The 2007 XC season closed with a bang: major surprises, upsets, and tight individual and team battles kept coaches, teammates, and spectators on their toes all day. A chilly culmination to a conversely warm Cross-Country season set the scene for the enigmatic odyssey which lay ahead. The B-CC boys squeaked by Wilde Lake to win the 3A title 89 to 90, Whitman sophomore Andrew Palmer earned a huge upset winning the 4A State title, though his victory did not stop Quince Orchard from running away with their second consecutive team title. All the while on the girls’ side, Northwest freshman Britt Eckerstrom nearly came away with her first state title while Churchill’s Louise Hannallah placed in the top 3 with a time which would have won the 3A girls’ race.
The 4a girls were the first to endure the strenuous elements: allegedly the coldest state meet ever and officially the second toughest 3-mile course in the nation. Much like the 4A West Regional meet, Whitman’s Morgane Gay went out fast and contended to separate herself from the pack. But, Eckerstrom would not allow it. Eleanor Roosevelt senior Dominique Lockhart and Hannallah very closely followed. The four of them quickly established themselves from the rest of the field. Slowly, by the middle of the race, Gay, the Montgomery County champion, dropped from the lead pack and Eleanor Roosevelt underclassman Teshika Rivers moved up to the lead pack. She is remarkably similar to Eckerstrom in terms of talent. Lockhart and Rivers, who were running cold off their absences at their region meet, stuck firmly with Hannallah and Eckerstrom up until the dip, the most conspicuous and memorable component which makes Hereford such a difficult course. Fittingly so, the dip was a major transition point in the race. Eckerstrom, showing her freshman enthusiasm and perhaps corresponding naivety, charged the dip. Rivers decided to take charge and pulled into the lead. What followed the short standstill between the two underclassmen was a very rare and unusual kick down the final straightaway for the win. Rivers was able to use her extra years of experience to hold off Eckerstrom- 19:17 to 19:18. Hannallah followed in 3rd, and Lockhart finished 4th. Wootton senior Veronica Salcido had moved up during the final mile to round out the top 5. Gay finished in 6th.
In terms of team battles, C. Milton Wright won the meet by 1 point over defending champions Eleanor Roosevelt. Dulaney was 3rd while the meet favorite Churchill finished 4th. They lacked their usual depth with an unusually high five-woman spread of over 2 minutes. Whitman, Northwest, and Wootton finished in 5th, 6th, and 7th place respectively.
Would the 4A boys’ race live up to the vibrant excitement which the parity of the girls’ race was able to resonate? Neal Darmody’s strategy was predictable. He took the County and Regional races exceptionally fast. States was no different as Neal showed the same mindset which has correlated his inclination to running solo. Although, one might argue that the adrenaline surging through Darmody to complete the post-season trifecta and earn his first and would-be last State title had an added effect. His first 400 was unofficially 63. His first 800 was an unofficial 2:15. He showed no problems racking up an approximately 50 meter lead on the rest of the field within his 5:02 first mile. Teammate David Laratta and Perry Hall’s Sumanth Kuppalli followed about 10 seconds back at the mile marker. An enormous pack of runners followed about equally behind them. The pack included Whitman’s Andrew Palmer, Gaithersburg’s track-champ-turned-XC star Antonio Palmer, QO’s Artem Panasenkov, and Walter Johnson’s resurgent Chris Moen. These runners had a completely different strategy in mind: take the conventionally fast first mile slow; save more for the prophetically brutal second and third miles.
Soon, Andrew Palmer would break away from that large pack and settle with seniors Kuppalli and Laratta. Darmody was still well out in front of everybody. Towards the middle of the race, Kuppalli fell back. This left everybody instinctively feeling a sense of dé•jà vu. The same three MoCo guys battled together up front at 4A West Regions and they would duke it out up front once again.
This feeling held true up until the maze—around the second mile marker because now something out of the ordinary incurred. Palmer took the lead from Darmody and instantaneously began gapping him. Darmody’s blazing start began to haunt him and would further exacerbate his chances of winning. By the time the leaders began making their way up the dip, Darmody fell back behind Laratta into third. Palmer was able to take the dip conservatively and then resume reasserting the convincingness of his lead. Darmody looked exhausted ascending the dip up which he was very feebly making his way. Palmer finished alone in first place with a 16:36. His time as a sophomore is two seconds faster than Matt Centrowitz’ time when he first won the state title as a sophomore, granted Centrowitz elected to play soccer during the Fall of his freshman year. Laratta followed Palmer. Darmody found himself in a kick for third place but managed to hold on. Antonio Palmer, who had worked is way up to catch the fast-starting Kuppalli around mile 2, squeaked by for 4th place. Chris Moen was for once an unspoken underdog in this race. He put previous performances behind him and finished behind Kuppalli in 6th.
