He said that it was an inspired run. At 2.5 miles, Evan Laratta surged into the lead. He said that he just knew it was time to make a move. It was a flat course that he felt suited him. As a senior, he knew he had one last chance to capture a cross country county title and eternal bragging rights over his older brother, David Laratta, who was fifth in the county and second in the state as a senior. Most importantly, he ran inspired to win the race for his mother who is seriously ill with cancer.
Laratta acknowledged that his performances slipped in his junior year after an outstanding sophomore year. He thought that it was due to lack of focus moreso than any physical ailment. If his performance at the 2011 XC county championship can be summarized with one word, it would be "focus."
Laratta led a large pack through the first mile mark with a blazing fast time of about 4:45. The pack quickly thinned out over the second mile until the pack was down to four. Churchill's Will Conway, who entered the race considered the favorite by most fans, led Laratta, Einstein's Nick Simpson, and WJ's Josh Ellis. Patiently, Laratta chased closely behind Conway past the start/finish area where the announcer was pumping up the crowd over the tight race.
Running along the east edge of the pond adjacent to Route 355, the announcer's voice faded and spectators became sparser. Turning right along the south edge of the pond, Laratta made a decisive move. Conway did not look thrilled about Laratta's surge into the lead.
Over the final half mile of the race, focus and determination took over. Laratta could not have been sure how Conway was feeling, but spectators could see that Laratta was building a tremendous lead over a short distance and would win easily in 16:00.82, a new course record.
Laratta said that he is okay with being the guy everybody is trying to beat in the next few races. It will motivate him to continue racing tough and beating opponents. His back was bothering him after the race, but he is hoping that it is just soreness that won't linger.
Laratta received a standing ovation during the awards ceremony for his effort.
There was a little bit of controversy for second and third place in the varsity boys race. Simpson caught Conway at the finish line and several spectators said that it was obvious that Simpson beat Conway. The chip timing disagreed and awarded second place to Conway by 0.01 seconds. The officials could not overturn the chip timing because the chip timing is considered to be the official timing and there was no known malfunction with the timing system.
Conway led Churchill to a first place finish with 72 points. Churchill had strong competition from Walter Johnson (81 points) and Quince Orchard (100 points).
B-CC boys were the surprise team of the meet with a fourth place finish. B-CC lost six of seven boys from a team that failed to qualify for the state championship last year. With one of the most inexperienced rosters in the county, B-CC has improved to the point that they now appear to be a sure bet to qualify for the state championship. Sophomore Alex Riishojgaard finished 9th in 16:24, a personal best by over 45 seconds.
While the B-CC boys were the surprise team of the meet, the B-CC girls pulled off the upset of the day with an outstanding team performance to beat Whitman, 55 to 60.
Coach Chad Young told Laura Nakasaka before the meet that if she ran, B-CC would finish second and that if she did not run, B-CC would finish second. She was cleared to run, but shin pain was bothering her enough that they decided to let her rest. B-CC is fortunate that the decision did not burn them, and given how close the team score was, you better expect to see Nakasaka race from here on out.
B-CC was expected to be a strong team this year because of all the returning runners, but Ava Farrell was the only veteran in B-CC's top five. Three of the McFreshman, Nora McUmber, Kat McNeill, and Abby Fry, were joined by field hockey convert Hallie Jester to score 55 points.
Whitman was a close second with 60 points. Whitman had the advantage through the first two runners, but B-CC was stronger at the 3rd, 4th, and 5th positions. B-CC and Whitman each had four girls under 20:00. Each team has another girl that could have run under 20:00. For B-CC, it is Nakasaka, and for Whitman, it is Nicole Ihrie who sat out for the second consecutive race with an injury.
The girls varsity race unfolded much like the boys race with a large pack running a blazing fast first mile. A second hand account had the lead pack through the mark in about 5:30. By the midway mark, the pack was down to four with Farrell, Whitman's Anna Ryba and Caroline Guiot, and Churchill's Lucy Srour.
At two miles, Guiot and Srour pulled ahead while Ryba trailed off the back. Guiot and Srour would run stride for stride over the final mile of the course. A surge by one would be quickly matched by the other.
The new championship course at Bohrer Park has a straightaway finish that is lined with a tenth of a mile's worth of wild screaming fans. Atleast two, maybe three times the freshman Srour surged ahead only to have the distance quickly covered by Guiot. In the final meters, Srour surged ahead one final time to take the win in 18:51.6, a new course record. Guiot was second in 18:52.8.
The separation between first and second place was only slightly tighter than the 2004 finish in which Halsey Sinclair beat out Veronica Salcido by 1.6 seconds to win her second of three county titles. Srour was also the first freshman to win a county XC title since Sinclair in 2003. Halsey Sinclair was on hand to present awards at the awards ceremony.
Biggest climbers in Mocorunning's rankings this week:
Allison Marella, Damascus
Emily Levenson, Wootton
Alex Riishojgaard, B-CC
Danniel Belay, Gaithersburg