Hosted by its fourth school in as many years, the Montgomery County Private Schools Championship Meet is set up on a rotation schedule specifically designed to avoid scheduling conflicts.
"A lot of our schools have football," said Landon head cross country coach Addison Hunt. "That's the thing that we try to avoid and so the way that I've set up the rotation, when Landon, Prep, and Bullis are hosting, we don't have to worry about football and we never have to worry about it with Sandy Spring's course."
It was ironic, then, that Georgetown Prep's typical 5k course had to be modified for this meet due to a scheduling conflict.
Georgetown Prep head coach Greg Dunston explained, "When we do the Classic [invitational], we always have to shut down the front entrance...They didn't want us to shut down the front entrance. And the SAT's were today so they wanted us to stay as far away from the academic buildings as we could. So I figured by going on the other side we could stay away from them and not have to shut down the road."
The modified course started and ended on the track with three loops around the north half of the campus. For those familiar with the campus, the loops were around the baseball fields and tennis courts and did not include any of the golf course on the south half of the campus. What looked like a flat and fast course turned out to be a little more challenging than anyone expected.
"I was surprised," said Dunston. "I thought it would be faster but I think maybe all the turns plus the weather maybe is a little wet today. I think all the turns make it slow down a little bit."
Good Counsel's Megan Crilly has recorded two sub-20:00 performances this season but only recorded a time of 20:28.75 to win the girls championship race. Crilly ran unchallenged from start to finish and only had teammate Maggie Ralston finish within thirty seconds. Normal #1 runner Claudia Wendt has now been absent from competition for six weeks, according to Coach Arnold due to hip flexor problems.
"The turns are very sharp and I think that contributed to having slower times but I thought it was a good course," said Crilly.
Similarly, Good Counsel's Jack Wavering has recorded four sub-16:00 5k performances this season and by most accounts is the best runner in Maryland this year. Wavering only won the boys race in 16:30.43 and suggested another reason for slower times.
"I went into this race without feeling any pressure so the initial pace was set and determined by our pack. We didn't really hammer from the gun or anything," said Wavering.
"The instructions before the race were basically: if we have all of our guys out in the front early on...to just mess around with different paces, throw in some minute hard...really hard surges and then recover in between."
The Good Counsel boys won the championship with a perfect 15 points and also took eight of the top nine positions (ten runners per team were allowed to enter the varsity race). The Good Counsel girls won with 19 points.
To win a cross country meet with fifteen points is any cross country team's dream, but the Good Counsel boys and head coach Tom Arnold took the victory in stride as they were just doing what they were expected to do. Good Counsel's decision to attend the meet for the first time stemmed from the WCAC's scheduling of its championship meet one week earlier than usual.
"We thought we could win and maybe win handily," said Arnold. "We needed a race the way our schedule got changed at the end of the season so we didn't have a three week break before states. So we needed a race and this fit the bill."
If anything, some of the other coaches and athletes were more excited about the 15 point perfect performance than Good Counsel was. Coach Hunt of Landon spoke on the presence of Good Counsel at the meet for the first time in its four year history.
"I think it now makes the meet a legitimate meet. Certainly for our guys it was a target to try to keep up with them as best we can. And certainly now that they are going to be on the schedule, it's got to be another goal for us. Not just to try to beat St. Albans but to try to be competitive with the best. They raise the bar in Montgomery County."
As for whether the meet will continue on a rotation schedule, Hunt says that is in flux.
"It's not really enough of a tradition right now that I am worried about that. I think it has been neat for schools to be able host it and kind of have a change of scenery from year to year."
"I think if we could find a course and a time period and we had a school that would agree that they would block off this time then we would do it. We didn't count on the SAT's here today and the reason we couldn't host it at Landon a couple years ago was because we were hosting SAT's."
"Bullis has actually stepped up and said they'd be willing to host it and they have a very nice course. So what I plan to do is put out a Survey Monkey to a couple of the coaches and bring up a couple things and that's one of them. Would they like to keep it at just one school?"