Montgomery County gearing up for thrilling XC season

The 2018 cross country season promises to be one of the most exciting that Montgomery County has ever seen, and for one reason- every title, whether boy or girl, individual or team, is up for grabs. With the graduation of four of Walter Johnson’s varsity girls from last year, WJ’s reign atop the county may see its end. The departure of one of those girls, three-time county champion Abigail Green, presents the opportunity for a new runner to take the mantle of fastest girl. On the boys’ side, last year’s champion Walt Whitman returns all of its varsity runners, but there will be talented challengers to the throne. However the results shake out on October 27 at Bohrer Park, this is a great time to watch Montgomery County cross country.

Starting on the girls’ side, the team battle for the crown looks to be a three-horse race. Though Walter Johnson lost the most of any of the top teams in MoCo to graduation, the Wildcats are still a force to be reckoned with. Junior Jenna Goldberg (6th at last year’s championships) and sophomore Ella Gaul (5:14 1600m) are in contention should contend for top-five spots individually… The team to beat in the county is the Thomas S. Wootton Patriots. This year’s team is stacked with seniors, with four of last year’s varsity athletes returning for their final year on the course. The Patriots placed second at the past two MoCo championships and have taken 2nd and 3rd place finishes at states, respectively. All-Run Washington selection Jessi Trzeciak (5th at last year’s championships) will contend for the individual championship… Not far behind are the Walt Whitman Vikings. The team was a mere four points from a second-place finish at the 2017 MoCo championships and return all but one of last year’s varsity squad…The Poolesville Falcons are a clear notch below these frontrunners but still bear watching. Top runner Nandini Satsangi (18:36 5K PR) is the favorite to win the girls’ race and is surrounded by a team capable of the school’s highest finish ever. The question at Poolesville will be whether the team can develop the depth to compete…The Falcons are joined on the second tier by Bethesda-Chevy Chase and Richard Montgomery, while Winston Churchill, Montgomery Blair, Quince Orchard and Northwest round out the top ten.

Last year’s boys’ championship race was one for the ages, but the sequel could be even better. The 2017 Whitman Vikings enjoyed a 15-point victory and return last season’s squad. Finding a weakness on this team is difficult, though B-CC’s upset at regionals proved that the Vikings aren’t invincible. Whitman is capable of placing a ridiculous six guys in the top 20, similar to 2016 Northwest but more top-loaded…Realistically, two other teams have a chance at preventing Whitman from going back-to-back. The top challenger is Northwood, a team that was 16th two years ago and jumped up to sixth in last year’s race. That wasn’t at full strength either, as the team was without 9:30 3200m runner Eldad Mulugeta for that race. Mulugeta and teammate Obsaa Feda (second in the state in 1600m and 3200m), arguably the individual boys’ favorite, have the potential of coming in 1-2 at the line. The Gladiators put six guys under 10:20 in the 3200m run last spring. Health and depth are the biggest obstacles in Northwood’s way… The dark horse in the race will be the Wootton Patriots. Since winning the 2015 MoCo championship, the team has stayed in quiet contention and came out of nowhere to place second in last year’s race. Depth is the Patriots’ greatest asset, and this team could feature an all-senior varsity. Your boy John Riker is gunning to win the county title, and if the 2-3-4-5 runners can break the 17-minute barrier, Wootton could make a serious play to the top dogs…Aside from the runners from those three schools, Richard Montgomery’s Garrett Suhr (4th in XC states), Clarksburg’s Zach Worthman (9:48 3200m), Einstein’s Noah Clifford (15:51 5K) and Walter Johnson’s Rodrigo Yepez-Lopez (9:32 3200m) figure to feature prominently in the boys’ standings. Suhr, a junior, did not participate in outdoor track but when healthy can compete for the championship…Two traditional powers in Bethesda-Chevy Chase and Richard Montgomery are in flux due to graduation and injury situations, opening the door for a few teams that could surprise in 2018. Montgomery Blair has a good shot at finishing fourth. Seniors Leoluca Cannuscio and Sam Rose Davidoff both broke 4:30 in the 1600 last spring, while the team’s depth is enviable. Sherwood could also place higher than most expect with a very solid varsity lineup…Walter Johnson, Winston Churchill, and Paint Branch are the other teams that should slip into the last spots of the top ten.

2018 will be an awesome year to watch (or run in) high school running in Montgomery County. And remember, it’s never too late to jump on the Wootton bandwagon!

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