As Gonzaga junior Tom Kelly crossed the finish line in eighth place at the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference cross-country championships, Kelly could barely hold back a smile.
With two teammates already in and two more a few paces behind him, the Eagles had finally won the team title that had been so elusive the past several years.
"It was just relief," Kelly said. "I knew with two guys behind me we'd have five guys in the top 10, so it was just relief to finally get a victory."
After four straight second-place finishes, including a five-point defeat in 2004 and a seven-point loss in 2003, Gonzaga made sure there would be no doubt about the outcome yesterday at Lake Fairfax Park in Reston, scoring 32 points to O'Connell's 66.
Bishop Ireton senior Rob Sagar won the boys' race in 17 minutes 29 seconds, followed by Gonzaga senior Matt Chandler (17:39) and junior Aaron Taylor (17:43).
In the girls' race, Good Counsel junior Nora McCall captured her second consecutive championship, cruising to the win in 20:24, well ahead of Bishop Ireton's Julianne Tela (21:17).
In the tight team competition, Paul VI Catholic scored 42 points to edge O'Connell (45). Michelle Kew took fourth and teammates Kelsey Budd, Tessa Reed and Natalia Cowden finished eighth through 10th, helping to seal the Panthers' first title since 2001.
Good Counsel's McCall, who first competed in cross-country last year and won the WCAC title on her first try, said she doesn't mind the course at Lake Fairfax, which features several hills and two sloppy trips through a creek.
"I'm more of an endurance runner than a speed runner," McCall said. "The more [obstacles] you put in front of me, the better."
Ireton's Sagar finished fifth a year ago, a performance that disappointed him and one that he was determined to improve on. He and his teammates trained at Lake Fairfax several times during the season, Sagar said.
"I'm surprised I won, but I'm also very happy," Sagar said. "I've just worked very hard. I feel like I've worked too hard and come too far to not win."
About 40 seconds after Gonzaga's Chandler and Taylor crossed in second and third, Kelly reached the finish line in 18:22 as the head of Gonzaga's middle pack. Junior Kris Turner finished in 18:23, and senior Richard Barry clocked an 18:27, completing the Eagles' dominant victory.
"We've got a lot of depth," Coach Heather Sanders said. "Today just showed the type of team effort we've gotten all year. Our fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh runners have done a great job."
Duplinsky Sets Standard
For about 30 minutes, Sidwell Friends senior Jeffrey Perlis held the standard at Landon's new cross-country course, after he won the Mid-Atlantic Conference championship in 16:00.
Then, in the Interstate Athletic Conference meet that followed, Georgetown Prep senior standout Steven Duplinsky set his own impressive mark. Duplinsky won in 15:08, a full minute better than second-place finisher Nick Bax of St. Albans, to lead the Little Hoyas to the team victory with 32 points.
In an Independent School League meet, also at Landon, St. Andrew's pulled out a 61-62 victory over Holton-Arms. Episcopal senior Elizabeth Harrison won the individual title in 18:52.
In the MAC, Georgetown Day won the team title with 33 points. Perlis's win added another victory to a strong season for the first-time cross-country athlete, who had previously played soccer during the fall.