Fun Stuff


Preseason XC Tour
By: Kevin Milsted, Ryun Anderson, Sean O'Leary

Final Thoughts and a Tour Through Time - 9/3/2015 - By Kevin Milsted

If you have ever seen or used the machine shown in this photo, you are a step ahead of where I was earlier this year. I had a vague awareness that this machine existed someplace in the world, but the extent of its usefulness remained a mystery to me.

I turned thirty years old this summer and that makes me an old man to the high schoolers of today. But one thing that I certainly share with today's youth is that I want and expect all the data in the universe to be at my disposal with a few taps on my smartphone.

I can barely recall a time without internet. I have a fuzzy recollection of being in first grade in 1991 when I watched the teachers try unsuccessfully to communicate with another elementary school through a computer. Around 1996 my father brought noisy, phone-line-clogging dial-up internet into our home. Computers with slow internet were in every classroom by the time I arrived at Gaithersburg High School in 1999. When I applied for college, institutions recruited students by boasting about high speed internet hookups in every dorm room. WiFi was not common and text messaging was in its infancy.

When I started ten years ago in 2005, John Dye had already been posting track and cross country results on the internet for almost a decade. Jason Byrne was just beginning to coordinate the efforts of individual state sites on his Milesplit Network. I wanted to start my own website and do what those guys were doing, but do it on an intimate and local level.

In time, Mocorunning's coverage grew popular and I felt a strong desire to become more of an expert on all things running in Montgomery County. To do that, I needed a better understanding of the history of the sport in our county prior to my first memories in the early 2000's. To my frustration, this was not something that could be Googled. I constantly picked the brains and listened to stories told by the experienced coaches in the county. This led me to "The Dunston Files." Greg Dunston had been coaching in Montgomery County since the early 70's, and he had boxes and boxes of old results and miscellaneous files which he was happy to lend to me.

I rummaged through Dunston's boxes for weeks, but soon my pace slowed. I quickly realized it was back-breaking work. I found some old hidden gems and long lost results, but I had to sift through many less interesting things while trying not to destroy the papers and return them the way I found them. Copying/scanning the documents was time-consuming because ink was faded, paper was discolored, and paper was usually not standard 8.5"x11". After holding onto his files for over a year, I decided to return them despite not making my way through all his boxes.

More recently, Clarksburg Coach Scott Mathias planted a bug in my ear. He told me that he had once used the microfilm machine in the Rockville Library to research track & field results when he was coaching at Poolesville High School. He said that he was able to create track & field school records for Poolesville that he was fairly confident in.

Microfilm? No thanks. For one thing, downtown Rockville conjures thoughts of log-jammed streets, traffic cameras, and $10 parking garages. But I was lying to myself. I work in downtown DC where it takes an hour to drive six blocks and parking garages are $23. The truth is I was scared of the mystery machine and I didn't want to ask for help.

Mathias's idea continued stewing inside my brain. I asked him about it a couple more times until late last spring I gathered enough courage and made the trip to the library. Asking a librarian for help was easy, although she was a little rusty on how to thread the film. Once you get that step down, using the machine is about as complicated as using Tinder. You push one button to go left and another button to go right.

When I unlocked that time machine, I discovered that not only followed in the footsteps of online track coverage websites Dyestat and Milesplit, Mocorunning was unknowingly carrying on the tradition of decades of local print sports journalism. What I did not realize was that for almost three decades, the Montgomery Journal and the Sentinel competed against one another in their Montgomery County high school sports coverage. They often had two feature cross country or track articles a week with large photos and often published results, rankings, and even athletes of the week. The end of the season usually culminated in an all-county team. Yes, the Gazette has done some of this for the past 15+ years, but it was nowhere close to what it was in the 80's and 90's. The Washington Post has also valiantly covered high school sports in our county for many decades, but not on the same intimate level as the county newspapers.

I did not live through the era and I have not read every article in the library so I can't say for sure, but it appears that the introduction of the Montgomery Journal in the mid-70's ignited a fire underneath the stalwart Sentinel. The biggest winners were the readers of either periodical. Football and basketball coverage was never neglected, but starting around the mid 70's, there was no shortage of coverage of cross country, track, tennis, field hockey, golf, soccer, swimming, wrestling, baseball, and softball. I don't know when lacrosse really caught on but by the 90's there was a lot of that, too. The sports sections even had coverage of community road racing, fishing, fitness, body building, and consistent coverage of bowling leagues. Coverage of the Redskins, Orioles, Bullets, Capitals, Terps, Montgomery College Knights, and the Kemper Open Golf Tournament was folded into the same pages as the high school sports coverage. I tried to stay on task, but sometimes I couldn't help stopping to read fascinating community politics and crime reports. Entertainment sections consisted of reviews of old movies like Chariots of Fire and Robocop and yes...Back to the Future (as we know, Back to the Future Part II takes place in a futuristic depiction of October 2015).

