Will Conway envisioned his senior year going a certain way, that is, running out front and winning races. In hindsight, he realized that running out front at the county championship was not the best strategy for him and probably cost him the individual county title.
He developed a different strategy in the twelve days that followed the Montgomery County Championship Meet. He would sit back and let others lead the race until he felt it was time to move.
Fortunately for Conway, there were plenty of other runners willing to lead the pack. In the first mile, it was the usual suspects: Evan Laratta, Josh Ellis, and Nick Adams. In the second mile, Churchill freshman David Fitzgerald moved into the lead and created a gap on the field. Seeing this created a buzz among the spectators while the runners disappeared into the lonely western half of the course.
Conway moved up with Ellis and Laratta just in time for the threesome to surge past Fitzgerald around the two mile mark. Fitzgerald would hold on for fourth place in 16:29.
Conway did not play around over the final mile of the course. He pressed the pace, overcoming shoe-sucking mud and draining the kick out of Laratta and Ellis. Conway won with little drama by 6 seconds in 16:04. Churchill won the team title with 40 points.
Individual honors are nice, but a team state title is all that matters to Conway and teammate Zach Weinstein. Weinstein bounced back from a 22nd place finish at the county championship to place 7th in the region. He thought that a rough massage prior to the county meet actually hurt him, but he was feeling better today.
Churchill, Walter Johnson, Quince Orchard, Wootton, B-CC, Whitman and Gaithersburg were the boys teams that qualified for the state meet.
Richard Montgomery missed qualifying by five points. RM was without two impact runners, Dominic Quiros and David Hamilton. Stephen Alexander will go to the state meet individually along with Magruder's Michael Pasti.
B-CC boys qualified without Alex Riishojgaard, who was the surprise runner of the county meet. Riishojgaard is likely out for the season with a stress fracture. B-CC only had one runner from last year's team which failed to qualify, and they easily qualified this year without their top runner. And the coach of the year award goes to...
Chad Young says that the B-CC girls are not in the clear yet. They still know Whitman and Severna Park have dangerous teams.
B-CC is running with more confidence and is certainly making a case that they can be state champions at Hereford next week. B-CC took down the Whitman girls for the second consecutive race, this time with Laura Nakasaka in the top five on the team, pushing Whitman's score even higher than it was at the county championship.
In a year that was supposed to be all about Whitman dominance, Whitman Coach Steve Hays said of the B-CC squad, "They are definitely moving in the right direction."
Whitman was also back at full strength with freshman Nicole Ihrie returning to the lineup, but nagging injuries to Ihrie and Alexandra Phillips are preventing Whitman from being the dominant team they were early in the season.
As a consolation, the Whitman girls could celebrate the first major victory by Caroline Guiot.
Clarksburg's Abbey Daley ran a tough race, leading for much of the way, but the final mile was a repeat of the county championship with Guiot and Churchill's Lucy Srour battling back and forward.
Guiot said that she did not want a repeat of the county championship so she tried to take the lead earlier and control the race. She was somewhat successful, although Srour kept the race very close. The 2.7 second margin of victory was Guiot's first individual title and Srour's first loss to a Montgomery County runner this year.
Now a state champion hopeful, Guiot was virtually unknown two years ago. She managed to run a few decent races as a freshman despite nagging injuries and then missed her entire sophomore year due to injuries and a vitamin deficiency. As a swimmer, she said she did a lot of cross training that year to stay fit. The results paid off when she finally got healthy in her junior year. She rejoined the team along with Alexandra Phillips (who also disappeared in her sophomore year for a different reason) to contribute to Whitman's 2010 state title run.
As good as she was in her junior year, Guiot was not a star. She was not a champion. Guiot was the #3 Whitman runner in the results, the name that nobody knew how to pronounce (Gee-OH). But her progress during her first full track season was unmistakable. She would qualify based on time for the outdoor state championship with a 3200m time of 11:28.14. She finished fourth at the 4A state meet with a time of 11:31.99.
Her key to success this season is simply a matter of being injury-free, building fitness and continuing to improve.
The girls teams qualifying for the state meet out of the 4A West are B-CC, Whitman, Wootton, Blair, Churchill, Northwest, and Quince Orchard.
The Blair girls had not qualified as a complete team since 2001. Angie Bosse was coaching Blair back then, but stepped down from coaching while her daughter, Anna Bosse, competed for Walter Johnson High School. The elder Bosse returned to coaching at Blair this year, and the Blair girls are back in the state meet.
The Quince Orchard girls, on the other hand, had an active twenty year streak of qualifying for the state meet and just barely slipped in to make it 21 in a row.
The Northwest girls were also holding their breaths during the awards ceremony. The school that opened in 1998 has qualified a girls team to the state meet every year since 2000. Northwest's new head coach Steve Bettis can now exhale.
Clarksburg was the first girls team left on the outside, but three runners, Abbey Daley, Jacqui Young, and Lucie Noall qualified individually. Melanie Cirillo of WJ and Grace Hanger of Richard Montgomery also qualified individually.
Speaking of Clarksburg, the new regional course at High Point Farm in Clarksburg seemed to be popular among runners and spectators. The course was extremely muddy from last week's rain/snow and several teams practicing on the course over the last few days. The general consensus would be that it would be an outstanding venue for a cross country race if only it dried out a little better.