Emily Kaplan had just established herself as the top private school distance runner in the Washington area, but the first thing the Georgetown Visitation freshman did when she reached her coach was apologize.
All Cubs Coach Kevin Hughes did was smile. He met Kaplan in September and since that time her commitment to her goals has been as intense as high beams.
It never waned on Saturday. Kaplan was sorry for missing out on her goal of breaking five minutes in the 1,600 meters— something that few high school girls ever do in their careers — at the Draper Invitational, but she still crossed far ahead of the field in 5 minutes 6.43 seconds on a gray and rainy day in Alexandria.
“She’s one of the most mentally tough athletes I’ve ever been around,” Hughes said. “She’s the kind you want.”
The 31st annual Draper Invitational brought some of the top private school talent from Virginia, Maryland and the District to the campus at St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes for one of the more competitive meets of the season. McDonogh of Baltimore won the girls’ meet over Visitation and Sidwell Friends. Gonzaga finished just ahead of Georgetown Day and McDonogh on the boys’ side.
No single performer was more exciting than Kaplan. The 15 year old, who just picked up the sport this year, ran with the confidence and aggressiveness of a more seasoned performer. The crowd cheered her name and clapped as Kaplan bounced down the home stretch, beating Herndon’s Belle Burgess to the line by 12 seconds on the second day of the two-day meet.
A couple of hours later, Kaplan placed second in the 800. She won her section by a huge margin in 2:19.19, but O’Connell’s Alison Dommel ran 2:18.44 from a different section for the victory.
Kaplan did all of this on fatigued legs. She controlled Friday’s 3,200 in a personal-best 11:02.27. O’Connell’s Emily Blagg was runner-up in 11:57.36.
“I’m proud of myself,” Kaplan said. “I like pushing myself out there.”
Gonzaga senior Rajee Dunbar pushed himself to a pair of victories. The Rutgers recruit powered to wins in the 400 (49.35) and 200 (22.44) and was runner-up in the long jump with 20 feet 3 inches.
Carroll senior All-Met Kiah Seymour won the same double on the track in the girls’ meet. She breezed to victory in the 400 in 56.45.
The Penn State signee had to work a little harder for it in the 200. She was behind McDonogh’s Lakin Hatcher coming off the turn, but moved past her just before the line and crossed in 25.00.
Malachi Bostic-Wattley anchored Landon to two relay victories. The junior was ahead when he got the baton in the 4x200 and brought Landon to the line in front of Gonzaga in 1:30.71.
He was behind by a considerable margin later in the 4x100, but found a way to maneuver past Herndon just before the line in 43.19. The Hornets were runners-up in 43.23.
Herndon’s Carina Peter won the girls’ long jump by almost two feet with 18 feet 1 inch. Some of the senior All-Met’s hair was matted against her face and clumps of dirt stuck to her cheek as she took six jumps in a downpour.
“The rain makes you cold so you have to keep moving,” said Peter, who also was runner-up in the 400 in a personal-best 58.36, “but you just have to make the best of it.”