Madeline Morgan's individual win pulls Caution AL to a sixth-place finish
DyeStat Southeast editor Brett Honeycutt's post-race wrap-up of SE teams at NTN.
Girls - Boys
Caution XC (Mountain Brook AL)
6th place – 215 points
1 Morgan, Madeline 09 Caution XC Club 18:54.5 1
20 DeMedicis, Victoria 11 Caution XC Club 19:48.5 20
50 Boozer, Leslie 09 Caution XC Club 20:31.3 50
58 Diethelm, Catherine 11 Caution XC Club 20:36.6 58
86 Carey, Brigid 08 Caution XC Club 21:00.1 86
123 Corcoran, Alexandra 08 Caution XC Club 21:53.3 123
129 Ellis, Reed 08 Caution XC Club 22:06.8 129
Redemption? It felt like it for Caution XC, which finished third at the Southeast Region on Nov. 24 after its runners finished a perfect season while running for Mountain Brook High AL, and had to wait until the next day to find out if they would be one of the four at-large teams invited from across the nation.
The fun began with surprise winner Madeline Morgan, who pulled away from Katie Flood of Des Moines XC with less than 1,000 meters left in the race to win by nearly 10 seconds (18:54.5 to 19:04.3) and give Caution XC Club a huge boost. Both runners came through the 4K mark just 0.2 seconds apart (Morgan was 15:26.5 and Flood was 15:26.7) and both were together at the 3K mark, as well.
Next came Marie DeMedicis (20th, 19:48.5), Leslie Boozer (50th, 20:31.3), Catherine Diethelm (58th, 20:36.6) and Brigid Carey (86th, 21:00.1) to score. Alexandra Corcoran (123rd, 21:53.3) and Reed Ellis (129th, 22:06.8) rounded out Caution XC's team.
The combination gave Caution XC a 6th-place finish with 215 points, just six points behind fifth-place Burnt Hills XC Club of NY (No. 9 in The Harrier's Super 25 national poll), nine points behind fourth-place Hanover XC Club of NH (ranked No. 4 by The Harrier) and 26 points ahead of Fort Collins, CO (No. 3 by The Harrier).
"I felt like we ran to the best of our abilities," said DeMedicis, as she struggled to pull off her shoes just after the race. "We're not used to this weather."
DeMedicis, like the other girls from Caution XC Club, used duct tape to help keep their shoes on their feet and also sprayed PAM on the bottom of their shoes to keep them from gathering clumps of mud on the bottom.
"This week, we felt like we needed to come out here and finish the season off right," said DeMedicis when asked if the team felt like it felt redemption from its third-place finish at the NTN Southeast Regionals. "Especially for our three seniors and us as a team because we've had such a great season."
As each of the runners sat in folding chairs in their team tent, drained from trudging through the mud and near-freezing water throughout the course, they still had the awareness to acknowledge Morgan's victory and cheer for her when they saw her coming close to the tent after being interviewed by the media.
"I'm so happy for her," Boozer said.
That seemed to define this group, who suffered through some injuries near the end of the season, including Diethelm who has been running less than two weeks since tearing ligaments in one of her ankles, and a disappointing third at the NTN Southeast Regional.
"I didn't let any of that bother me," Diethelm said. "I just had to run for the team. There's so many unbelievable athletes here. If you're running 80th, you can't let that bother you."
"We've all been really together this season," she said, noting that they stayed close through the injuries and the disappointing Regional finish. "We ran this race for each other."
Next season: Returns top 4 (Morgan, DeMedicis, Boozer and Diethelm); Loses: Carey, Corcoran, Ellis.
Suwanee XC (Collins Hill GA)
19th place – 349 points
33 Winslow, Amanda 09 Suwanee XC Club 20:06.6 33
54 Akande, Olanike 10 Suwanee XC Club 20:34.0 54
57 McGinty, Allyson 09 Suwanee XC Club 20:35.8 57
78 Crawford, Briana 09 Suwanee XC Club 20:55.1 78
127 Maring, Alexa 08 Suwanee XC Club 22:04.6 127
133 Williams, Sydney 11 Suwanee XC Club 22:13.8 133
135 Gezon, Katie 08 Suwanee XC Club 22:18.7 135
There were mixed feelings in the Suwanee tent after the race. The downside was the 18th place finish, but the upside was realizing they were one of the top 22 teams in the nation and will return their top 5 and 6 of the top 8.
"It wasn't quite what we were expecting," said No. 1 runner Amanda Winslow, who finished 33rd overall with a time of 20:06.6 and helped her team to within five points of 18th place Carroll XC Club, ranked 23rd in the nation in the Harrier's Super 25 national poll.
"We're a little upset, but I don't want to be too upset about it. We all knew what we needed to do. Sometimes things don't go as you plan, but that happens. These are the best teams in the nation. As long as we gave it our all, that's what really matters."
Winslow acknowledged the conditions were tough, but didn't want to use it as an excuse in trying to explain why the team ran the way they did.