With the discontinuation of the Gazette in the spring of 2015, I guess I could make a statement about the decline of print journalism, but really that's not the point I want to make. I am what they call a "Millennial" and I would not subscribe to a print newspaper if they paid me. I will say that first of all, reading old newspaper articles is very enjoyable. And my main takeaway is that if nobody covers the sport, then the sport will not be covered and history will be lost. Reading all the print coverage of our sport from the 70's, 80's, and 90's rejuvenated my desire to get out there and keep taking photos and writing stories and publishing rankings because I know that some day, someone will want to look back on it to learn about the sport in this era. I am, however, limited to working on the website in my spare time outside of the time required for my full time job, and I can use help. I want to thank Ryun Anderson and Sean O'Leary for stepping up in the last year to contribute original content including several of the articles you read in this Preseason Tour. There is no money to be offered, but if you are an aspiring journalist or you just think it would be fun to help out, you can send a letter to my home address and I will respond in six to ten business days...just kidding. Preferably send me an email but you know mocorunning is also on social media.

My numerous trips to the library had more purpose than just reading old articles for my own personal enjoyment. Throughout the summer, I continued to develop Montgomery County's All-Time Greatest Track & Field Performances (Boys, Girls). That is an ongoing project that will probably continue for years because it takes a lot of time to review all the old newspaper results for outstanding performances. Feel free to save me some time by emailing me any old articles that may be in your attic.

The other project was a quest to find every Montgomery County Cross Country Championship Meet, and that turned out to be more interesting than I anticipated. I highly recommend that cross country fans and supporters of women in running read about that here.

Intervals on the Towpath with Churchill - 8/29/2015 - By Kevin Milsted

Churchill head coach Paul Jacobson doesn't spend much time with the long, slow stuff once the preseason gets into full swing.

"We've been doing quite a bit the last two weeks," said Jacobson. "Because of no homework...we're trying to do a lot before the I'm tired's.'"

On the final practice before the first day of school, the Churchill cross country team assembled at the Carderock Recreation Area to do a hard interval workout that some might call a fartlek. On the C&O Canal Towpath, the top runners on the team were assigned 4 minutes hard followed by 4 minutes rest, 3x3:30 with 3 minutes rest, and then another 4 minutes hard a little faster than the first.

Jacobson told his runners to attack the intervals at goal race pace.

"It's elevated. You gotta start working hard. You gotta start thinking, Am I working hard enough?' On that last one, think about finishing a race."

Jacobson has high expectations for his boys team this year.

"I would like to be in the mix. I would like to be top 3 in the county," he said.

To put these aspirations into context, he recalled a race from three years ago. It was a dual meet against Sherwood in which Churchill's #1 runner, now-graduated David Fitzgerald, was absent. Sherwood took the top eight spots in the race before a Churchill runner crossed the finish line. In fact, Sherwood's top five guys all finished together which means that there was not much racing going on up front.

It was an embarrassing moment for the team to get shutout. The situation may have felt a little hopeless to the coaches, enough so that it stuck in Jacobson's mind all these years. Jacob Grant, Michael Hughes, Mitchell Welter, Thomas Winkert, and Jason Shefferman were in that race. They were all anonymous freshmen, none yet under 20 minutes and none yet ready to contribute. No one would have looked at that team and asserted that it would be competitive with the best in Montgomery County in three years without a lot of help.

But that's exactly where we are today. There have been no star transfers and no phenomenal freshmen to supplement the core group of seniors. After three years of hammering out miles and chipping away at PR's, the senior-laden Churchill squad very much appears to be right in the mix. Returning five guys under 17:45 in the 5k in 2014 is something that only one other MCPS team can boast this offseason.

Jacobson self-critiqued his team by describing them as "not deep" and stressed the importance of everyone staying healthy, but in the same breath he had nothing but praise for his hard working varsity crew.

"The top 5 boys are seniors," said Jacobson. "They worked really hard. They put in 500 miles over the summer. It's exciting."

The Churchill girls squad graduated three seniors from the team that was third in last year's 4A State Championship Meet. Coaches are still figuring out who will fill in the top seven, but according to Coach Scott Silverstein, Julia Thomasian is a senior who will run cross country for the first time and should immediately step into the team's #2 spot after recording a 5:30 1600m last spring.

While the team expects to feel the loss of four year leader Lucy Srour, the coaches believe new #1 runner junior Julia Reicin is ready to bring her racing to the next level this fall. Coach David Warren, who helped train Reicin to a second place finish in the age 17-18 steeplechase at the USATF National Junior Olympic Championships this summer (7:29.48), predicts that "on a fast course she will be pushing 18."

Jacobson wants his girls to be competitive in dual meets and focus on qualifying for the state championship.

Hopefully there aren't as many "I'm tired's" this season with school starting 20 minutes later than ever before. Have fun in school, kids!

Whitman Time Trial at the Towers - 8/29/2015 - By Sean O'Leary

While the grassy field primarily plays host to dog walkers on most mornings, the WMAL Radio Transmitter Field in Bethesda, MD seems to be taken over by a cross country team (or two) during Saturdays in the fall. A single loop around the field entails a little over two kilometers worth of dirt, grass, and gentle hills. With landscape maintenance performed on a regular basis, it's a reliable place for a solid strength-based workout amidst the usual hustle and bustle of southern Montgomery County.

For the past few years, Whitman's XC teams have held their pre-season time trials on a lightly marked two mile course along the dirt path. Plenty of supporters were on site on Saturday to cheer on the large team of 90 runners, and several confused dog walkers mistook the workout as a multi-team race. Fun fact: WJ once hosted dual meets at the affectionately-nicknamed "Towers", but apparently using private land for an organized public function is a no-no.

