GAITHERSBURG — The Walter Johnson High School varsity girls and the Walt Whitman varsity boys cross country teams each finished with the lowest amount of points overall, earning them the championship trophies.
The Montgomery County varsity boys and girls county 5 kilometer individual champions were not unfamiliar faces.
Two seniors – Poolesville’s Ryan Lockett (15 minutes and 32 seconds), the county’s 2016 runner-up and 3A state champion, and Walter Johnson’s Abbey Green (17:57), two-time county champion (2015, 2016) and 2016 4A state runner-up – won their respective races.
“It was close the entire race,” Lockett said.
For the girls team, Walter Johnson head coach Tom Martin said the girls work together well. This year was Walter Johnson's fourth consecutive County title.
“Our four seniors have been good – they’ve done this plenty of times, they know what they have to do, and when it comes down to this time of year, they’re a good group at figuring out what they have to do in a race, where they have to be to be successful,” Martin said.
Walter Johnson senior Janet Scott (18:45 minutes) placed second. She said she had hoped just to finish in the top five.
“I’m really happy with it,” Scott said after her race. “It was one of my most focused races I’ve ever had.”
“This race I knew I could get them,” she added about other runners.
Top distance runners in the county and state, Poolesville junior Nandini Satsangi (18:52) and Montgomery Blair senior Morgan Casey (19:01) placed third and fourth, respectively.
The Lady Wildcats are favored to win their fifth consecutive state title at the state championship in a few weeks.
One of the Walt Whitman High School boys team captains, junior Aaron Bratt, also emphasized teamwork.
“I knew they were doing the best they could behind me so it motivated me to do better,” said Bratt (15:52, seventh place).
Bethesda-Chevy Chase senior Adam Nakasaka (15 minutes and 35.5 seconds) finished in second place in the boys race, followed by Richard Montgomery junior Mark Unger (15 minutes and 36.2 seconds) and Northwood junior Obsaa Feda (15 minutes and 38 seconds) in third and fourth places.
Feda said he wanted to beat his time from the race last year and he intended to try hard to keep up with the other fast runners a majority of the race – up until either 800 meters left or 400 meters to go.
“In the beginning I got out slow, but then once I got out with the front lead – it was Mark Unger from RM, he was the one that was leading the pace – toward the middle it was Ryan. I was staying once I got out with the lead; I was going to see how they pushed the pace toward the end,” said Feda, 16.
However, to Feda’s surprise, the runners in the front pack ran slower than the pace he intended to run.
He’d keep up, “like, until the last 800 (m), 400 (m), and just push the place, but the pace started out slow,” Feda said. “They had – I don’t know, they had more energy left.”
“Towards the end my coach told me to pick up the pace, which I did but I didn’t do it like a lot, so they were still with me,” Feda said.
“The last 300 meters I was still ahead, but they like just out-kicked me” in the last 100m, Feda added.
Nakasaka, Lockett and Unger made their final surge, or kick, faster and longer than Feda, passing him during the final 100m.
“I tried to attack back, but I didn’t have as much speed as they did,” said Feda.
Other runners who hoped to place high, Richard Montgomery’s Mark Unger and Garrett Suhr (sixth place), said they noticed the slow pace as well. Unger led the pace for the first mile, but later Lockett would move the front of the pack. Unger said he later realized leading was a poor choice.
Nakasaka said he decided to focus not on getting an appropriate finish time but just on running competitively during the race, his last Montgomery County championship of his cross country career.
Although a handful of the front runners in the boys race took turns leading the fast pack, Lockett was the one who would cross the finish line first. He said letting someone else set the pace at the beginning was part of his strategy.
“I just sat behind the leaders, waited until someone started to pull away, and when they did I just kind of sat on their back and passed them at the end,” Lockett said.
However, he said he was impressed with Nakasaka’s kick.
“This race, he shocked me and really kicked hard so I really had to push it the last 200 meters,” Lockett said of Nakasaka.
Lockett said before the starting gun went off, he didn’t know who would win.
“It was pretty evenly split between me, Mark and Adam,” Lockett said.
The county championship has no bearing on whose teams will qualify for the state championship. Local cross Country fans will have to wait a couple of weeks for the regional qualifying meet.
Boys varsity teams:
- Walt Whitman 123 points
- Thomas S. Wootton 138 points
- Bethesda-Chevy Chase 144 points
- Richard Montgomery 145 points
- Albert Einstein 151 points
Girls varsity teams:
- Walter Johnson 50 points
- Thomas S. Wootton 96 points
- Walt Whitman 99 points
- Montgomery Blair 164 points
- Richard Montgomery 172 points