Northwest High School's "Big 3" has turned into the "Big 5" and head coach Beth Muehl is thrilled with what looks to be her most dominant girls' team yet. Kathy Aherne, Britt and Emma Eckerstrom, Becca Stinner, and Alyssa Henshaw formed a tight pack from the gun. Although Whitman's Morgane Gay held an insurmountable lead for the entire race, the black storm of Jaguar jerseys took charge of the chase pack. Working together, Kathy Aherne and Britt Eckerstrom were able to take 3rd and 4th place overall in the race. Only three opponents broke up the pack of five, and Emma Eckerstrom, Becca Stinner, and Alyssa Henshaw rounded out the top ten with 8th, 9th, and 10th places. With five girls in the top ten, they won the meet with 34 points. Whitman, who placed 3 girls in the top 6, was the next closest team with 76 points.
Muehl was happy with the way that her athletes came out and competed at the first big invitational. She will take the win, but the way she sees things, they still have a lot of work to do. With Emma Eckerstrom still recovering from injury, Britt Eckerstrom still getting used to high school cross country, and Alyssa Henshaw still coming into her own, this team could get even better as the season progresses.
Coach Steve Hays from Whitman was also impressed with how his girls preformed. Aside from Morgane Gay, who won the race in 18:44 over Fairfax's Frances Dowd in 20:04, Hays is also happy with the work that Debbie Isen and Shayna Barbash put in over the summer to complete the season opener in 5th and 6th. With their help, the team has found itself surprisingly strong up front this year and they have enough depth to surprise some teams.
Quince Orchard was cautiously optimistic with their boys' team victory with 69 points today. Neal Darmody won the race in dominating fashion in a time of 16:16, but the team found themselves uncharacteristically spread out across the top 45 spots. In the future the team hopes to run as more of a team, rather than individuals. Even still, putting their top 5 in the top 25 is not something easily accomplished in such a strong field.
As for Darmody, he broke away from the pack before they even hit the mile marker. He came through two miles in 10:15 and continually widened the gap between himself and his opponents. Dante Morales, a recent transfer to Fairfax High School, was able to stay within 31 seconds of Darmody to take 2nd place in 16:47. Following Morales was the duo from Dematha, Corey Puffett in 16:53 and Robert Patterson in 16:58.
The private schools made a big impact, especially on the boy's side with St. Albans, Good Counsel, and Dematha taking the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th spots. St. Albans coach, Jim Ehrenheft, was very pleased with his boy's team despite an off day from their star runner Nick Bax. Today's top runner, Brian Rooney, is beginning to make a name of his own after a great spring on the track. Rooney placed 5th overall in a time of 16:59. He was backed up by Bax in 13th, Alex Snowden in 24th, Mike Dee in 28th, and Peter Thompson in 47th.
According to Bax, "it was just one of those days." After winning this meet individually the previous two years, he just didn't have it on this day, but he was pleased to see his team step up when he was not on his game. St. Albans expects to see Bax back in shape in a few weeks after he spent the majority of the summer on the bike.
For the runners who had a breakthrough race bottled up inside and for the fans who longed for a cross country race all summer long, this meet had everything one could ask for. Athletes raced each other for 3.1 miles. The summer mileage of the hardest workers was revealed while the laziness of the summer slackers was exposed. Competitors got a peek at what their conference or county rivals had stored away on their rosters and they all walked away saying the same thing: by the end of the season, I'm going to beat those other guys.