Coach Hays thinks his team put in the hard training over the summer, but he views the summer base phase as merely a stepping stone to the required level of mental toughness needed to succeed later on in the year. As he often tells his athletes, "Running won't kill you, you'll pass out first!"

For the first "race" of the day, around 50 girls darted about the perimeter of the field. Newcomer Sami King comfortably took her place at the front of the race early on and never let up. She crossed the line in a relaxed 11:29, followed in succession by Olivia Woods (11:47), Erin O'Connor (12:01), Lena Feldman (12:20), and Jenan El-Hifnawi (12:29).

While Sami might be a new face proudly wearing the black and blue, she's a recent transfer from The Field School in Washington DC with an impressive 3200m PR of 11:00. She's coming off a highly productive summer where she focused on logging mileage along with some relatively relaxed fartlek and tempo efforts. There might have even been a low-key XC 5k victory somewhere in there, which she used to get a head start towards working on negative splitting in races.

The boys' squad made their way around the ~1.5 lap course around 30 minutes after Sami's finish. The deadly trio of Evan Woods, Alex Roederer, and Amir Khaghani may have moved on, but seniors Ben Gersch (9:56) and William Ryba (10:04) look poised to take up the mantle of the fastest Whitman kids on the block. As ridiculous as it might sound, the pair made five-minute miles look easy.

In both races, there was a distinct gap between the top guns and the remaining top-5 scorers. Coach Hays knows that if his teams want to repeat their successes from last year, then that gap needs to shrink. The plan? Across the next few weeks, he's focusing on "getting everybody to be willing to hurt a little bit."

At least for this season, "Towers" will be an excellent place for his teams, and many others, to callous themselves to the rigors of 5k over hill and dale. Unfortunately, the field's days might be numbered, as the 75-acre plot is in the process of being sold to Toll Brothers Homes. The Pennsylvania-based company aims to build 330 homes on the site, so enjoy the greenery while you can, folks.

5k Time Trial at Wootton - 8/28/2015 - By Kevin Milsted

The Wootton cross country team assembled on the track Friday afternoon in the heat of the day. It was 84 degrees with partly cloudy skies. When the sun hid behind the clouds there was some relief, but when the sun shone through the clouds it beat down on the track with intensity.

After two weeks of preseason practice, it was time for a 5k time trial. The 5k course would not be Wootton's usual home dual meet course which is one of the most difficult 5k courses in the county by design. That course, with three monster hills and several tight turns, was more strenuous of an assignment than the coaches wanted to give to athletes at this stage of the season. Some of the giant hill climbing was replaced by 1600 meters on the track to start the 5k race.

"Grace is fitter than last year," said assistant coach Matt Davis of Wootton's star female runner Grace Dellapa.

Dellapa led the time trial from start to finish with mile splits of approximately 6:00 and 12:40 before finishing the 5k in 19:54. It is exactly what the coaches were expecting of their #1 in a solo effort early in the season.

In a figurative sense, a new timer started when Dellapa crossed the line. It was a timer to measure "the gap" between number 1 and number 2. "The gap" is something that head coach Kellie Redmond brought up a number of times as something to be worked on this year.

"Grace is fit right now and we expect her to do great things," said Redmond. "But we really want to close that gap."

"The gap" turned out to be one minute and thirty-five seconds as the #2 runner on the team, Jessica Trzeciak crossed the line in 21:29 and fellow freshman Adna Trakic finished in 21:51. If the name "Trzeciak" sounds familiar to you, it is because she is the younger sister of Joshua Trzeciak, one of the most dominant middle distance runners from Montgomery County in the recent past.

After the two freshmen initially tried to chase after Dellapa to start the race, Redmond said mid-race, "They are both freshman. They've never run a 5k and they went out too fast. They are both really talented and they are going to be really good."

The remaining top 7 all finished in under 23:00. The performances of the #4 through #7 spots compare favorably over last year's girls team which missed out on qualifying for the state championship meet. Redmond later spoke more on closing the gap:

"I don't want to give disrespect to Grace. When you have someone at that level, it's hard. With some of the upperclassmen we are going to work on mental strength... We're going to have one-on-one talks. Kids have to be honest with themselves and find out what happens mid-race and address those things."

When every girl crossed the finish line, focus shifted to the boys team. This time last year there was a serious buzz around the Wootton boys. Crushing the competition in the first invitational meet of the season fanned the flames for fans to speculate that maybe it was Wootton that should be considered the favorites in Montgomery County.

But not everything was smooth sailing last year. Two critical varsity boys missed time Cliff Tilley struggled through illness and Colin SyBing stuggled with a hip injury. The season was not a loss, but it left the coaches with the feeling that it could have been much more.

Two key seniors graduated in the spring, but the majority of last year's boys varsity team is back and there are reasons to be optimistic. In the time trial, SyBing and Tilley traded leads throughout the 5k and finished 1-2 in 16:57 and 17:06 respectively. Jacob Rushkoff followed closely behind in 17:10 and *freshman alert*, newcomer John Richer, finished in 17:24. With #5 man Samuel Blackman finishing in 17:29, the team had a 32 second 1-to-5 spread in their first 5k race of the year.

