In high school sports, there are usually three types of championship teams.
There’s the underdog school that rises out of relative mediocrity to win it all, then regresses a bit in the ensuing years. There’s the team that’s a culmination of the work put in by a particularly talented junior or senior class and wins a title or two. And then there’s the perennial powerhouse, the team that seems to reload year after year regardless of the circumstances.
In Montgomery County’s cross country scene, Walter Johnson and Bethesda-Chevy Chase are the latter.
Entering the 2013 season, B-CC coach Chad Young and Walter Johnson coach Thomas Martin once again appear to have their runners poised for success in what should be another competitive year of cross country in the county.
Young’s girls’ squad enters the year aiming to win its third straight Class 4A state title after sweeping the county, regional and state meets last year while Martin’s boys’ team finished one win shy of capturing a fifth-straight 4A state championship after winning counties and regionals.
“I think our girls’ team does a great job of taking it one practice at a time. Everybody’s happy to see each other again,” Young said. “They’re pretty in the moment and we have some really good leadership.”
Led by junior Caroline Beakes, who won a state title on the Hereford course in 19 minutes, 17.4 seconds last season, and Gazette Player of the Year junior Nora McUmber, Young only lost one senior from his top seven runners last season and spoke highly of several incoming freshman. One new addition outside of the new class is Helen Webster, who decided to forgo her senior year playing field hockey to run cross country. Young said Webster, along with Angelina Peterson and Amanda and Mara Cohen, will be counted on as seniors to help lead the group.
A strong crop of runners return across the county, including six of The Gazette’s seven first team selections: Beakes, McUmber, Claire Beautz (Poolesville, junior), Sophie El-Masry (Richard Montgomery, sophomore), Taylor Kozam (Our Lady of Good Counsel, junior) and Lucy Srour (Winston Churchill, junior).
On the boys’ side, the Wildcats will look to make it five titles in six years as Martin begins his 16th year of coaching.
Despite graduating Nathaniel Rees, seniors Daniel Kosogof, Mathew Morris and Michael Spak return after all finishing in the top 25 at the county championships last season.
“We’ve got a good little set of traditions on the boys’ side that works really well,” Martin said. “Seniors are tasked with the responsibility of transmitting how much fun and how important it is to be a dedicated runner. It gets in their heads, they get excited and they want to be part of it. It’s the seniors from the year before that make that happen. They instill that importance.”
At Poolesville, senior Chase Weaverling likely will be the athlete everyone’s trying to catch this year as he won a 2A West Region title last year and beat The Gazette’s Player of the Year, Will Bertrand, in the Montgomery County championship.
At B-CC on the boys’ side, senior Peter Horton is recovering from offseason sports hernia surgery while Young said senior Alex Riishojgaard looks very solid in the early going. Meanwhile, the following schools and their top returners all could pose a significant threat to WJ: Walt Whitman (Evan Woods), Northwest (Diego Zarate), Quince Orchard (Ryan McCann) and Richard Montgomery (Stephen Alexander).
“Like many teams, we have a bunch of kids who hope to be that special kid that makes a huge leap from the year before,” Martin said. “We’ve been fortunate in the past that we’ve had a lot of kids who step up.”