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From Swine Flu to All-State

Lee senior Yacob overcomes adversity to shine at states

The physical toll of navigating the hill-covered course at Great Meadow left many harriers wiped out after Saturday, Nov. 13’s VHSL state cross country championships. To Abraham Yacob, however, the 3.1-mile run must have felt like a stroll through the park compared to what he endured during the past year.

The Lee senior did not compete in last season’s state meet — he didn’t even make it out of districts after contracting H1N1. After Yacob recovered from swine flu, he injured the iliotibial band in his right leg, forcing him to miss outdoor track season. After a year of misfortune, Yacob resumed trailing in July.

Four months later, Yacob placed sixth at Saturday’s meet, earning all-state honors with a time of 15 minutes, 47 seconds. Yacob could have made excuses. It was his first state meet and he had only been training since the middle of the summer. Instead, he approached the race with an aggressive mentality and found his way to the award ceremony.

"For first time at states, to get top six, I’m really happy and honored to compete with those top guys," Yacob said. "I never thought I would be top six coming from a brutal injury. … Mentally, I was strong because of all the things I went through. Physically, I didn’t have that much training, so what kept me going was the mentality."

Yacob was one of four Northern Region harriers to place in the top six. Annandale’s Ahmed Bile won the state title with a time of 15:27. Chantilly’s Sean McGorty finished fourth (15:44) and Lake Braddock’s Sam Rubenking was fifth (15:45).

Midlothian won the team title with 46 points, 58 better than second-place Colonial Forge. West Potomac was the Northern Region’s top team with a sixth-place finish. Lake Braddock finished eighth, South Lakes ninth and Herndon 10th.

In the girls race, Lee’s Bailey Kolonich finished 36th with a time of 19:25. The freshman placed second at districts and sixth at regionals and said she will learn from her first state meet.

"It felt good to be here, but I was kind of scared," Kolonich said. "Since I’m a freshman, I guess I had nothing to lose coming here. But it felt really good to be running with some really good runners — like [Edison’s] Myah Hicks and [Lake Braddock’s] Sophie Chase — because they’re really great."

Kolonich said the course’s hills made for tough running.

"Even if you’re tired," she said, "you’ve just really got to push through it at the end because it’s a really long finish."

Chase finished second with a time of 17:41, missing a state title by mere inches. Stafford’s Hannah Lowery finished first.

Hicks finished 17th with a time of 18:56.

Midlothian won the team title with 104 points, nine better than second-place Maggie Walker. Thomas Jefferson was the region’s top team with a fourth-place finish. Lake Braddock finished fifth, West Potomac seventh and West Springfield 10th.

West Springfield’s top harrier was Maddie Wittich, who finished 35th with a time of 19:24.