On Nov. 4, senior Rachel McArthur hid behind Patriot’s tent at Burke Lake Park and fought to hold back tears but lost the battle. Small tears of her right quadriceps kept her out of the Virginia 6A North region race, and the Pioneers’ seventh-place team finish meant she would not be eligible to run in the state meet.
“I was kind of like, ‘Well, my cross-country season is over,’ ” McArthur said. “This is the year I wanted to do well, and not making it to states because of my leg was a downer.”
On Saturday morning, though, racing for the first time in nearly five weeks, McArthur placed fifth in the Nike Cross Nationals Southeast regional in Cary, N.C., and earned the final qualifying spot for Saturday’s Nike Cross Nationals race in Portland, Ore.
McArthur, who finished in 17 minutes 32 seconds, was in contention for third place with 100 meters remaining in the 5,000-meter race, but her leg started to give out, and she fell to fifth.
“Running this race and just making nationals shows me that even after not training, not really being with the team or working as hard as I have been, that I can still do it,” said McArthur, who won the region race last year and finished 25th at the national competition.
Lake Braddock’s Kate Murphy beat her own 2014 time by 31 seconds and won the regional in 17:00. Her Bruins team captured the top spot in the team competition and will join Murphy for the trip to Oregon in early December.
On the boys’ side, Lake Braddock’s Colin Schaffer finished fourth in 15:11 and earned a spot in the national race. Richard Montgomery’s Rohann Asfaw finished in 15:21, one spot out of qualifying position.
Approximately 160 miles away in Charlotte, Andrew Hunter and Weini Kelati remained perfect this year and displayed again why they are two of the top high school distance runners in the country.
Hunter, a Loudoun Valley runner who committed to Oregon earlier this month, created separation early in the Foot Locker Cross Country South regional. With a 14:26 finish, Hunter captured his second straight regional win. His time was six seconds off the fastest 5K in the country this season, which he set at the Third Battle Invitational on Oct. 17.
Kelati, a Heritage sophomore in her final year of high school eligibility after moving from Eritrea, outpaced the girls’ field by 22 seconds to win in 16:43. She will return to San Diego on Dec. 12 for the Foot Locker nationals, where she placed 20th last year.
“I’m so excited,” Kelati said. “This is my last year in high school. I just want to do my best and be a champion.”
Annapolis’s Maria Coffin qualified for the national race with a third-place finish in 17:42 at the Foot Locker Northeast regional.