Redmond was optimistic about the time trial results but stressed that she didn't want anything to happen too quickly.

"I'm not going to make predictions," said Redmond. "We're going to continue to make sure kids stay healthy this year."

Hill Repeats with Paint Branch - 8/26/2015 - By Ryun Anderson

The early evening sky threatened rain as members of the Paint Branch cross country team gathered at the bottom of the grass hill at Banneker Middle School for practice. Looking down at the team from the top of the hill, it would be nearly impossible for anyone around the county to recognize this team.

Having graduated their top four runners from 2014, the boys team is nearly devoid of the group of runners that have led the team to four straight appearances at the state championships. The workout, which consisted of 3 sets of 4 minute continuous hills and continuous 100s, revealed a closely-knit top seven runners for the boys team.

Running alongside senior Shane McGovern was senior and female captain Bethlehem Taye. Taye burst onto the scene during the 2015 track season, winning the outdoor 3200-meter state championship.

"The better she gets, the more she wants to get better," praised coach Mark Anderson. Her determination showed during the workout as she was consistently the last one to stop running the continuous hills.

"I'm in much better shape this year than any of my other years entering cross country," she said. She ran multiple races well under 19 minutes this summer and says that sub-18 is her ultimate goal.

Taye will be joined by sophomore Yasmine Kass, whose outstanding freshman year was cut short by a stress fracture that she never quite recovered from during outdoor season. Along with 2:21 800-meter runner Kyra Badrian, this girls team will look to not just make it to states, but place very well.

"We have four returning sophomore girls that were with us all last year," said Coach Anderson. "They all made steady improvement and are as committed a group as we have ever had."

The team will face a new challenge in 2015. With the girls team improving in 2014, the Panthers moved up to Division II in Montgomery County.

"I think the challenge is to prove we can compete in Division II, that we can match the pride and determination of the other teams," Coach Anderson outlined.

This year's Paint Branch team will certainly look different; but in a positive manner. No longer will the girls team be the doormat of Montgomery County - in fact, Bethlehem Taye may be the girl to beat. And despite the boys team losing four top runners, the coaching staff believes that they have built the depth to withstand the departure.

Long Run with Poolesville - 8/22/2015 - By Kevin Milsted

By nature of being a magnet school, Poolesville High School draws students from all over the area. In speaking with a group of four runners, all four named different school districts in which they lived. One of the four lived in Poolesville. That one-in-four ratio is probably a good representation of the cross country team as a whole. The runners estimated that about 25% of their team lived in Poolesville while the rest lived in surrounding areas like Gaithersburg and Germantown.

That kind of gathering of strong intellectual minds is surely great for an educational environment, but it causes headaches for group cross country training over the summer.

"It makes it impossible," senior captain Fiona Whitefield said of organizing group runs. "Getting together in groups is really difficult because people are coming from all over."

She also explained that team bonding is difficult due to everyone heading in different directions after practice.

"Not everyone lives five minutes away."

Even when the preseason begins, it is difficult for the Poolesville team to mix things up. Practice is at the school every day except Saturdays, and once the season begins, most Saturdays are filled with meets. This Saturday morning's practice at the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail, southeast of Poolesville in Dawsonville, was a bit of a treat for the runners to all meet somewhere other than the school.

"Going out to the park is unique," the runners explained. "We take it as a fun time to get off campus. We usually have food after. Gerard brings oranges."

Head coach Prasad Gerard prescribed a one hour run to every athlete on the team. He cautioned the young runners to pay attention to where they were going, particularly if they came across a split in the trail. Groups of different athletic abilities headed out in different directions on the Greenway Trail.

This will be an interesting year for Poolesville as the team moves up to the 3A classification for the first time ever. For decades, Poolesville was typically in Maryland's smallest classification before it moved up to the 2A classification in 2009. Gerard was not too concerned with the promotion. While the strength of the newly realigned 3A West is yet to be determined, Gerard spoke on the recent strength of the 2A West.

"For a few years we were the first team left out. Then teams from the 2A West would take the top five spots at states."

The Poolesville boys and girls teams have become regulars at the state championship for the past few years. The realignment doesn't seem to scare the team, but graduation and other factors have left both teams young and developing.

Whitefield is the senior leader of the girls team which graduated two key seniors in the spring. Junior Theresa Nardone has returned and is easing back into running. Nardone finished seventh at the county championship as a freshman and later ran a 5:15 1600m, but she missed almost her entire sophomore year due to a hip injury. It will take some time for her to return to top form.

"Girls," said Gerard, "...I've got a number of girls in the mix. I just have to see how they come around."

The boys team lost their expected two top returning runners. Ryan Lockett moved and transferred to nearby Gonzaga. Stephen Lang decided to focus on basketball and did not rejoin the team this fall.

Rising junior Andrew Lent is expected to lead the team on the cross country course but was not at this particular practice. Senior captain Kyle Berger spoke on the loss of Lockett and Lang:

"The good news is I don't think we have to race either of them. Hopefully we can cope."

Normally spry and active with his runners, long-time endurance runner Prasad Gerard only recently returned to walking without a boot after a bad foot injury. He watched the runners disperse for their one hour run from the gravel parking lot. Without an assistant coach, he leans heavily on his team captains. Moving up to the 3A classification seemed to be low on his worry list.

