As of Thursday evening, Hurricane Florence is barreling into the Carolinas and it appears that it will largely spare Maryland and northern Virginia from its strong winds and torrential rain. Earlier in the week, the trajectory of the storm was much less certain. High school cross-country meet directors across the area canceled or postponed Saturday meets out of an abundance of caution.
"After consulting with the Rangers at Fair Hill and looking at the weather forecast and with the Governor declaring a State of Emergency, we have decided to POSTPONE Saturday's Track and Trail," wrote Bruce Kline, the meet director of the Track and Trail Invitational in Elkton, Maryland, on Tuesday.
Oatlands Invitational meet director, Matt Oblas, emailed the following to coaches on Wednesday: "The 2018 Oatlands Cross Country Invitational scheduled for Saturday, September 15th has been canceled due to continued rainfall, continued rain/no sun in the forecast, and travel restrictions that a number of school districts anticipate due to Hurricane Florence. Four plus inches of rain have fallen on the property in the last few days and more is forecasted to fall before Saturday."
Both meet directors cited not only the safety of everyone involved with the meets, but also the inability to prepare the grounds and the potential for permanent destruction of the host property.
Like most cross-country teams in the region, Wootton and Richard Montgomery had their weekend plans spoiled. Wootton looked forward to the Track and Trail Invitational as its first major meet, while Richard Montgomery went as far as to say that their season was centered around Oatlands.
Said Richard Montgomery head coach, Davy Rogers, "We get to see more competition there than we get to see at any race during the season so it's a good test to see where we're at. I always schedule our entire schedule around Oatlands so it's a bummer that they canceled it, but I understand the situation they're in."
"It's frustrating, but you've got to be flexible," said Wootton head coach, Kellie Redmond. "Everyone's dealing with the same situation. It does feel like there has not been a lot of continuity."
A week ago, all MCPS dual meets were postponed due to Wednesday's heat index in excess of 100 degrees. Before that, Wootton had a scrimmage canceled due to heat.
"We had to be indoors some," said Redmond. "I feel like we've had to make a lot of changes like some of our preseason stuff we had to change to really early in the morning... It does feel like we haven't had the smooth sailing yet, but you just got to deal with it."
Knowing that her team would not race this coming weekend, Redmond said that she shifted focus to her Wednesday dual meet against Richard Montgomery, which was contested on perhaps the toughest home cross-country course in Montgomery County.
"With not racing on Saturday," said Redmond, "it allowed us to go a little harder today which was good actually. I think we needed to do that. And actually, next week we don't have a meet mid-week so we can focus on next Saturday [at Bull Run] which is also good."
Rogers called Wootton's home course "the best introduction to cross-country and the worst introduction to cross country."
"It's the worst intro because usually a lot of the kids who are running the first time or even their second race don't run exceptionally well just because of the three hills they have to go up (and they are some serious hills). But it's a great intro because it only gets easier from here as far as the courses go. This is definitely, I feel, one of the toughest courses in the county but it's great for the kids because they get to have a good hard test and then get to see the less challenging courses."
The girls race saw Richard Montgomery newcomer Emma Wolf challenge the established Wootton duo of Jessica Trzeciak and Adna Trakic. The RM sophomore boldly led for parts of the first half before eventually fading to third place in 21:27. Trzeciak won in 20:53. Trakic was second in 21:11.
"Emma is a new runner: just came out this year," said Rogers. "She's a national level squash player. She decided to do cross country...She's a natural. I think she ran 21-low here today in her first ever cross-country race on this course which is really good...We're excited to see what she can do if she sticks with it...if this is something that ends up something that she enjoys doing. She obviously has the talent for it."
The boys race saw a similar bold move by first-time RMHS cross-country runner, Rafael Berhanu. Berhanu showed talent on the track in his freshman year, but the hills zapped his legs on Wootton's difficult course, according to Rogers. For the first half of the race, the only black jersey breaking up Wootton's red wave was Berhanu, but RM's Nicholas Olano finished out the second half of the course the strongest while Berhanu faded to eighth place. Olano was third in 18:21. Wootton's Richard Qiao was second in 18:11. Wootton's John Riker was never challenged and won in 17:45.
Wootton easily defeated Richard Montgomery in both the boys and girls competitions.
"I was pleased with everyone's effort for sure, said Redmond. "I think it's a good starting point. I thought some of our gaps would be bigger than they were so I was pleased with that. There's certainly work that needs to be done. It's early, but it's a good starting point for us."
Richard Montgomery was missing several notable athletes due to varying ailments.
Charlotte Turesson had a "tiny little ailment" according to Rogers. He added that she is in the most ridiculous shape of any girl ever from Richard Montgomery.
Mark Unger is dealing with tendon damage from the avulsion fracture that has plagued him since the end of his freshman year. Rogers made it sound questionable if Unger would even run a race this season. At the same time, Unger urged his coach to let him race Wednesday. He started the race and he dropped out mid-way.
Garrett Suhr was on the sidelines Wednesday and Rogers again made it sound questionable if he would race this season. Add plantar fasciitis to the list of injuries and ailments that have plagued Suhr throughout his high school career.
"It's better now," said Rogers. "He's doing all the PT for it. He just started really running running at the end of last week. If we can get him a race before the cross country season is over, awesome. I just want to get him healthy again."