"I don't want to say conditions," she said. "But it was something I wasn't used to. It was completely different."
Said Suwanee coach Jeffrey Hoffman, "It's a long season. It kind of caught up to them. The course was harder than when we ran on it the first day. The field was an amazing field, a Foot Locker-type of field. That's why it's a national championship. Nobody was weak."
"We're just so happy to be here and it's just an amazing experience overall."
Allyson McGinty, who finished 57th (20:35.8) and three places behind teammate Olanike Akande (20:34.0), said the team would use this as experience since so many return next season.
"We've never been to anything like this," she said. "So many good teams. It's unique and different. It gave us an idea of what to work for. We want to work to try and get back here and place higher as a team."
One of the things McGinty mentioned that will be valuable if the team qualifies next year, was not getting caught up in the experience and realizing their surroundings, as far as the course goes and where the key points of the course were located.
"I didn't realize it in my head what was going on," she said concerning where she was and at what points she was at on the course. "Everything was so overwhelming."
However, she acknowledged the positive side: "It was a really good experience and really cool."
Next season: Returns top 5, and 6 of the top 8 (Top 7 returnees: Winslow, Akande, McGinty, Crawford, Williams; Loses: Maring, Gezon).
Wilmington XC (Tatnall DE)
20th place - 377 points
12 Bottorff, Juliet 09 Wilmington XC Club 19:31.7 12
81 Parsons, Molly 10 Wilmington XC Club 20:57.1 81
87 Fehr, Kallie 10 Wilmington XC Club 21:00.2 87
96 Buenaga, Kaitlin 09 Wilmington XC Club 21:11.3 97
100 Kershner, Kate 08 Wilmington XC Club 21:14.3 100
111 Blackwell, Lauren 11 Wilmington XC Club 21:28.7 111
120 Oldham, Katelyn 09 Wilmington XC Club 21:50.5 120
So 20th place was not what Wilmington XC Club was expecting, but with a second consecutive NTN appearance and the return of their top 4, and 9 of their top 10, hopes are high for next year.
Only 4 returned from last year's top 8, so to say the experience was invaluable for the other four runners is not some meaningless cliché, especially with the expectations for next season.
"It's really exciting to know we have a shot next year" (to qualify), said Molly Parsons, who finished second for the team. We're looking forward to being able to make it again."
As usual, Juliet Bottorff led the team with a high finish (12th place) in a deep field, running 19:31.7.
"I was definitely hoping for that," Bottorff said. "Don't know if I was expecting that. I actually felt really good today. My legs and feet were pretty numb (but) I felt good running."
Also like this season, the 2-5 runners had a small gap (17 seconds): Parsons (81st, 20:57.1); Kallie Fehr (87th, 21:00.2); Kaitlin Buenaga (96th, 21:11.3) and Kate Kershner (100th, 21:14.3). Lauren Blackwell (111th, 21:28.7) and Katelyn Oldham (120th, 21:50.5) weren't far behind.
Kershner, the lone senior, pointed out the benefits of running in such a tight pack. When they all passed coaches, parents and supporters Saturday and at any time this season, a huge roar was evident because one parent wasn't just cheering for one particular runner. Being in a tight pack, everyone cheered for all the runners at the same time.
"I really liked how the girls clicked this year," said Kershner, who has run for the team since the eighth grade and will run on scholarship at Richmond next year. "This is the first year we really had a tight pack like this. We made it a point to say it doesn't matter (where we finish on the team), as long as all the 'T's' (Tatnall uniforms) are in the chute. It was so cool to turn around in the chute and see all the 'T's.'
"I've been a part of five completely different teams. I remember being the little one on the team...it's going to be difficult (not being part of the team).”
As far as next season goes, Carly Simmons gave the team a glimpse of how she'll contribute with her finish in the Open Race (she would have finished as Wilmington XC Club's No. 2 runner based on time).
"We're excited," Wilmington XC's Patrick Castagno said. "The girls are happy. We had a great season...It was a long season. We're here and it's exciting for them. The girls are already excited about the potential for next season because we only lose one senior.
"To be from a small state like Delaware, to get here among the top schools in the country, it's something we should be proud of - our accomplishment here...That's what we keep saying: keep it in perspective...When you take a step back and look, we're happy we're running at this level.”
Despite being from Delaware, where cold weather is normal, Bottorff said this was different. "It's definitely colder than we're used to," she said, wrapped up and trying to stay warm as she sat on the floor inside the Portland Meadows clubhouse after the race.
Said Parsons of the mud: "When you're running through the mud, you could feel your shoes being suctioned off. We just tied our shoes tight."
Next season: Returns top 4, 6 of top 7 and 9 of top 10 (Top seven returnees: Bottorff, Parsons, Fehr, Buenaga, Blackwell, Oldham; Loses: Kershner).
