Over 14,000 athletes raced in forty separate races at the Manhattan Invitational in the Bronx in New York this weekend. Yet despite the size of the meet, the runners from the four Montgomery County schools in attendance seemed to run into each other pretty often. The usual camaraderie between Walter Johnson, Whitman, Sherwood, and Damascus was evident on Saturday, and also on Friday when WJ and Damascus encountered one another when both teams went to jog the course. Luckily for the teams competing this weekend, the weather could not have better for racing.
The meet directors at the Manhattan Invite have traditionally tried to ensure that one race out of the seven Varsity Boys' races includes several elite individual runners. For yesterday's meet, the Varsity 'E' race was this one, and it included numerous fast runners from New York and other parts of the Northeast, as well as Moco's own Solomon Haile of Sherwood and Andrew Palmer of Whitman. Graham Bazell of Atholton in Howard County was originally entered in the race too, but after winning the Bull Run Invitational in Maryland in course record time, he decided not to fly up to New York for the afternoon and race again.
The Varsity 'E' race did not disappoint. The race went out quickly on the tough 2.5-mile gravel course, and when the runners came back out of the woods and onto the 500-meter long straightaway to the finish, Haile was dominating. He finished in a course record of 12:06.61, shattering the old course record of 12:10.6. Palmer finished fifth in a very respectable 12:39.33, hearkening back to two years ago when Chris Moen of Walter Johnson finished in the same place in the same race with a very similar time. Whitman's Brandt Silver-Korn and Sherwood's Kyle Balderson finished in eighteenth and nineteenth place, helping their teams to a ninth place and third place finish, respectively.
Twenty-four minutes after the 'E' race kicked off, the Varsity Boys' 'G' race was underway. This race contained Shoreham-Wading River, a team from Long Island that is ranked second in the New York region by Dyestat. This provided an intriguing team race with two of the better pack teams from Moco, Walter Johnson and Damascus. The race went out quickly, but there was still a very large lead pack for the first mile or so; however, WJ's Sean O'Leary and Damascus's Tom Arias and Ben and Jon Constantides had no qualms about joining the leaders. After the opening 1200m position battle to "the bridge," WJ's pack began moving up and by two miles in, they had put their top three guys in the race's top thirty. O'Leary (a.k.a. Josh Ellis in the official results) ran 13:05 for fifth place, while Roni Teich and Ishan Dey of WJ also finished in front of Damascus's first finisher. As predicted, Shoreham won by a seventy-three point margin; WJ finished in second, and Damascus placed eighth out of the thirty-six teams in the race. Walter Johnson remains undefeated against Montgomery County and Maryland competition.
The Walter Johnson Girls raced in the Varsity 'A' race, where Anna Bosse placed fifth overall and WJ placed twelfth in the thirty-five team field. The Damascus Girls grabbed tenth in the Varsity 'B' race with only a few second spread for their top four. Whitman placed eighth with freshman Anna Ryba coming in tenth in the Varsity 'D' race, and Sherwood placed twelfth in the same race.
Although no Moco teams competed in the Boys' or Girls' Eastern States championships, it was fun to see some of the best teams on the East coast battle it out. California's Don Bosco Prep took the Boys' race while the US #1 Girls' team, Fayetteville-Manilus, crushed their competition and put their five scorers in the top twenty-one finishers, besting the second place team by fifty-seven points.
This extraordinary meet has become almost a tradition for the Moco teams that traveled to New York. The experience of walking around New York with the team on Friday afternoon adds to the excitement of the weekend, and Walter Johnson's runners (some of them) even made it back home in time for the end of their Homecoming dance.
If there is one meaningful thing that the reader can take away from this epic tale, it is this: Counties is gonna ROCK.
See y'all on Saturday.