It was deja vu for Jessie Rubin and Abby Spitler. Together they pulled away from the front pack that held tightly for the first 1.5 miles on the slippery Agricultural Farm Park cross country course. Up the "rollercoaster" hill, the two girls charged forward just as they had done a year ago at the first Magruder Invitational, only this time Rubin was not going to let the finish come down to a kick.
At the crest of the largest hill on the course, Rubin sensed that the ascent took a lot out of Spitler. She surged down the steep hill, opening a gap on her laboring opponent. It would be a long drive to the finish from that point - nearly a mile - but she recalled the 5:03 1600 that she ran during track season and was reassured that she was capable of finishing with a hard mile.
Rubin won the race in 19:16, about twelve seconds up on Spitler and over ten seconds faster than she ran on the same course last year in better conditions. She was happy with the win and confident in her abilities looking forward, but was most proud of the team's third place finish.
The chase pack consisted of four seniors and a gutsy new freshman, Abby Daley of Clarksburg. Daley had no reservations racing with and beating the more experienced girls around her. A much-improved Stephanie Joson from Quince Orchard was able to hold her off at the finish, but the freshman made a statement when she finished fourth overall ahead of Churchill's Maryam Fikri and Good Counsel's Katie Koenig.
On the same large downhill where Rubin broke away from Spitler, Churchill's Alexandra Giedd was running well in the chase pack when she tripped and injured her foot. It was injured badly enough to knock her out of the race.
B-CC sophomore Ava Farrell showed great improvement by finishing seventh ahead of Alyssa Henshaw. Henshaw did not have her best day, but led the team to victory by finishing five girls in the top thirty without star runner Britt Eckerstrom.
The Leonardtown girls were impressive as well, finishing second to Northwest 83-82. In defense of my pre-meet predictions, Leonardtown was not on the list of attending teams that was given to me.
Wootton, with five girls in the top thirty-one runners, was a close third with 95 points.
The start of the race is a long stampede down a grassy hill. It's easy for runners to get carried away with a fast first quarter mile. DeMatha's Cory Puffett, who led the charge last week at Mount St. Mary's, held back in the pack until the herd moved past the first major turn. By the time he emerged from the first mile, he was already several seconds ahead of second place John McGowan of Sidwell Friends.
Puffett won the race the hard way, running out in front of McGowan the entire race. He finished in just under 16 minutes to remain undefeated this season. He has many major races ahead of him this season including William & Mary, Bull Run, and Georgetown Prep Classic.
Meanwhile, Gonzaga's Billy Ledder was in pursuit of McGowan for the entire race. With McGowan in his sights coming down the final straightaway, Ledder calculated and used his lethal kick to move by McGowan right at the end.
Some twenty seconds later, Sherwood's Jackson Reams came running in as the first Montgomery County finisher in 16:30. Reams's fourth place finish shouldn't be too surprising considering his 9:52 3200 last spring, but it was a tremendous improvement from where he was this time last year. He placed 51st in 18:23 at the 2008 Magruder Invitational.
Gonzaga's Collin Liebold finished in fifth place, ahead of Good Counsel's top two of Kyle Graves and Jack Riely. Gonzaga dominated a race for the second week in a row with five guys in the top sixteen. They scored an impressive 50 points.
The Churchill boys were impressive with three boys in the top fourteen and five in the top thirty. Their top five included a junior, two sophomore first time cross country runners, a sophomore transfer, and only one senior. They beat out Good Counsel for second place with 84 points.