Cady Hyde made a statement at the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference cross-country championship last year when she seized the individual crown from the defending champion as a freshman.
Despite the same individual result — another first-place finish — at Saturday's WCAC championship at Bull Run Regional Park in Centreville, Hyde's statement was even more defiant after her St. John's team snapped O'Connell's 10-year reign as team champions.
"We are not just any team," Hyde said. "We work hard. We deserve to be here. St. John's isn't necessarily known for their running, but I think everything is changing now, and people are going to be taking us more seriously. We're a team to fear now."
Hyde went out quickly in just her second race of the season after a stress fracture and a hamstring injury kept her sidelined since May. She progressively grew her lead while she completed the looping 5K course in 19:28. She described the last half-mile as "never ending" but refused to let it slow her down as she reflected on one thing.
"All that time I spent on the bike and in the pool and on the elliptical," Hyde said.
The Cadets secured the girls' team title with 56 points, followed by Ireton (61) in second. O'Connell (76) finished third, with Tess Brinkmann and Ryley Howard crossing second and third together in 20:01.
On the boys' side, O'Connell junior Max Greczyn and Gonzaga sophomore Gavin McElhennon dueled for the individual title. Despite one wrong turn and a deviation from his race plan halfway through, Greczyn came out on top in 16:09.
"It was just like a tunnel of cheering, so I passed him," Greczyn said of the 1 1/2- mile mark. "Then I realized I probably passed him too early, so I let him pass me and faked exhaustion."
But it was McElhennon and the Eagles who secured their first team title since 2012, and they did it in dominant fashion, with their top five runners finishing 11th or better for a total of 24 points. St. John's (60) finished second and O'Connell (94) third.
"I was a little disappointed with my race," said McElhennon, who believes he should have pushed harder when Greczyn made a wrong turn, "but I'm so excited with the team performance that it's hard to be disappointed."
McElhennon crossed in 16:13, while teammate Cullen Capuano finished third in 16:48 to help Gonzaga secure victory after four years of runner-up finishes.
"Last year, we didn't race well and got second, and it just felt terrible," senior John Travis, who placed seventh, said as his team passed around the championship trophy. "It feels great to come out and race well as a team. We had a lot of people step up."
At the IAC/ISL/MAC championships at Agricultural History Farm Park in Derwood, Flint Hill senior John Moxley won the Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference championship in 16:48, while Sidwell Friends placed five runners in the top 11 to win the team title with 28 points.
National Cathedral senior Page Lester beat the rest of the field by more than a minute to win the Independent School League title in 17:56. National Cathedral and Stone Ridge tied with 75 points, but the Eagles won by virtue of their sixth-place runner beating the Gators'.
Episcopal sophomore Tre Simmons won the Interstate Athletic Conference championship in 17:00. St. Albans won the team title with 33 points.