4A West
Quince Orchard
Richard Montgomery
Walter Johnson
4A North
Perry Hall
Digital Harbor
Bel Air
Paint Branch
3A West
Thomas Johnson
Seneca Valley
North Hagerstown
South Hagerstown
3A South
St. Charles
Watkins Mill
Oxon Hill
Great Mills

Tempo Run at Einstein - 8/21/2015 - By Kevin Milsted

"It's that eerie feeling you get like when you are a little kid and your parents let you stay outside after dark."

Einstein High School head cross country coach Eric DaSilva addressed his team in a circle after 9:00 PM. A glowing red sunset had given way to a crescent moon and a dark, cloudy sky. The stadium lights illuminated the track straightaways while leaving the curves in the shadows. After what was already the mildest day of the week, temperatures quickly cooled into the low 70's. Some of the runners almost appeared to shiver as their sweat evaporated and their core body temperatures dropped.

"This is the third year we've done this. It's something for variety," he said to his team. He listed the sports that get to play under the lights: football, soccer, baseball. "You don't always get the opportunity to run under the lights. It's a cool deal to be out here."

The workout was a hard 5k tempo run on the track for experienced runners and a hard 15 minutes for less experienced runners. The prescribed pace was fast but steady and comfortable...not sprinting and not racing. After a short break, runners were asked to run four to eight 400-meter reps at 5 seconds per lap faster than their tempo pace. DaSilva told the runners that they needed to get used to running tired.

Senior Alejandro Arias is the clear #1 runner on the team with a young group of sophomores developing behind him. Arias completed the 5k in about 17:08 with a pair of sophomores about 40 seconds back. Arias was quick to credit the cool evening weather for the assistance.

When asked about his goals this year, Arias said, "I want to be competitive in whatever race I'm in... It's senior year. I want to do as well as I can."

On the girls' side, Ciciely Davy ran most of the tempo run with DaSilva and maintained a very even pace of just over six minutes per mile for 12.5 laps. Her final time was 18:50. Four more girls worked in a close pack for most of the workout before ultimately stringing out between 21:20 and 23:00.

According to DaSilva, Davy discovered she had a stress fracture in her foot this July. X-rays showed that the bone was already healing by the time they discovered it.

"I think we have her in a good place," said DaSilva. "She took 2.5 weeks off and eased back into training in terms of mileage and effort."

He described their training as not so much speed and repeats as it is hills and endurance. Each week over the summer he prescribes a tempo, fartlek, moderate, and easy run: "We do lots of aerobic runs...continuous things with short recoveries to maintain endurance."

When asked about Einstein moving up from the 3A West to the 4A West this year, DaSilva first joked: "Into the cauldron..."

Then he added, "We can't worry about that...If we develop, we'll have a shot as a team and do some things. It's helpful if you want to get better. It's always good to have good competition. It's good to win regional titles like we did last year, but if you want to get better you have to face the best."

During those somber moments following practice, with athletes circled up and a calmness in the air, all that was really missing from the scene was a crackling campfire. Upperclassmen took turns explaining why they run cross country. The reasons ranged from getting cut from other teams, to friends and fun, to feelings of accomplishment.

When each runner had his or her turn to speak, DaSilva explained why he had been coaching youth sports since he was 15 years old.

"Every coach I ever had made me feel like the most important kid on the team," he said. "So I want each of you to feel like you're a part of least feel normal... maybe even a little special."

"When it's no longer fun, I'm done. I have fun every day I'm out here."

Time Trial at Northwood - 8/22/2015 - By Ryun Anderson

The Northwood cross country team held its annual time trial/alumni run Saturday morning at Northwood High School. The race, organized by head coach Mike Sauter, gives a chance for the current team members to participate in a spirited competition against past Northwood (and other consortia) runners. It also gives Coach Sauter an opportunity to gauge his runners fitness levels and determine who ran over the summer - and who did not.

It was clear that Northwood senior Michael Abebe did.

"I'm trying to join the 500 mile club," he said. "I stopped recording my runs in my log at about 398 miles, but I've kept on running." In contrast to last summer when Michael ran summer track with the local USA-JA track club, this year Michael focused on a more cross-country oriented training plan that he hopes will give him the strength he needs to compete with the best runners in the state.

The effectiveness of his summer training showed immediate results when Michael cruised to a win at the race Saturday morning with a race record time of 18:31. To most runners around the county, such a time might seem rather uninspiring, but those runners on the eastern side of the county who have run the course understand that Northwood's course of winding trails and creek crossings is one of the most challenging in the county.

"It was like a warm-up," Michael joked light-heartedly after the race.

After finishing second at last year's Consortia Championships, he will look to break Lorenzo Neil's course record of 16:27 set at last year's race. After Michael burst onto the scene during the 2014 outdoor track season, he continued his success in cross country, finishing fifth at counties and fourth at the 3A state meet. If not for Richard Montgomery's Rohann Asfaw, Michael would probably be considered the man to beat in Montgomery County heading into this season.

At Saturday's race, Michael put over two and a half minutes between him and the second place finisher, Northwood alum Austin Moore (21:05). Northwood alum Aaron Richards (21:19), Blake alum Darius Oxley (21:28), and Northwood senior Samuel Friedman (21:44) rounded out the top five.

