate Henok Eshetu, began their final loop around campus in the view of all the spectators.
Fortunately for Fantaw, he had experienced a very similar ending just eleven days earlier in a dual meet against Walter Johnson. In that dual meet, he initiated his kick with about 100 meters to go and he finished just behind WJ's Jacob Marks, 17:21.0 to 17:21.1. At the Consortia Championships, he waited until there were closer to 50 meters to go to kick past Mengist.
Said Fantaw, "At a dual meet with Walter Johnson, I kicked like halfway through the curve and [Marks] beat me right at the end. So I learned this time, waited a little more, and kicked on the straight."
Fantaw said that he spoke about breaking the Consortia Championship cross country course record all season. He was sort of joking, but he sort of wasn't.
Said Fantaw "I was talking about it for the whole year as like a joke kind of but still thinking that we could do it."
To break 16:03, the runners needed to average under 5:10 per mile and knowing that the first mile was by far the easiest mile, they wanted to be well under that pace. The trio of Eshetu, Fantaw, and Mengist hit the first mile in 5:01. According to both Fantaw and Mengist, that was perfect.
Said Mengist, "That was good...that was what we all wanted to go out at, 5-flat. When I heard Coach Gio say, '5:01,' we were like, 'Okay, that's a good pace.'"
The group lost all sense of pace in the lonely, winding, and hilly middle portion of the race. Nobody offered two mile splits and the runners were required to concentrate on maintaining their footing rather that racing the clock.
Emerging from the wooded section for the final quarter mile, it became all about head-to-head racing.
Said Mengist, "Right when we got out, I wanted to go early so I got in front and started pushing...I was feeling good. That's why I went: I felt really good. We slowed down up hill so I sort of recovered and that last quarter I just started going... [The last 100 meters] I was kicking but the hills and all took a toll so I just didn't have it in me and he had more in the tank."
Mengist added that his fitness is good and he wants to work on his kick and hill running ahead of the state championship meet.
Fantaw's time of 16:15.69 was #3 in meet history. It was a fraction of a second better than the previous meet record of 16:16 set by Obsaa Feda in 2017 before the record was lowered to 16:03.58 in 2018. Mengist's time of 16:16.39 was #5 in meet history and Eshetu's time of 16:19.56 was #6 in meet history.
Blair High School's Alexa Avila experienced no such drama in her first Consortia Championship experience. A half mile into the race, she already left the field behind. Halfway into the 5k course, she no longer heard any footsteps besides her own, and crossing the finish line, she waited 35 seconds before the next runner came in. She cruised to the individual victory in 20:18.79 which was the #10 performance in meet history.
Her Consortia Championship experience was in sharp contrast to her previous race which was the DCXC Invitational at Kenilworth Park, an excellent course for freshman competition and spectator support.
"It was tough," said Avila. "It was more mental and I just had to focus on myself...in the woods you're kind of by yourself and other courses it's more open, but I liked it because I like the trails. It's different."
Avila added that she wanted to break 20:00 at the upcoming Montgomery County Championship Meet. She recorded a time of 20:04.8 at the Hood Invitational earlier this season.
The Blair girls claimed the Consortia team title for the eighth time in eleven years. The Northwood boys claimed their third consecutive Consortia Team Title.
Year Boys Champs Girls Champs
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2019 Northwood Blair
2018 Northwood Northwood
2017 Northwood Blair
2016 Einstein Blair
2015 Einstein Blair
2014 Paint Branch Einstein
2013 Paint Branch Einstein
2012 Einstein Blair
2011 Einstein Blair
2010 Einstein Blair
2009 Einstein Blair
Photos by Giovanni Reumante