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A. Wilson and Episcopal win ISL titles

By Carl Little
Sunday, November 1, 2009

In the spirit of the holiday, Anneka Wilson thought briefly before mentioning a few of the things that frighten her. Public speaking can be murder, she said. And then there are spiders.

But on Halloween at the Independent School League championships in Alexandria, something else was giving Wilson a terrible fright: The prospect of not winning a race this season -- she won eight en route to earning All-Met honors last year -- was staring her straight in the face.

On a soggy five-kilometer loop through Episcopal High School's campus, Wilson ended her victory drought Saturday, capturing her third straight ISL title in 19 minutes 32 seconds.

"I was so scared," Wilson said. "I knew I could do it but having not had great performances in my previous races, I didn't want that to happen today."

Behind freshmen Abby Halm and Virginia Wright, who were seventh and eighth, respectively, Episcopal won its first ISL team title since 2003. Three-time defending champion National Cathedral was second, followed by Georgetown Visitation and Potomac School.

"The game plan we had in place really didn't end up being the game plan we ended up executing," sixth-year Episcopal Coach Joe Halm said. "They really pulled together."

Wilson, who will run for Columbia next fall, pulled herself together. After a difficult regular season, the reigning All-Met Runner of the Year rebounded with a resounding victory. She established an early lead in the woods and only stretched it as the race went on. She finished 65 seconds ahead of runner-up and National Cathedral senior Lottie Hedden.

"I was determined to have a great race and put it all out there," Wilson said.

Quakers take MAC title

Sidwell Friends junior John McGowan and sophomore teammate Matthew Kim led the Quakers to their second straight Mid-Atlantic Conference championship in Alexandria. McGowan and Kim went 1-2 and Sidwell Friends scored just 26 points to finish well ahead of St. Andrew's, Georgetown Day and Potomac School.

It was McGowan's second straight individual MAC championship. He finished in 17:06. Kim crossed in 17:19.

"I was sick earlier in the week and my body started to shut down a little bit. I gutted out the third mile," McGowan said. . . .

Behind a pair of top finishers, St. Albans cruised to its third Interscholastic Athletic Conference cross-country championship in four years Saturday in Alexandria. Junior Tom Harrison (16:18) and senior Jamie Durling (16:37) finished first and second, respectively, as St. Albans totaled just 21 points. The Bulldogs were 41 points ahead of runner-up and defending champion Georgetown Prep. Episcopal and Landon rounded out the top four.

Defending individual champion and Landon senior Jack Strabo was third in 16:54.

St. Albans showed why it is one of the Washington area's most dominant teams, putting six runners in the top eight spots.

"They've really had an edge to them all year," Coach Jim Ehrenhaft said. "They're so consistent."

WCAC goes to Gonzaga

Gonzaga gave a masterful performance at the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championships in Reston, capturing the league title for the second straight year. Led by runner-up Billy Ledder (17:02) and third-place finisher Colin Leibold (17:04), the Eagles finished with 26 points, well in front of Good Counsel, DeMatha and St. John's.

The girls from O'Connell won in similar fashion, putting six runners in the top 9 to breeze to their third straight team title. Paul VI, St. John's and Good Counsel rounded out the top four. O'Connell sophomore Emily Blagg won her first individual championship in 20:33; freshman Devan Nihill was runner-up in 20:50.

DeMatha senior Cory Puffett dominated the boys' race, finishing the rugged 5K Lake Fairfax Park course in 16:02.

"I'm pretty happy with it, to say the least," Puffett said. "I didn't expect that I would be able to finish that far ahead."

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