By Kathleen Stubbs
GAITHERSBURG — Richard Montgomery sophomore Charlotte Turesson (first place, 19:02 minutes) said her mindset going in to the 5-kilometer race was to “fight for it, mentally.”
Her strategy was to draft off one of the front runners for most of the 3.1 miles.
“It’s a lot easier mentally to stay on one girl’s shoulder, and then surge at the end,” Turesson said.
A few weeks ago, she had come close to winning a race, but then other runners passed her before she had crossed the finish line.
This is Turesson’s second year running cross country.
The second girl, Katie Kaneko, a Sherwood freshman, and Turesson ran together for most of the race, until Turesson passed Kaneko during one of the final stretches of the course.
Kaneko was all smiles, minutes after she finished second. She had earned a lifetime personal best time for the 5k race, 19:20 minutes. She said that when Charlotte passed her, she thought, “‘I’m just going to keep my pace,’” she said.
She just tried to keep running at her pace, and to finish the race having used all her energy.
Kaneko has been running distance events since she was seven or eight years old.
“I’m just really proud of my team, and I hope we go to states,” Kaneko said.
The team confirmed that they had raced in the state championship in 2017.
Kaneko said the race course was medium difficulty, on a scale of easy to hard, and that she’d run on a very hilly course the previous weekend.
After the boys’ varsity race, County cross-country champion Obsaa Feda (16 minutes flat), a Northwood senior, said he was happy with how the race went.
“I felt really good,” Feda said.
Feda said having to run through mud during most of the race made maintaining good footing difficult. In 2017, Feda finished fourth during the county championship race. He didn’t win Saturday’s race alone, however. He and his teammate Eldad Mulugeta (16:23 minutes) took turns leading the race for the duration of the 3.1 miles and finished first and second places, respectively.
Mulugeta led the race during the first mile and a half, but then told Feda his muscles were hurting, and he encouraged Feda to go ahead and run at whatever pace he wanted.
“I was hurting, my legs were just burning,” Mulugeta said, about when Feda pulled ahead.
Feda sped up, and no one overtook him.
When Mulugeta continued to feel tired, he said, he thought of his teammates for motivation. He made sure he finished right after Feda – but not without looking over his shoulder during the final 100 meters. He said he had wanted to make sure no one was behind him.
Mulugeta said in their years of training together, he and Feda have learned to communicate with each other during a race. This helps them perform better, since they push each other.
Northwood ended up placing first of the boys’ teams. The Walt Whitman team placed first for the girls’ race.
It rained for three straight hours, from 10:50 a.m. until about 2 p.m., prior to the girls’ varsity race. The head of Montgomery County Public Schools said on Twitter Saturday morning that the ninth- and tenth-grade junior varsity races were cancelled due to poor race conditions.