Young stars power XC girls to the podium, boys finish 13th


Photo courtesy of Koki Takizawa

The WJ XC State championship athletes for both the boys and girls pose for a photo. The girls finished 2nd, while the boys finished 13th.

The cross country season came to a close Saturday, Nov. 12, at Hereford High School, which houses one of the more difficult courses in the country.

Coming off a state championship, the girls’ team came into the season with dampened expectations. Given the youth of the team, and with the notable loss of seniors Isabelle Senfaute, Ellie Rogers and Amelia Burkhard, the team was quick to be written off. As the glories of last season faded in the rearview, a podium finish seemed almost impossible to replicate.

“We lost a lot of seniors last year that really supported the team and I’m really proud that this year we were able to bring the whole team together and improve a lot. This season was pretty hard on me because I’ve been kind of struggling with junior year and I also had to go through an injury but my favorite memory was probably states because even though I didn’t PR (set a personal record) on the course it was the first race where I physically felt good after my injury and overall it was just a very hype race,” junior star Zuzana Huserova said.

Propelled by the brilliant success of sophomore Madeleine Simmons, who finished 6th, and juniors Mackenzie Raue, Carolyn Hultman, Huserova and Natalie Merberg, who finished 20th, 25th, 35th and 47th, respectively, the WJ girls claimed 2nd overall in the State Championships, behind only Severna Park. Wootton, who was heavily favored to win the 2022 state championship, claimed third overall after a star runner suffered an injury during the course and was unable to finish. With both Severna Park and Thomas Wootton set to move down to 3A next season, and WJ’s top five runners all planning to return for next season, the team has a very strong bid for the 2023 4A state championship.

“I think that the girls’ team will be very good competitors next year, we have a lot of strong underclassmen and will only continue to grow together as a team … I feel good about the result, we were able to come together as a team to get runner up and we met our expectations,” Raue said.

The boys struggled in the conclusion of the season, finishing 13th overall. They were led by star senior Ben Dutko, who finished 19th overall, junior Calix McCormick, who finished 58th and sophomore Christian Pasia, who finished 65th. However, the season was still a success and provided numerous unforgettable experiences. As the season comes to an end, both teams look back on a fun and successful year.

“Although the season didn’t end the way we wanted it to, I’m really proud of how much this team improved. We ran our hardest each race and that’s all that matters at the end of the day,” senior captain Koki Takizawa said.