After the race, Coach Sauter tallied the results and determined that the alumni had defeated the team, 22 to 33 (lowest score wins). "I love it when the older guys win," he said happily, "Especially in years like this when I don't have to run!"

As it shapes up, Coach Sauter is going to have to work hard to put together a state-qualifying team on both the boys and girls sides, especially with Northwood having moved up a classification into the 4A West region, undoubtedly the deepest in Maryland. However, he still has high hopes for Michael as he continues to improve. Now that his "warm-up" is over, Michael Abebe is ready to lead this Northwood team into the 2015 season.

Mile Repeats at Richard Montgomery - 8/19/2015 - By Ryun Anderson

It was a warm, overcast morning as about forty members of the Richard Montgomery cross country team met for their first hard workout of the 2015 season: mile repeats, done at 5K pace with limited recovery. Head coach Davy Rogers commented that he prefers this workout at the beginning of every season because it really shows who put in a good amount of miles during the summer.

The practice was devoid of many of the Rockets key returners. The entire El-Masry family is in Germany, leaving the team without two of their top girls, Sophie and Nefrit, and one of their best boys, Joachim.

Cynthia Kipserem, another one of RM's top girls, is in Kenya, leaving the girls extremely thin for the workout. The Rockets also learned this year that one of their top returning boys, Jackson Walker, would be playing soccer this fall in hopes of returning to track fully healthy.

All told, the Richard Montgomery team was noticeably thinner than the deep teams of recent years that have remained in the upper echelon of Montgomery County. Although Coach Rogers noted that he expects twenty to thirty more runners once the school year begins, he added that this team is shaping up to be one of the smallest he has coached in recent memory. But what he does have this year is something he has not had at Richard Montgomery - a preseason county favorite.

Rohann Asfaw is the clear #1 on this team and probably in the county. This summer he took the next step up in his training: oxygen deprivation.

Asfaw logged approximately 420 miles this summer, a good amount of those wearing his new oxygen deprivation mask. "It simulates high altitude, and increases his lactic threshold," says Coach Rogers. "If you can't go to Colorado, at least you can bring Colorado to you."

Asfaw eased into the training with the mask, but by midsummer he was adjusting remarkably. "We ran a time trial, and he ran the fourth fastest time EVER on the 5k course - WITH the mask," praised Rogers.

He wore the mask on Wednesday morning for the mile repeats. The returning veterans were to complete five one-mile intervals at 5k pace. With a lack of returning depth of the boys side, Coach Rogers challenged many runners to constantly push their limits. Asfaw remained remarkably consistent throughout the workout, while the 2-5 spots changed with almost every interval.

On the girls side, returning senior Emily Newcombe paced the workout along with junior Amelia Cowan. With their top three returners on vacation, Coach Rogers didn't seem as concerned with the gap between the top runners on the girls side.

After the workout, Asfaw revealed his upcoming season goals. "Definitely top 2-3 at states," he said. "And also to qualify as a team. Last year we barely made it to the state meet."

Richard Montgomery will have stiff competition on both the boys and girls side in 4A West, but at least it appears that one runner is ready for the challenge.

"Some people fit running into their life. That's 99% of the runners I know. The other 1% plan their life around running. Diet, exercise - it's a lifestyle. That's Rohann. He's at the point where he no longer will have to wonder if he's done enough to be the best. There's no more doubt."

Workout Mile Splits

Rohann Asfaw: 5:15, 5:16, 5:19, 5:15, 5:15
Samad Iqbal: 5:24, 5:38, 5:45, 6:03, 6:23
Mac Morgan: 5:44, 5:50, 5:52, 5:49, 5:34
Michael Riederer: 5:44, 5:50, 5:51, 5:49, 5:46
Henri Maindidze: 5:44, 5:57, 6:12, 6:10, 6:06
Emily Newcombe: 7:14, 7:10, 7:23, 7:05, 6:21

NXN Aspirations at Good Counsel - 8/17/2015 - By Kevin Milsted

No team from Montgomery County has ever qualified for the Nike Cross Country National Championship Meet (NXN). Walter Johnson came painfully close to qualifying in 2010 only to miss the #2 regional qualifying spot on a sixth man tiebreaker. That was the closest a county team has ever come to qualifying.

Good Counsel had aspirations of qualifying for NXN in 2011. Four years ago, that talented Good Counsel team sat down for a goal-setting session in August in which the athletes affirmed to their coach that NXN was the goal. Coach Tom Arnold put the team time trial results on a projector screen and flat-out told the boys that they had not worked hard enough over the summer to qualify for NXN. That team won a lot of races and probably was the best team in Maryland in 2011, but NXN proved to be a different beast as Good Counsel finished merely 7th.

Flash forward to 2015 and Coach Tom Arnold was decidedly more optimistic about his team's 3200m time trial results. For starters, the 2015 team placed three boys ahead of the #1 runner from 2011 and five boys ahead of the #3 from 2011. What's more is that the time trial served as the culmination of a year-long experiment that Arnold concocted to put his runners in a better position to ultimately perform well at the NXN regional meet.

Normally tight-lipped about his teams' prospects, Arnold spoke surprisingly freely about NXN.

"Our goal is to see if we have a decent shot at qualifying for Nike," said Arnold.

