Just a sophomore, Wootton's Patrick Munro has played a key role in bridging the gap between Wootton's top two runners and the remainder of the varsity squad this season. He did so just in time for one of the most clutch performances by a Montgomery County boys team this season.
Munro grasped the concept of varsity running: "You can't run your own race anymore," he said. "You have to pay attention to the people around you."
Wootton's Joshua Trzeciak and David Levine could not win the division alone. They knew it. The coaches knew it. Everybody on the team knew it.
In the showdown at Sherwood, the Wootton boys had the opportunity to win their first division title since Coach Kellie Redmond took over the team 7 years ago, but it was entirely up to Wootton's #3, 4, and 5 runners to break up Sherwood's 1-5 pack.
To this point in the season, Sherwood had demonstrated its strength with wins at the Track & Trail Invitational and Bull Run Invitational. At the Great American Cross Country Festival, Sherwood put four guys at 17:30 or better and they were missing their #1 runner.
A younger, less experienced Whitman team also competed in this tri-meet.
From the gun, the runners muscled for position. Through one mile, the runners sorted out as you might have expected if you had scribbled it on paper beforehand. Trzeciak and Levine were well out in front with four Sherwood guys and a Whitman guy chasing. Three Wootton guys tailed the Sherwood runners with Sherwood's #5 right alongside Wootton's #5.
At that point it was 27 to 28. Or was it 28 to 27? No, it was definitely 27 to 28.
Spectators had a lot of time to think about it. Runners spent almost half the race looping a cornfield where few spectators cared to venture. Only those who didn't mind missing the finish would go there.
At 14:00, Wootton's 1 and 2 reappeared on the north half of the course. Then it was Sherwood's Vik Siberry and Whitman's Evan Woods followed by Sherwood's Robel Kebede.
After a short pause, it was a flurry of Wootton red and Sherwood blue. With about a half mile remaining, Wootton had sufficiently broken up Sherwood's pack if only they could hang on.
In that last half mile, Munro was not thinking at all about who was behind him.
"I had two Sherwood guys in front of me and I knew I had to catch one," said Munro.
Munro moved past Sherwood's #3 runner with plenty of room to spare. Wootton's Declan Devine and Christopher Siu drilled the nail into the coffin by passing Sherwood's #3 runner in the final 50 meters.
The final score of 21 to 34 is not indicative of how close the race really was. Sherwood's #3, 4, and 5 runners flew into the finish line just behind Wootton's #5. Had the Wootton runners let up at all, the score could have flipped in Sherwood's favor in a few short seconds.
The girls race was dramatic, but not at all in the same way as the boys race. Josh Trzeciak and David Levine had run away from the field in 17:05 and made very little effort to outkick one another. The girls race between three individuals from different teams developed into the most suspenseful type of race to the line.
Whitman's Caroline Elmendorf pulled the race out fast. Wootton's Dana Sung was content to follow Elmendorf for a while, later saying that the early pace felt hard for her.
About midway through the race, somewhere out in the cornfield away from the spectators, Sung made a move into the lead. It was a bold move considering Sung felt that the course was at times confusing and she was not entirely sure where the course was taking her. Add on top of that, Elmendorf never faded and Sherwood's Amanda Hayes-Putfarcken caught up to the leaders with a half mile to go. It would be a long and grueling drive to the finish for all three, but especially for Sung out front.
All three runners were together with 200 meters to go. On a slight uphill, Sung finally created some separation and kicked around a wide curve and down a straightaway to win in 20:45. Elmendorf beat out the Sherwood freshman by means of a stronger kick for second place in 20:48.
The Wootton girls got the double team victory with not nearly as much drama as the boys.