In terms of team scores, Quince Orchard and Northwest were 1st and 2nd place respectively and Whitman rounded out the top 5.
A Sea of Blue: Can the Barons Steal One?
The MoCo guys did not quite have the same overwhelming presence in 3A, but the team battle was intense. Every step and every move from every runner was critical. Would Wilde Lake win for the third year in the row? Or could arguably one of MoCo’s best in B-CC give them a run for their money? The answer could not be found up at the front of the race—where Howard’s Joey Thompson led from the gun to a 16:16 victory, easily the fastest time of the day. Thompson took the race out much like Darmody: fast. The 3A West champion from Urbana, Dylan Bernard, stuck right with him. The man who finished second to Bernard at Regions, Damascus’ Wil Zahorodny, followed in 4th. A small pack about 10 seconds behind the top 4 consisting of the B-CC duo Dylan Straughan and Kyle Short ensued.
Through the first two miles, the top 4 further separated themselves from the rest of the field: Thompson was well out in front, followed by Bernard, then Atholton’s 3A East Regional champion Graham Bazell followed about 10 seconds back alongside Zahorodny. Zahorodny proved the better man on the hills, passing Bazell on each one. Bazell would pass Zahorodny right back after each hill, however. Bazell would drop Zahorodny during the last mile. If it hasn’t been obvious, the theme reiterating the old adage, “the rabbit may be very fast but the turtle wins the race” is very prevalent in each race. Zahorodny, whose 49 second 400 speed surely makes it easy for him to unknowingly start fast, was falling back the third mile. All the while, the pack, which was once very far behind the top-4, was catching up. Nonetheless, Zahorodny managed to hang on for 4th place.
At this point, people were truly coming to realize how intense the team battle between B-CC and Wilde Lake was going to be. B-CC and Wilde Lake runners were exchanging places one after another. Straughan, who had been working together with teammate Kyle Short, followed a mere four seconds behind Zahorodny in 5th. Wilde Lake’s Jonathon Sham followed him. B-CC’s Kyle Short ensued. Wilde Lake’s Derek Lange, who has been trying to return to top form after suffering from prolonged knee injuries, followed Short in 8th. The next B-CC runner was not Alex Prevost, their usual number 3 runner. Instead, Matt Davey-Karlson was 19th. Wilde Lake’s Johnny Henderson followed right after him. Prevost could possibly have redeemed his off-day in his kick with Wilde Lake’s number 3 runner but just did not have enough in him. Nonetheless, Wilde Lake’s depth did not measure up with the depth of B-CC. Davey-Karlson and Prevost were too much to handle. The battle was extremely close and nobody knew who won at first. But eventually, as most of the crowd grew deafeningly silent, the announcer proclaimed B-CC the victor: 89 to 90.
Kyle Short, the former wrestler running his first competitive season, is indubitably the greatest reason for B-CC’s victory. His addition added the extra depth which B-CC in no way could have done without. Also important to note, Davey-Karlson is one of the most improved athletes—out of all the boys and girls-in the state. To prove this, last year at states he was 63rd place in 19:08. His time of 17:34 is about 90 seconds faster.
Big Performance from Tiny Tousley
On the girls’ side, MoCo put 2 girls in the top 10. One of whom was the 3A West Champion Addie Tousley. B-CC’s Tousley was 3rd in 20:10. She once again showed her ability to race hard without anybody but herself existent to push her. She was all alone throughout her victory at 3A West Regions; and she also finished alone at States. Tousley is one of MoCo’s most improved athletes—out of all the boys and girls. To justify this notion; last year at States, Tousley finished 13th in 21:33. Taylor Colbert, the 3A West runner-up from Damascus, finished 9th. Team-wise, Damascus was 5th. In the 2A Classification, Rockville’s Billy Orndorff represented MoCo well with a 14th place performance, earning him all-state honors.
I learned a new word today; can you tell what it is? Kudos to you if you read all that; I really hope you enjoyed it. Kudos to the hard-working coaches, who like B-CC head coach Chad Young, work closely with their athletes so they become better runners each and every day; and if you’re as fortunate as Young or Seann Pelkey, they become State Champions. Sadly, this was Walter Johnson’s Greg Dunston’s final season coaching WJ. I want to speak for everybody when I thank him for the 37 whole years of unquestioned impact he made and his excellent ability to relate to his athletes, making them better runners and better people.