His strategy for accomplishing that goal, in addition to his normal approach of encouraging healthy lifestyles, core and strength training, and impassioned commitment to intelligent running, was to research the teams that have qualified for NXN out of the Southeast regional meet. He performed some backwards extrapolation on the fitness levels of those qualifying teams. He used the Jack Daniels V-dot tables to estimate the approximate VO2-max of the #1-7 runners on qualifying teams and used those values to estimate the oxygen consumption levels that his athletes needed to achieve by the first day of practice in August in order move forward with the plan. In other words, he assigned target 3200m time goals for his varsity boys to aim for on the first day of practice in August. He assigned those time goals all the way back in November of 2014 and followed up with the runners throughout the year to help them stay on target.

"I've never actually done that a full year ahead of time," said Arnold.

By giving them a concrete goal, he said, they seemed to be more motivated and work harder. The top three boys were essentially right on target while the other returning varsity boys were close. Those top three boys, including Jimmy Vazzana and Kevin McGivern, were under 10:00. #1 runner Jack Wavering clocked 9:36, a record for the first day time trial which Arnold started around 1996.

"The whole team worked really hard all summer," said Wavering. "We expect to do really, really well at WCAC's and states. We want to do well at NXN."

According to Arnold, the team still has work to do. "We might have a 40 to 45 second gap behind our #3 man [for 5k]. Against really good teams we can't have that gap. So the story is: how do we close that gap?"

While the girls team is not planning for NXN in the same way as the boys team, Coach Arnold did draw an interesting comparison between this year's team and his loaded girls team from 19 years ago. That 1996 team, which dominated the WCAC and had three girls mentioned on the Washington Post All-Met XC Team, did not perform as well on the first day time trial as this 2015 team.

"The one thing these girls do that those girls [in '96] wouldn't is train really hard over the summer. So it will be really interesting."

Claudia Wendt, the WCAC cross country and 3200m champion of last school year, dropped 55 seconds from her time trial performance a year ago to tie the time trial record with an impressive 11:44 3200m. Megan Crilly, the WCAC XC champion of 2013, dropped a similar 52 seconds from her time trial performance a year ago. Seven girls went under 13:01 for 3200m on the first day of practice.

Arnold spoke on the prospects of his girls team this season: "We obviously have a better chance this year than in years past. We got Claudia back and she's in as good as shape as freshman year and we'd expect her to be at the front of any race. Crilly is in as good of shape as she's ever been in."

The practice that I witnessed on Monday evening was not the 3200m time trial nor was it the hard workout for the day. Earlier in the morning, the veterans on the team had completed upwards of twenty 400m repeats. The evening practice was strictly for dynamic flexibility drills, core exercises and strength work, but according to Arnold it was not a night intended for socializing. He expected the veterans to show the newbies how to perform the drills and Arnold himself kept a watchful eye on every athlete, making them repeat drills if not done correctly.

"We're going to have a lot of fun this year," he said with a grin. "I have a very narrow definition of fun: winning."

Building a Program at Blake - 8/15/2015 - By Ryun Anderson

Cross country in Montgomery County has typically been centered around the southwestern portion of the county: from Gaithersburg, down to Potomac and Bethesda. The eastern side of the county has typically been an afterthought aside from a few standout individuals from time to time. But slowly, the tide is turning - a few years ago, Montgomery County witnessed the rapid rise of the Paint Branch boys team. Now, another program seems to be on the verge of taking the next unexpected leap into the spotlight. That team is the Blake Bengals.

Two years ago, Coach Andrew Brodeur took over a Blake cross country team (and, last spring, the outdoor track distance team) that was struggling with consistency. Easily one of the youngest coaches in the county (and quite possibly the state), the 2012 graduate of Duke University has bonded with his band of runners. The light, more laid-back atmosphere that Brodeur brings was evident on Saturday morning, as Brodeur spent time joking with the runners while stretching.

But don't let this easygoing atmosphere cloud this team for what it really is: a young and extremely motivated team looking to crack the top ten in the county on both sides in 2015. Brodeur himself was a decorated high school and collegiate athlete, having qualified for the Footlocker National Cross Country Championships in 2007 and recorded a 14:01 5k performance while at Duke. He is now working to translate his individual running success to that of the runners he coaches. When Coach Brodeur received notice that MocoRunning would be featuring his team for the preseason tour, he thought to himself, "It's time to put Silver Spring on the map."

One runner on the boys side that will help achieve that is senior leader James Newport. Newport led the team as a junior with a 36th place finish at last year's county championship and steadily lowered his 1600m and 3200m times during track season. He will be supported by fellow senior John Stout, along with sophomores Evan Pollack and Jack O'Grady, whose success as freshmen is evident of the program being built at Blake.

The girls team has been strong for a couple of years, having made it to the state championships for two consecutive years. The girls return their top four runners from 2014, a quartet of seniors: Riani Carr, Catherine Oberfield, Abigail Hines, and Holyna Nhean. This core group of senior leaders is exactly what Coach Brodeur credits as giving this program life. "The sophomores that were here when I started - they're the ones that have really made this possible," says Brodeur.

