Six minutes in and one mile down, reality was not meeting expectation. Pre-race favorites were bunched up, jostling, elbowing, gauging the pace off one another. But these runners were not at the front of the race. Ten seconds ahead was a little-known freshman who started the race too fast to be a legitimate concern, or so it seemed for the first few minutes.
The hesitation on the part of most of the lead runners can be attributed to the lack of aggression by the 2011 county champion, Lucy Srour. Srour was dealing with a tight quad which she recently learned may be a more serious IT band issue. She raced through the ailment today, unbeknownst to the competitors looking to her to take the lead.
Sophie El-Masry's lead grew at every turn. The Richard Montgomery freshman's intentions were clear.
Coach Davy Rogers was the architect of this bold strategy.
"She said, 'I want to try to win.' It wouldn't work if she tried to sit and kick with the leaders so I told her to go out hard and separate from the leaders."
As the saying goes, El-Masry flipped the script. There were no contingency plans for this scenario. The comfort of running in the pack became increasingly more risky with every tick of the stopwatch. Every runner behind El-Masry faced a difficult decision, but the first runner to break away from the pack was the last person anyone would have guessed.
B-CC's Nora McUmber earned the reputation as a freshman as a pack runner that could close down on just about anybody in the final mile of a three mile race. She reinforced that characterization of her racing style in a few early races this season, but her approach has been evolving into one that is more aggressive and alert.
"Nora is slowly learning when to make moves and race," said B-CC Coach Chad Young.
When asked, Young also insisted that no one on his coaching staff prompted McUmber to make the move.
"She has to build up confidence on her own...It showed a lot of guts to see her take the lead."
McUmber's turnover changed noticeably on the second loop of Gaithersburg's 2.5 loop 5k course, and by the two-mile mark, El-Masry's 10 second lead evaporated. McUmber took the lead and kept going.
Having never been in that position before, McUmber's foremost memory of the final mile was the cheering she heard for El-Masry behind her. Those cheers would fade as her lead continued to grow and her teammate Caroline Beakes also passed El-Masry.
McUmber and Beakes took the top two spots in the race with times of 18:25.64 and 18:32.49. El-Masry took third place in 18:48.69.
In Mocorunning's pre-meet polls, 1 ballot out of 106 selected McUmber to win this race and that ballot was anonymous.
The B-CC girls won the team title for the second consecutive year with 60 points. Quince Orchard was not far behind with 82 points in a noble second place effort.