Fairfax Station West Potomac cross country coach Jenn Dietz doesn’t like the term “rebuilding year.” But after graduating four key seniors from a girls’ team that finished third in the state in 2011, the Wolverines have their work cut out for them.
Gone are standouts Sarah Jane Underwood and Dale Lescher, and state contributors Sami Miller and Colleen Boyle. The Wolverines return some harriers with varsity experience, but it will be challenging to repeat the success of last season. That’s OK, Dietz said, as long as the team is giving maximum effort.
“I hate the term ‘rebuilding year’ because I don’t think that that serves them well, so that’s not the mindset we have,” Dietz said. “The mindset that they have is a lot of them were on the team last year and they know what it’s like to work hard, so we’re going to work just as hard and maybe we’re not going to place as high, but we want to achieve our full potential. Last year, full potential was winning. This year, our full potential may be making it to the state meet.”
The Wolverines’ effort on Sept. 8 earned them a fourth-place finish at the Monroe Parker Invitational at Burke Lake Park. West Potomac finished with a score of 122, just behind third-place Madison (120). Lake Braddock (83) won the event and Battlefield (108) finished second.
“I think it was a good starting point,” Dietz said. “A lot of new faces in the lineup and the girls that we have are very much improved from where they were last year. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done if we want to make it back to states, which would be great.”
Katie Genuario was the Wolverines’ top finisher, placing 10th with a time of 18:41. Genuario, a junior, is in her second season as a cross country runner and has transitioned into the team’s No. 1 harrier.
“The mindset that they have is a lot of them were on the team last year and they know what it’s like to work hard, so we’re going to work just as hard and maybe we’re not going to place as high, but we want to achieve our full potential. Last year, full potential was winning. This year, our full potential may be making it to the state meet.”
— West Potomac cross country coach Jenn Dietz
“She’s really, really stepped up,” Dietz said. “She’s a new girl this year. She’s got a lot more confidence and her training shows a lot of progress. … Last year, because we had so many people, she kind of sat back and she keyed off of them and she even kept herself far behind them — even girls that she ended up beating at the end of the season. She was so timid, and now she’s running with boys, she’s not really afraid and she knows that she’s our lead runner. She sets the tone at practice.”
Kathryn Murray finished 23rd for West Potomac with a time of 20:02. Sophia Passacantando was 24th (20:04), Lauren Price finished 28th (20:11) and Maura Finn was 44th (20:37).
Hannah Christen and the Lake Braddock Bruins overcame the loss of defending state champion Sophie Chase and a strong effort by West Springfield’s Caroline Alcorta to take home top honors during the event. 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.
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.”
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).
In boys’ action, West Potomac finished 10th. Luca Halladay finished 38th (16:42), Nicolas Cucinotta was 39th (16:44), Eric Turner finished 55th (16:56), Corey Rosenberg was 64th (17:04) and Crispin Bernier finished 99th (17:33).
“They have a nice pack in practice,” Dietz said, “but they really didn’t show that today.”
Chantilly senior Sean McGorty cruised to victory, posting a time of 14:50, 26 seconds ahead of Lake Braddock’s Nick 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. 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 Lake Braddock history for the Burke Lake course. 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).
Multiple harriers needed medical attention due to the warm temperature.
“It was really, really hot,” West Springfield’s Wittich said. “It was brutal.”