For Walter Johnson senior Andrew Jesien, the last eight months have presented a nonstop wave of problems.
But the All-Met cross-country runner has kept plugging away, and last Saturday at the Georgetown Prep Classic, he came away with one of the best victories of an already illustrious career.
Jesien battled Georgetown Prep All-Met junior Steven Duplinsky, running on his home course, for much of the five-kilometer race, then held off a late surge from Lee senior Dawit Legesse to win in a speedy 15 minutes 54 seconds in Rockville.
"There's been a long string of unfortunate things, so what else can happen to me?" Jesien said. "This gives me a lot of confidence. I feel good about the postseason."
The Maryland 4A runner-up last fall, Jesien was one of the area's top milers in indoor track last winter, but the rest of his track season was hampered by a stress fracture in his right leg.
That injury curtailed his spring performance as well as his summer workouts, and he compensated by bicycle training and swimming.
Geared for another strong cross-country season, Jesien was slowed down by a bout of mononucleosis. He ran through the sickness but, accustomed to exploding with a punishing kick at the end of races, Jesien was forced to accept a pair of second-place finishes this fall.
But on Saturday, Jesien came out on top in a race that featured several of the area's best runners.
He was neck and neck with Duplinsky for much of the early part of the race and he finally grabbed the lead about halfway through. With about 800 meters to go, Legesse, who had lurked behind, made a surprising surge into first place.
As they neared the finish line, Jesien seemed destined for another second-place finish. But he passed Legesse and didn't stop sprinting until he won the race.
"I felt good on the first lap" around the Georgetown Prep course, Jesien said. "I felt good at 2 1/4 [miles]. Then I gave everything I had [for the final 200 meters]. I didn't spare any energy."
In the final meet before the postseason begins, Gaithersburg won the team title behind an eighth-place finish from its No. 3 runner, senior Robel Mamo. The Trojans had 146 points in a tough race, ahead of Herndon's 210, and could be a contender at the Montgomery County 4A West Region and state championship races over the next month.
In the girls' seeded race, Blair All-Met sophomore Halsey Sinclair finished second overall in 18:51, behind Forest Park junior Stefanie Slekis (18:46). Wootton freshman Veronica Salcido was fifth (19:09) and Blair sophomore Ashlyn Sinclair was eighth (19:28). Northwest was the top Montgomery County girls' team, taking fifth with 267 points.
C.M. Wright won with 73 points.
Blake's Kyle Gaffney won the Division 2 boys race in 16:53, and Churchill took third in the team competition. Quince Orchard's girls' team finished third in Division 2.