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Private Schools County Championship Recap
By: Kevin Milsted

When Matthew Zischkau of The Heights and Wesley Feldman of Landon met for the second time this season, the contest was much different than the first. Six weeks ago at the Landon Invitational, Feldman was unchallenged from the gun and won by fifteen seconds, 17:15 to 17:30 over Zischkau. Feldman probably held a larger lead than that throughout most of the race.

On Saturday at the fifth annual Montgomery County Championship Meet for Private Schools at Covenant Life School, Zischkau made it much more of a race.

"We were basically stride for stride for the whole thing," said Zischkau. "I kept pushing myself. I would pass him and then he'd pass me back. And that happened for the whole race until maybe the last 300."

Zischkau estimated that the two runners swapped the lead seven or eight times before the final quarter mile. He kicked it in for the win in a huge personal best time of 16:56.57 and later said that it felt "amazing" to be a county champion.

Unfortunately, the epic head-to-head battle between the top two runners will not be reflected by the final results. Feldman collapsed in the final quarter mile. He was able to get up and work his way to the finish line as about a minute ticked off the clock and over a half dozen runners passed him. He received medical treatment following the race.

According to Landon Coach Addison Hunt, the same thing happened a week earlier at the IAC Championship Meet when Feldman collapsed near the finish line and did not finish at all. The reason was a mystery to Hunt. No other symptoms had surfaced prior to or after the IAC meet, but the repeat occurrence was alarming. Hunt said that he will shut down Feldman for the season if doctors cannot find an explanation and solution very quickly.

The cold, hard truth is that Landon needed its low stick to win last week's IAC Championship and today's County Championship. The Heights School won its first team county title by a slim two point margin, 41 to 43 over Landon. While Landon had the strongest #5 runner in twelfth place, The Heights put three runners in the top five positions which was too much for any other team to overcome.

The Heights Head Coach Justin Meyers said that it meant a lot for his team to come away with the win and the school's first county title.

"We had high hopes," said Meyers. "We knew it was going to be close between us and Landon and came down to every man. So it's pretty cool. Pretty neat that it happened that way."

The girls varsity race was far less dramatic than the boys race. Kristen Bitsberger of Holton- Arms School ran out front pretty much from the first stride. She said that she could feel her teammate right behind her for the first mile, but she was all alone before the midway point.

For Bitsberger, it was more than just another race or something to do in between the conference meet where she placed sixth last week and the state meet where she hopes to finish in the top five next week.

"I really did want to win the county title because it's a vote of confidence," said Bitsberger. "It's like, 'no, I can do it.'"

Holton-Arms defeated Holy Cross, 27 to 47. It marked the first team county title for Holton-Arms and the first time a non-WCAC team won the title. The meet had previously been won each year by either Holy Cross or Good Counsel.

Multiple teams that had previously bought into the concept of a county championship meet for private schools bailed out in this year's fifth running of the meet including this year's WCAC boys champs, Good Counsel, and PVAC boys champs, Jewish Day.

Coach Hunt remains unfazed by the backwards step in participation and ambitious about the future of the meet.

Said Hunt, "I think the teams that didn't come have their personal reasons and certainly in the way that they train this meet wasn't going to help them. I completely respect that...we'll keep doing it. It will be our sixth year next year. I've heard from sources that it takes a while for a county meet to take foot. So hopefully by the time we come back here in ten years this will be a much bigger thing.

"I think this meet does serve a purpose and some great memories have been made at this meet. So congratulations to The Heights and Holton."

There is universal love for Covenant Life's home cross country course. Everyone that I have ever spoken to loves it, and everyone that I spoke to today said they loved it without me even asking. I am embarrassed to say that it took me so long to make it out to this course, but now I, too, have a love affair with CovLife XC.

As the crow flies, it is about one mile from the Agricultural Farm Park where the Private Schools State Championship Meet is held. Parts of the Covenant Life course are so similar to the Agricultural Farm Park XC course that I thought that I might have wandered onto the other course (but the two courses are not that close together).

At first glance, the CovLife course has a lot of grass on flat ground with a starting line that is far too small to host a major meet (the start line could be widened if the school ever wanted to host a larger meet because it starts next to a soccer field instead of on the soccer field, but a wider start might mean a sharper turn in the first 100 meters).

About a half mile into the race, the runners start to climb a hill up and into a wooded path. In the most distant and scenic parts of the course, where few spectators dared to wander, runners traversed rolling hills, transitioned between trail and grass and crossed two wooden bridges. The loop is repeated and runners finished where they started on grass adjacent to a soccer field.

The difficulty is moderate with some challenges but no major hills or obstacles of legendary proportion. I would guess that it is slightly less difficult than the Agricultural Farm Park XC course. Moderate is good. I'd even say that moderate is the best.

The three best things the Covenant Life Course has going for it: zero pavement, absolutely beautiful with the colors of the leaves this time of year, and very well-manicured. A little frost on the ground and a chill in the air made Covenant Life School the best place on Earth to be this fall Saturday morning.

Photo 1: Looking backwards at the grassy starting area with frost on the ground at 8:00 AM
Photo 2: Looking backwards at the first downhill in the woods
Photo 3: The first grassy emergence from the wooded trail
Photo 4: A dirt trail and one of two wooden bridges
Photo 5: The grassy property edge and return run towards the finish area


Lionel Yaceczko
2016-11-07 08:49:16

Congratulations Heights!

Tony Rathe
2016-11-19 16:28:17

You need to add photos of the boys and girls All Montgomery County Private School teams! These runners were the top finishers at the meet.

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