After Fitsum Seyoum followed a winding 5K course Saturday afternoon, kicked late to pull away from the pack and crossed the finish line with a time of 15 minutes 53 seconds to win the senior boys’ race at the DCXC Invite, the Tuscarora runner ignored offers of high-fives from his teammates.
He was just too exhausted.
Instead, Seyoum fell to the ground and sprawled out on the track’s grassy infield at Kenilworth-Parkside Recreation Center in Northeast Washington. He slowed his breathing while the runners who finished behind him walked past to collect their medals.
“It was really windy, and the wind kind of got to me,” Seyoum said after spending several minutes drinking water at the medical tent. “I was sick and I’m a nose breather, so I had some trouble breathing. All of that just made it tough and made me really tired.”
So how’d he post the fastest time of the event with all that working against him?
“I think I just had the most guts,” Seyoum said.
Either way, his performance capped a lively day at the second annual DCXC Invite, a unique event that extends throughout the afternoon, has high school races split up by class and attracts crowds of cross-country supporters.
Seyoum helped Tuscarora win the team portion of the senior boys’ division, but Trinity High from Louisville — the only school competing not from Maryland, Virginia or the District — won the overall boys’ title on the strength of stellar performances in the freshman and sophomore classes.
Madison, meanwhile, took home the overall victory in the girls’ division by edging Whitman and Walter Johnson.
Taylor Knibbs from Sidwell Friends won the senior girls’ division race in 18:33, and she did it with a mind-set entirely different from Seyoum’s determined one. Knibbs placed second in the triathlon at the ITU Junior World Championships in Chicago last weekend, so she came to this event without much pressure.
“Last week was my big event, so this week I took it easy and I was like, ‘Why not come out here and run with my friends?’ ” Knibbs said. “I thought it turned out well, and I ran well.”
Not quite as well as Marshall’s Heather Holt, though. Holt breezed to a victory in the sophomore girls’ division and posted the best time of any high school girl in the event at 18:18.
But at the end of a blustery, cloudy day, Seyoum snatched the attention by finishing six seconds ahead of any other senior boy and crumpling just beyond the finish line.
“I just [kept] telling myself that if I pushed through, I could win and be happy,” he said.
Though the joy took a moment to set in, he did just that.
“Yeah, right when I finished, I was just tired,” Seyoum said. “But then I realized I did it, and I got really excited.”