The Washington Latin Public Charter School is located in northwest Washington DC, but its cross country team competes in Montgomery County more often than many Montgomery County schools. For Latin School's Luke Tewalt, the Landon home course serves as a unique measuring stick with which he can chart his progress dating back to 2013.
"I really like this course because I've been coming here since I was like 11 or 12," said Tewalt. "Just coming back here has always been good memories."
Tewalt ran away from the varsity 'A' field at Saturday's Landon Invitational and won in 16:47. Coincidentally, it was the fastest time recorded on Landon's deceptively difficult home course since Tewalt's sixth-grade year: 2013. Potomac School's Hale Ross set the meet record of 16:27.25 that year, but the Latin School junior is ahead of Ross's junior year performance of 17:28 recorded in 2012.
As a reference for public school fans: last year's 4A state champion, Adam Nakasaka of B-CC High School, only recorded 17:03 on Landon's home course in a mid-season dual meet in 2017. It was Nakasaka's slowest performance of the season.
Said Tewalt, "I was just trying to get a good place because I've run this course a few times and I haven't always produced the best times, but I PR'd here today on this course - not overall but my course PR here drastically improved by over a minute, so I was really happy with that."
Zoe Edelman of Washington Latin School put up an equally dominant performance to win the girls varsity 'A' title by over a minute.
Two girls teams that skyrocketed to the top of their respective conferences last year collided in the first race of the day on Saturday. The defending WCAC champions, St. John's College High School, made their 5k season debut, while the team that lost the 2017 ISL title on a tiebreaker, Stone Ridge, matched St. John's nearly woman-for-woman. St. John's edged out Stone Ridge 45 to 62 in a field that included 13 complete teams.
"I was incredibly proud of them," said Stone Ridge head coach, Peter Rook. "They ran super tough. Our top seven were all freshman and sophomores, and for a few of them this was their first ever invitational...I was almost in tears at the finish line I was so proud of them."
Stone Ridge will certainly miss the loss of three strong graduated seniors from last year's team, but Rook credited those graduated runners with the smooth transition of leadership for this year's youthful team.
"We graduated three really great seniors and they set a tone for us. They changed the culture of our team. [Now] we have a really great freshman class coming in this year. We've got a really strong sophomore class...Super inexperienced, but they have a great self-perception of themselves as competitive runners."
St. John's head coach, Desmond Dunham, said that he likes to build his season slowly which is why his teams only competed in relay meets up until this point.
Said Dunham, "We like to leave them wanting more and being excited, and they were very excited to finally get their first 5k out of the way this season."
The St. John's boys team blew away the competition while the girls just edged out Stone Ridge. Had it just been a dual meet between the two seemingly evenly matched teams, St. John's would have edged Stone Ridge 24 to 31.
Dunham wasn't too worried about team scores. He explained that he was looking for his runners to run in pairs and clusters, a strategy that will benefit them if his teams are to repeat their high finishes at this year's WCAC Championship Meet.
Said Dunham, "It's always harder to repeat. You just try to...it's easier to train when you know you are the second or third place team and you have something to shoot for. When you have the 'X' on your back, you still have to train like you are the second place team. And I'm not sure where we are on paper, but we know that O'Connell and Bishop Ireton and Paul IV and those schools: they are not going to lay down and we know that they have stepped up their training and their focus and tenacity. We just hope that we can match that and keep that fire under our belly."