The drastic regional realignments that took place over the summer may have affected no team more than it did Blake. The team moves from a 4A North region inhabited by perennial powerhouses Dulaney and Howard to a 3A south region with no clear-cut favorite. When asked about his teams' goals, Coach Brodeur reflected for a moment before replying that a top two finish on both sides at the regional meet would be a success for 2015. This team appears to have both the leadership and determination to do serious damage in the postseason this year, but one goal seems to resonate with this team: finally put Silver Spring on the map.

Run Washington Pep Rally - 8/16/2015 - By Kevin Milsted

The level of resources and pageantry that the "DCXC Distance Project" is devoting to cross country in this area is unprecedented and continues to grow year after year. Pacers Runnings Stores and Run Washington Magazine hosted a preseason pep rally at TC Williams High School on Sunday evening. The event took place in the school auditorum which was a huge spatial upgrade compared to the Pacers Running Store the same event was held in last year.

A specially designed spike was unveiled and awarded to each high school athlete selected to a Run Washington Team. The front cover of the fall issue of Run Washington Magazine was projected onto the auditorium screen. The cover featured a smiling photo of Rachel McArthur from Patriot High School. The magazine also unveiled its four Run Washington Teams - one honorary team representing the DC metro area, one team for Maryland, one team for Virginia, and one team for DC.

The All-Run Washington Team, which was determined by a panel of DC area coaches during a pre-season meeting, had three Montgomery County representatives: Abigail Green (Walter Johnson), Bethlehem Taye (Paint Branch), and Rohann Asfaw (Richard Montgomery).

The All-Maryland team consisted entirely of Montgomery County runners. The boys on the Maryland team were Michael Abebe (Northwood), Ben Gersch (Whitman), Dylan Kannapell (B-CC), Kevin McGivern (Good Counsel), Colin SyBing (Wootton), Liam Walsh (Quince Orchard), and Jack Wavering (Good Counsel). The girls on the Maryland team were Grace Dellapa (Wootton), Amanda Hayes-Puttfarcken (Sherwood), Katriane Kirsch (Walter Johnson), Sami King (Whitman), Emily Murphy (Walter Johnson), Claudia Wendt (Good Counsel), and Olivia Woods (Whitman).

Pick up a copy of the Fall edition of Run Washington Magazine, found in many running stores, for full write-ups on many area runners and coaches. The magazine was also so kind as to write an article about me as I enter my tenth season of cross country coverage in Montgomery County. It is an honor and keepsake that I am very appreciative for.

Mocorunning's always-popular preseason cross country poll was opened for voting shortly after the pep rally. I want you to tell me who you think are the top ten public school runners and teams in the county this season. Just a reminder: this poll omits the private school athletes because we will actually score the poll results against the real world public school county championship meet results to see who had the most accurate ballot. Like always, private school athletes will be considered equally in Mocorunning's weekly XC rankings.

Mental Toughness at B-CC - 8/14/2015 - By Ryun Anderson

The weather was perfect for running as members of the B-CC cross country team assembled at Candy Cane Park in Bethesda. For the Barons, practices don't become mandatory until Monday, so the attendance at the practice was limited; well, to an extent. Roughly thirty runners gathered at the park only represent about a third of what head coach Chad Young expects to make up their cross country team this fall. Young described last year as being a record low for participation, somewhere in the seventies, a number two or three times the size of some of the other teams in the area. "I have about ninety on the roster, as well as some others I'm still waiting on," explained Young.

The team this year will have a very different look to it, especially on the girls' side. The Lady Barons lost their top four runners from last year, including the reigning state champion Nora McUmber. Coach Young knows it's going to be a season of transition for the program that has finished in the top two at the state championships for four straight seasons. "We're going to have to assume a sort of new identity," he says, "but I think it's a good thing. It will give more of the younger runners a chance to step up and have a voice."

While they did lose many of their top runners, the team will get a boost from Michaela Peterson, who returns to B-CC after a year at the Academy of the Holy Cross. Peterson was the Montgomery County Private Schools Cross Country Champion in 2014. One advantage that the team has is their depth: finding a varsity seven is made easier when there are upwards of forty girls running.

The boys team will return many of their runners from last year as they shape up to be one of the deepest teams in the entire state. One encouraging sign for the Barons is that their top returner, senior Dylan Kannapell, is in what Coach Young described as "great shape" to start the season. He missed a significant portion of last outdoor season with nagging injuries, but Young said that he ran well at regionals with "almost no training."

Coach Young was also very high on rising junior Sebastian Jones, who carried the momentum from the end of the 2014 cross country season through to the track season. "He's in great shape as well," says Young, "He was knocking on the door of 2:00 by the end of outdoor." Jones said that he has been working on his speed endurance this summer, mixing tempo runs with 400s at 5k pace. His goal this season is to be in the low 16s by mid season.

Both the girls and the guys will need runners to step up and out of their comfort zones to help the team remain among the top programs in the county. Friday's light practice ended with a spirited competition to see who could hold a plank position the longest. In a final showdown, Kai Elwood-Dieu outlasted Zoe Nuechterlein for the win. Afterwards, Coach Young spoke to the team. "This exercise helps you strengthen your mental toughness. In order to be successful, you have to work on pushing yourselves mentally in spite of physical limitations." It is clear that B-CC is going to embrace a "next man (or woman) up" mentality for the upcoming cross country season.


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