The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Poolesville boys, Wootton girls win first MoCo cross-country titles

The Poolesville boys became first-time Montgomery County cross-country champions. Before this season, the team had never placed higher than seventh. (Prasad Gerard)

Before Saturday afternoon, 13 boys’ teams had a Montgomery County cross-country title to their name. Poolesville had never finished better than seventh. And yet, as the smallest school in the county stretched on the Gaithersburg course, a once-lofty goal became the sole objective.

“[Freshman year] they were just young guys, kind of goofy, not necessarily taking their talents seriously,” Poolesville Coach Prasad Gerard said of his senior class. “They didn’t know what they were capable of — which you wouldn’t expect of a 14- or 15-year old — but when they kept working at it, they saw what the possibility was.”

Unfazed by history or the buzz and bedlam of the meet — which brings together one of the best collections of talent of any D.C.-area county — Poolesville became the 14th team to enter the winner’s circle. Gerard, a veteran coach, said there is a level of maturity and sportsmanship that begets a successful team. This group has it.

“We won the [Class 2A] sportsmanship award last year, and that was almost as important as winning the state title,” said senior Aaron Longbrake, who placed ninth Saturday and set a personal record (16 minutes 38 seconds).

Senior Caleb Dastrup, who is also a force in the science bowl and chess club as well as on the piano, delivered Poolesville’s best time (16:16) and finished second overall. Saturday’s meet was a family-wide triumph; his sister Daisy placed third in the girls’ varsity race and brother Jonathan, a freshman, won the boys’ junior varsity race.

Churchill (97 points) and Walter Johnson (133) joined Poolesville (84) on the podium after placing first and third last year. Richard Montgomery senior Noah Fisher (16:06) was the fastest individual runner, outpacing Dastrup and Whitman senior Sean Cunniff (16:25).

Wootton girls prevail; B-CC’s Higgins repeats

Like Poolesville, the Wootton girls entered the meet without a county title. Unlike Poolesville, they walked in with a reputation, earning victories at two of the area’s largest regular season events, the Bull Run Invitational and Oatlands Invitational, albeit by a combined margin of four points.

It was about time one came easy.

After five straight seasons in the top four of the championship meet, Wootton (53 points) captured the elusive trophy, with Whitman (101) and Richard Montgomery (119) following behind. Walter Johnson (123), last year’s champion, finished fourth.

“There was sort of this good pressure our coach put on us,” said Wootton freshman Charlotte Chang, who finished sixth (19:17). “Yeah, this was smaller than some of the invitationals … but we had never gotten first in this race.”

Bethesda-Chevy Chase junior Varri Higgins (18:39) repeated as the girls’ county champion with Whitman sophomore Katie Greenwald (18:48) in second and Daisy Dastrup (18:50) in third. Higgins attributed her success to a “me versus me” mind-set.

“Running just brings me so much joy. I love this sport, so there’s no point in bringing other people into the atmosphere,” Higgins said of the approach. “I’ve always embraced those things, but I think the older I get, the more I take them seriously.”