Abdur-Rahmaan Kelly’s spikes were filled with water. His tall, white socks were now black with dirt and mud was caked onto the back of his jersey.
No matter how much of the three-mile Fort DuPont Park course the Theodore Roosevelt senior picked up along his way, he left just as much of himself out there on it. Beneath a gray sky and cold drizzle, Kelly showed the grit and heart necessary to win Thursday’s D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association cross-country championships in Southeast. He overcame a race-long deficit and a late wrong turn to outkick Noah Howard of Wilson in the final strides and steal the victory in 16 minutes 15 seconds.
Howard finished just one gutwrenching second behind him.
“I came too far,” said Kelly, sweat pouring down his face while he guzzled a cup of water a teammate brought him. “That last 20 meters, there was no point in giving up there. I had to go get him.”
Behind Howard, Wilson breezed to its third team title in as many years. Second and third places were under protest and results were not immediately available.
Wilson was just as dominant on the girls’ side. Under first-year coach Desmond Dunham, the Northwest school captured its third straight team title ahead of McKinley Tech and Eastern.
London Freeland is more known for her speed on the track — the Dunbar junior won four gold medals at the DCIAA outdoor championships last spring — but showed her range in winning the girls’ individual title for the second year in a row. She sat in the shadow of Wilson senior Madeleine Conover, who led most of the race, before pouncing with about 250 meters to go. Freeland easily overtook Conover and then burst through the line in 20:27.
Conover placed second in 20:53.
Kelly, who was so spent he had to be carried away from the finish line by two teammates, only got serious about this cross-country season during the second half of it. That’s when he quit the football team, developed a training plan with Theodore Roosevelt Coach Anthony Bowden and then dedicated himself to it.
“As you get older you got to make decisions like that,” Kelly, 15, said. “Running is what’s going to make my money, that’s what’s going to send me to college.”
And then there’s the little matter of family pride. Kelly’s older sister, Juashaunna Kelly, and older brother, Imani Kelly, both won individual titles as members of the Rough Riders. He wasn’t about to be left out.
“Just the other day I told my sister I was the leader of the Kelly dynasty,” he laughed. “I had to go out there and reclaim the throne.”