Better late than ever
Roosevelt MD girls shine in season debut at Brentsville Relays
By Ben Ackerly
NTN Southeast Region editor
NOKESVILLE, Va., Sept. 17 – Desmond Dunham wasn’t sure what he’d get from his Eleanor Roosevelt girls in their season-opening cross-country meet at Brentsville High School on Saturday. They’d put in the miles over the summer, and they’d proven themselves on the track last spring, but there’s only so much a coach can know before the first test of the fall.
“I was a little apprehensive about not having raced yet,” Dunham said.
Not that he was alone. At the Brentsville Relays, everyone there really runs in the dark.
Thanks to a full moon, and a dozen or so portable lighting units, the course at Brentsville was possible to see, but the unique nighttime relay format – five-person teams with each runner covering one lap on the 2500-meter fan-friendly loop – ensured no one knew quite what to expect.
“I told my kids just to have fun,” said Midlothian VA coach Stan Morgan, whose girls entered ranked No. 5 in the Southeast Region.
The Midlothian girls have strong track credentials of their own, and they’d proven their fitness on the grass a week earlier in a season-opening win at the Great Meadows Invitational. The host Tigers, ranked No. 6 in the region were likewise established and led by a formidable #1 in junior Becky Stewart. Yet out of a field that also included perennial state powers Lake Braddock VA and C.M. Wright MD, and a dangerous Westfield VA team, all of whom entered race-tested, Roosevelt ultimately proved to be the sharpest bunch.
“We knew we’d put in the work,” said Roosevelt senior Tunisia Milner, who ran the fourth leg for the eventual winners. “We were ready for it.”
Only the weather could have spoiled Roosevelt’s night, and a late-afternoon rainstorm did cause a delay. But in the end nothing was going to dampen the enthusiasm of the young girls from Greenbelt, Maryland, or that of the hundreds of spectators in attendance and the coaches and athletes in the 53-team field.
In the evening’s first championship race, which went off at about 9 p.m., the Brentsville boys lived up to their No. 3 regional billing and delivered for the hometown crowd. After solid legs by sophomore Ray Delgado (8:05) and junior Adam Henken (7:48), senior Eric Ekholm put the Tigers in front to stay (8:04). Junior Henry Melius (7:47) and senior Nick Gehlsen (7:48) closed it out for Brentsville, which at 39:33 bettered the four-year-old meet record by 18 seconds.
Colonial Forge VA, at 39:57, North Stafford VA (40:38), Roosevelt MD (40:44) and Centreville VA (41:06) rounded out the top five. Roosevelt senior Mikias Gelagle had the fastest split of the night at 7:27, tying the course record.
Next came the championship girls, a race that figured to be much more competitive at the front.
“This used to be a casual, laid-back meet,” said Brentsville Coach Rob Dulin, who first put the event together seven years ago as a daytime affair before shifting to a twilight format in 2003. “All of a sudden you start seeing the quality of teams that are here and it’s like, Woah! – this is serious.”
Midlothian, behind sophomores Sammy Dow (9:11.4) and Erin Stehle (9:32.8), was the early pace-setter, with Lake Braddock and Colonial Forge VA leading the chase. Roosevelt erased a 10-second deficit with a strong third leg by junior Marika Walker (9:02) and held the lead next. Then it was Brentsville’s turn, thanks to a record-tying split by Stewart at No. 4 (8:53). With one lap to go it was a three-team race: Brentsville in front, Midlothian, 16 seconds back, and Roosevelt, down 20.
With Brentsville having used its ace, it seemed only a matter of time before anchor Alex Kulifay yielded to one of the chasing runners, Midlothian junior M.C. Miller, a sub-2:15 half-miler, or Roosevelt #1 Dominique Lockhart, a sophomore with bests of 11:13 and 5:01 on the track. Lockhart made the bolder move, blowing past both Miller and Kulifay. Miller, too, passed the Brentsville sophomore, but not before a late-suffering Lockhart had gotten away.
“I wasn’t giving up the lead,” said Lockhart who split 8:55 and hit the line at 46:29, lowering the course record by almost two minutes. Midlothian, thanks to Miller’s 9:04 anchor, finished 5 seconds back at 46:34, followed by Brentsville at 46:38. Westfield in 4 th (47:48), Fairfax VA (47:50) and Colonial Forge (48:01) also dipped under the meet record of 48:20, set by West Springfield VA in 2001.
What to make of the results of an event like this is anyone’s guess – the legs are, after all, half the distance of a regular cross-country race. And Dunham, in his third year at Roosevelt and coming off a boys and girls sweep at the state 4A track and field championships in May, knows it will take a lot more than winning a flat short-course event for his program to earn widespread respect in cross country.
“Time will tell,” Dunham said. “We want to prove ourselves – we don’t want anything given to us.”
Later, speaking of his girls, Dunham said, “They’re putting in the mileage to become good distance runners. We’re even stronger over 5K. The more challenging the course, the better our girls will do.”
Milner added, with her four teammates nodding in agreement beside her, “We’re looking forward to a 5K.”
Also looking forward is Brentsville’s Dulin, to Great American, and beyond. “Next year,” he said, “I’d like to add some more lights.”
TOP 10 RESULTS
Men’s A Championship Race: 1. SE#3 Brentsville VA 39:33 (meet record, previous record 39:51, West Springfield VA, 2001); 2. Colonial Forge VA 39:57; 3. North Stafford VA 40:38; 4. Eleanor Roosevelt MD 40:44; 5. Centreville VA 41:06; 6. Osbourn Park VA 41:10; 7. Midlothian VA 41:12; 8. Walter Johnson MD 41:26; 9. Forest Park VA 41:27; 10. Lake Braddock 41:31. (53 teams total)
Fastest split: Mikias Gelagle, Roosevelt 7:27 (ties meet record of Daniel Kane, Louisa VA, 2001).
Women’s A Championship Race: 1. Eleanor Roosevelt MD 46:29 (meet record, previous record 48:20, West Springfield, 2001); 2. SE#5 Midlothian VA 46:34; 3. SE#6 Brentsville VA 46:38; 4. Westfield VA 47:48; 5. Fairfax VA 47:50; 6. Colonial Forge VA 48:01; 7. C. Milton Wright MD 48:32; 8. Lake Braddock VA 48:37; 9. North Stafford VA 49:28; 10. Ocean Lakes VA 49:33. (45 teams total)
Fastest split: Becky Stewart, Brentsville 8:53 (ties meet record of Jamissa Hess, C.D. Hylton MD, 2002).
For complete results visit www.milestat.com
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