The Walter Johnson High School girls’ cross country team earned the 4A State team championship at McDaniel College on Saturday, placing four runners among the top eight finishers in the team standings.
“We had a good group of girls, and the young runners — the freshmen and sophomores — really stepped up toward the end of the season and made huge leaps,” Wildcats coach Thomas Martin said. “More importantly, they came together as a team. They are very close, and that made this important to all of them.”
The Wildcats were paced by Kiernan Keller, who finished fifth overall and third in the team standings with a time of 19:14.9. Emily Murphy (19:30.4) and Katriane Kirsch (19:36.8) took the fifth and sixth place spots in team standings, while Irina Bukharn (19:44.0) finished eighth. Cirillo Melanie (37th, 20:37.0) rounded out the scoring positions for Walter Johnson, which finished four points ahead of two-time defending champion Bethesda-Chevy Chase, 60-64.
“We all look for each other during the race, and we have a lot of depth,” Murphy said. “We get along really well, and we really want to make each other happy and really proud; so really, we race for each other — that’s what we always say.”
Junior Nora McUmber led the Barons with a second-place finish overall, finishing in 18:52.1. She was followed by teammates Abigail Levine (11th, 19:52.6), Helen Webster (15th, 20:01.8), Kat McNeill (17th, 20:03.4) and Abby Fry (19th, 20:04.1).
Other notable Montgomery County individual performances included a third overall finish for Sophie El Masry (19:09.5) from Richard Montgomery; fourth overall for Lucie Noall of Clarksburg (19:12.2); ninth overall for Springbrook’s Karen Escobedo (19:42.6) and tenth overall for Grace Dellapa of Wootton (19:43.2).
Wootton placed fourth in the team standings, followed by Winston Churchill in fourth and Walt Whitman in sixth.
For the boys, Danniel Belay posted a time of 15:54.5 to take second place overall for Gaithersburg.
“My goal was to keep a nice, even pace for the first two miles and not let the Severna Park kid get that much ahead of me,” Belay said. “Toward the end he was able to push further and further out, but I hit my goal time of under 16 minutes so I am really excited about that.”
Evan Woods (16:06.8) finished fourth overall for Whitman. Diego Zarate (16:07.9) took fifth for Northwest, Urgy Eado (16:17.1) placed eighth for Wootton and Alex Riishojgaard (16:21.3) rounded out the top 10 for B-CC.
Montgomery County also produced an individual champion in the boys’ 2A race, as Poolesville’s Chase Weaverling posted the second-fastest time of the day (15:42.8) to claim the title. Weaverling, who finished seventh last year despite dealing with plantar faciitis at the end of the season, capped his senior campaign with the only championship that had eluded him to this point.
“It feels so good to be back [healthy],” Weaverling said. “I was so devastated after our state race last year, and I couldn’t compete at Foot Locker [Cross Country Championship] last year — I was really upset. But I came back after two weeks and trained really hard. I made it to Penn Relays last year, and now I’m just continuing to build up.”
The Falcons placed second as a team in both the boys’ and girls’ standings. Stephen Lang (10th, 17:01.1), William Stamm (12th, 17:05.7), Matthew Psaltakis (39th, 17:47.4) and Elan Guzman (49th, 17:53.3) were the other team finishers for the boys.
Poolesville’s point scorers for the girls consisted of Claire Beautz (3rd, 19:14.1), Theresa Nardone (9th, 19:32.8), Chelsie Pennello (27th, 20:34.2), Allison Gaynor (29th, 20:36.2) and Denise Larson (34th, 20:44.4).
“Overall they ran well and we are very proud of all of the girls, but Hereford was a little too tough moving down from 3A,” Falcons coach James Vollmer said. “Theresa ran extremely well. Being a ninth grader, we are very pleased with her. It was a great season, and they are a good group of kids.”
Rockville’s William Kirk (16:29.0) finished in seventh in the 3A boys’ race, and was the only top-ten competitor — boy or girl — from Montgomery County in that class.