Fairfax Station Hannah Christen and the Lake Braddock girls’ cross country team overcame the loss of defending state champion Sophie Chase and a strong effort by West Springfield’s Caroline Alcorta to take home top honors at the Monroe Parker Invitational on Sept. 8 at Burke Lake Park.
Chase, ranked among the nation’s top 10 high school harriers by milesplit.com, pulled out midway through the race due to lower body discomfort. Despite the loss of their top runner, the Bruins won the team competition with a score of 83. Battlefield (108) placed second and Madison (120) finished third.
Christen, ranked in the top 15 nationally by milesplit.com, held off Alcorta to win the individual title with a time of 17 minutes, 40 seconds, 6 seconds faster than her Spartan opponent. Alcorta led toward the end of the race, but Christen battled back.
“It felt really good, especially because I had to fight for it at the end, which made it seem more worthwhile,” Christen said about finishing first as an individual. “… I was actually surprised [we won the team title] in a good way because Sophie didn’t have her best day today, and so it made me happy that we can still win as a team even though we don’t have our top runner, which looks good for in the future.”
Lake Braddock coach Michael Mangan said it was his choice for Chase to withdraw from the race and “it’s not a big deal.” He said Chase’s stride looked off and he told her to stop.
“I’m a bad coach if I let her keep going,” Mangan said. “Had she not listened to me, I’m not very fast anymore, but I probably could have summoned 25 [or] 30 meters of a sprint and I would have hooked her.”
“I was actually surprised [we won the team title] in a good way because Sophie didn’t have her best day today, and so it made me happy that we can still win as a team even though we don’t have our top runner, which looks good for in the future.”
--- Lake Braddock’s Hannah Christen
AN EMOTIONAL CHASE was disappointed she wasn’t able to finish.
“I’m not really injured, I just was not feeling good at all,” Chase said. “The top part of my [right] hip was really, really hurting … so coming up that hill I really had an option whether to try to gut it through and possibly … irritate my legs more [or] stop. It was definitely a really difficult thing to decide because I’m a fighter and I want to do well, but at the end, I have a really long season and I just have to stay focused for the long run.”
Along with Christen’s first-place finish, Lake Braddock’s Katie Roche finished 12th (18:49), Katie Kunc was 19th (19:46), Anne Johnson finished 25th (20:06) and Misha Suresh was 30th (20:16).
West Springfield’s Alcorta placed second with a time of 17:46, helping the Spartans to a sixth-place finish (200).
“I didn’t think I’d be anywhere near [Christen],” said Alcorta, who placed eighth at states in 2011, her first season competing in cross country. “… [Christen is] really one of the greatest runners in the state. It’s really hard trying to fight somebody that’s so good. A couple times I thought I could get her, but she’s really quick.”
Maddie Wittich placed ninth (18:40) for the Spartans, Katie Kennedy finished 38th (20:28), Abbie Walker was 77th (21:15) and Erin Falk finished 89th (21:28).
Robinson’s Macey Schweikert placed fourth (18:04), followed by Chantilly’s Alexa Cowne (18:04), Edison’s Jennifer Flack (18:08), Robinson’s Lauren Berman (18:17), Lee’s Bailey Kolonich (18:18), Battlefield’s Nicole Carter (18:40), West Springfield’s Wittich and West Potomac’ s Katie Genuario (18:41). Bishop O’Connell’s Devin Nihill finished 11th (18:48), followed by Lake Braddock’s Roche, Madison’s Amanda Swaak (19:07) and Anna Stone (19:14) and Battlefield’s Becca Howe (19:24).
Robinson finished eighth (258) as a team, Woodson was 11th (282) and South County finished 16th (408).
IN BOYS’ ACTION, Lake Braddock’s Nick Tuck placed second with a time of 15:16, helping the Bruins to a sixth-place team finish. Mangan said Tuck’s time was one of the best in school history for the Burke Lake course.
Chantilly senior Sean McGorty cruised to victory, posting a time of 14:50, 26 seconds ahead of second-place Tuck. McGorty placed fourth in the state as a sophomore, second last season, and was ranked in the 2012 preseason national top 10 by milesplit.com. He battled with Annandale’s Ahmed Bile the last two seasons, but Bile came out on top, winning back-to-back state championships. Now that Bile is a freshman at Georgetown, McGorty is focusing on self-motivation.
“You have to be very mentally strong,” McGorty said of running with no competitors around him. “I’ve been working on that coming into this year because I really want to be able to motivate myself during races and not rely on other people or other events. … It will be a little different not having someone right there with you. Mentally, last year I had to focus on staying with [Bile] or pushing the pace, trying to beat him. This year, it’s more pushing myself, keeping myself motivated …”
McGorty praised Northern Region harriers after the race, but none posed a threat on this day. Edison’s Louis Colson placed third (15:18), followed by Battlefield’s Haben Zemichael (15:54) and Chantilly’s Peter Malander (15:55). Madison’s Matthew Calem (15:56) finished sixth, followed by Stone Bridge’s Brady Guertin (15:56), Chantilly’s Faris Sakallah (15:57), South Lakes’ Ashkan Mohammadi (15:58), Marshall’s MacKenzie Haight (16:05), Battlefield’s Aaron Hill (16:05), Bishop O’Connell’s J.J. LaPointe (16:05), Yorktown’s Ryan Hart (16:07), Lake Braddock’s Alex Corbett (16:07) and T.C. Williams’ Anteneh Girma (16:08).
Chantilly finished first as a team with a score of 57. Battlefield finished second (122) and Robinson placed third (134).
Nathan Schulte finished 19th (16:15) for Robinson. John Tolbert was 25th (16:20), Dustin Jutras finished 30th (16:29), Luke Sharkey was 32nd (16:38) and Leif Van Acker finished 33rd (16:38).
West Springfield finished fourth (227), South County was 16th (468), Woodson finished 18th (492) and Lee was 26th (628).
Multiple harriers needed medical attention due to the warm temperature.
“It was really, really hot,” Wittich said. “It was brutal.”