Oak Ridge XC (Oak Ridge TN)
18th place – 369 points
9 O'Donnell, MacLean 08 Oak Ridge RC 16:29.3 9
69 Peacock, Emerson 08 Oak Ridge RC 17:19.3 69
86 Riemer, Phillip 08 Oak Ridge RC 17:28.0 86
98 Ostrouchov, Christopher 09 Oak Ridge RC 17:40.6 98
107 Cole, Christopher 08 Oak Ridge RC 17:46.3 107
121 Sharpe, John 10 Oak Ridge RC 17:52.8 121
147 McGroom, Ethan 08 Oak Ridge RC 18:18.7 147
Allen Etheridge, who coached Oak Ridge, TN this season, put things in perspective after the race.
"They're not feeling good about themselves," Etheridge said. "(But) you run in the national championship race, there's nothing to be ashamed about."
It was a make or break type of season as far as qualifying for NTN for this group of runners, because of the heavy graduation losses after this season. Most of them have known each other for 3-4 years and some since at least middle school, running for Etheridge when he coached at that level before taking over at the high school. So the bond is tight.
Just qualifying and giving the 5 seniors (3 of them are the top 3 placers) a chance to experience NTN was an accomplishment.
"I'm proud that we made it," said Emerson Peacock, Oak Ridge XC Club's No. 2 runner. "That we made it this far, we're the first team from Tennessee to qualify. I'm happy to be here. We conquered the Southeast. (Qualifying for NTN is) something we dreamed about for a few years."
Like everyone else in the Southeast, preparing for the weather was difficult because the conditions aren't normal where most of the Southeast teams are located.
"It's freezing," said the team's No. 1 runner MacLean O'Donnell, shivering as he walked to find a warm place inside the Portland Meadows Clubhouse. O'Donnell had a superb finish, taking 9th overall in 16:23.9. "My hands were really cold. I couldn't find footing in really muddy spots. After the 2K, my body was feeling warm."
Like others, his emotions were mixed as far as how he thought the team performed.
"I think we all felt we could have done a little better, but we've never run in these conditions (however) I really think we did a really good job."
Peacock said for him it was different because of the course conditions, not so much the cold.
"I'm used to a drier surface where I'm from. I had to wear 1/2 inch spikes for the first time. I've never had to wear (spikes that long). I'm more of a power runner. Today, when I was out there I didn't think I was getting the power I'm used to. I'm sure it was difficult for everyone else, but it was something I wasn't used to."
Next season: Returns top 2 of top 7 (Top seven returnees: Chris Ostrouchov, John Sharpe; Loses: O'Donnell, Peacock, Riemer, Cole, McGroom).
Fairfax XC (Jefferson Sci/Tech VA)
22nd place – 444 points
42 Landry, Brian 08 Fairfax XC Club 17:04.6 42
52 Davenport, Brian 10 Fairfax XC Club 17:11.2 52
93 Heflin, Evan 08 Fairfax XC Club 17:34.5 93
124 Witko, Alexander 09 Fairfax XC Club 17:55.4 124
133 Bernstein, Aaron 08 Fairfax XC Club 18:05.1 133
149 Galvin, Timothy 09 Fairfax XC Club 18:19.0 149
153 Jachowski, Joseph 10 Fairfax XC Club 18:36.6 153
The trip out to Portland didn't start well for Fairfax XC Club; in retrospect, it could have been viewed as some type of omen or sign of things to come.
On Thursday, they missed a connector flight because their initial flight was late, then arrived at Nike headquarters about 30 minutes before check-in closed. They ate and finally checked into their hotel about 9:30 p.m. (PST)/12:30 p.m. (EST). It amounted to the team being up for about 21-22 hours in all.
"It was a tough week for us," said coach Anne Heflin. "We're just all doing the best we can. This is our first trip out here, so it's hard to know what to expect, how to prepare."
But, she allowed, "It's been a great experience."
The mood in the tent was evident from the dejection even before they knew where they finished.
Like the weather, it was a downer and was expressed on senior Evan Heflin's face as he sat in the tent, covered in mud and staring off into what seemed like nowhere.
"I've never been able to get a good race in the mud," he said of the course conditions. "And nothing changed today. Just a bad race. It was cold. It was tough...just the way it is."
Said the team's No. 1 runner, Brian Landry, who was 42nd in 17:04.6: "It's just muddy out there in places. (The mud) just sucked up the bounce off your step. You had to really pull your foot out of the mud and that's negative motion and that just slows you down. I had a horrible race. I was 20-25 places off of what I wanted to be."
Running in such a deep field was odd for most runners, who are used to being in the lead pack, because they found themselves farther back than usual.
"You don't get to run a lot of races where (other runners) are as good as you are, so it looks weird," he said, concerning his perspective as a competitor.
Looking to next year would be of some comfort because only three are seniors, but they will also lose Brian Davenport, who will move to Norfolk, VA in January.
Next season: Returns 4 of the top 8, but loses top 3 and 4 of top 5 (Top seven returnees: Witko, Galvin, Jachowski; Loses: Landry; Heflin; Bernstein and Davenport, although he's a sophomore he's moving to Norfolk, VA in January).