Oxon Hill's Alexis Walls and Andre McDonald are proving to be quick learners in what can be a grueling sport.
Walls, the Clippers' top female, has dropped two minutes from her top time a year ago, when she was a state qualifier as a sophomore. She finished 12th at the Doc Jones Invite with a time of 21 minutes 43 seconds.
"She's been working real hard," said Rone Thomason, who co-coaches the Clippers with Donna Ray. "She did a little bit of running over the summer on her own, and she has done some more during the season outside of practice."
McDonald, a senior, is participating in cross-country for the first time after joining the track team for the first time last year. He has emerged as the boys' top runner.
McDonald had thought about playing football before opting to continue running. The result has been an impressive fall: He finished second at the Panther Path Invitational at Patuxent High on Sept. 10 with a time of 18:51, and he took third place at the Doc Jones Invite at Annapolis High on Oct. 1 with a time of 17:22.
"He was going to play football, but thought he might have a better shot at a scholarship by trying cross-country," Thomason said. "He's doing a very good job."
Although Eleanor Roosevelt High is the clear favorite at the upcoming Prince George's County meet, Thomason said his boys are confident of their ability to at least press the Raiders and make a run for second. The meet is Oct. 19 at Fort Washington Park.
Preston Turrentine was fourth at the Panther Path meet and forms a tough one-two punch with McDonald.
"We've competed on some tough, hilly courses, so our boys feel like they can be ready and compete at the county level," Thomason said.
Raiders Impressive in New York
To the Roosevelt girls, last weekend's Manhattan Invitational was called their "money meet." After an early season of preparation and triumph at meets around the region, the Raiders were going to New York to face some of the nation's most highly rated teams at storied Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.
The Raiders walked away from New York with an impressive fifth-place finish with 205 points. Saratoga Springs (N.Y.), the nation's top-ranked team by Harrier magazine, won with 133 points, and Hilton (N.Y.), the No. 11 team, was second with 147. Suffern (N.Y.) had 193, and Roosevelt tied with Warwick Valley (N.Y.), which won the tie-breaker for fourth.
Junior Marika Walker led the squad with a 15th-place finish (15:20), and Dominique Lockhart was 16th in 15:24.
The Raiders finished ahead of all schools from the Nike Team National Southeast Regional, including No. 2 Brentsville, which was 11th at the meet.
The top two teams in each of eight regions earn an invite to nationals, held in Oregon in December. Roosevelt had been ranked fourth in the region, meaning Saturday's performance could give the team a huge boost. The Raiders' remaining meets are the county, regional and state championships, all of which they won a year ago.
In the boys' "G" race, Raiders All-Met senior Mikias Gelagle took second on the 2.5-mile course in 12:51.