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The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

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Cross country sprints into first place at states

Girls Cross Country celebrates their 1-point win at States over Frederick High School on the first place podium.
Courtesy Annie Linke
Girl’s Cross Country celebrates their 1-point win at States over Frederick High School on the first place podium.

The Girl’s Cross Country team narrowly escaped this year’s MPSSAA 4A States competition with an exciting win by just one point over Frederick High School on Saturday, Nov. 11. It was a rather chilly day, but that didn’t slow down the girls in the slightest. Junior Megan Raue finished 4th with a time of 19:30.25, her teammate freshman Mirae Denaro finished not far behind in 6th place with a time of 19:43.09, and senior Carolyn Hultman finished in 13th place with a time of 20:24.86.

Senior Zuzana Huserova and Denaro each ran a season-best, which is no small feat considering they faced one of the most notoriously grueling courses of the season: Hereford High School’s Bull’s Run in Parkton, Maryland. However, the team went in more ready than ever, knowing that if they could handle it once before, they could do it again, and do it well.

As the only freshman girl running in states, Denaro was very thankful to have such a supportive group of girls running—and cheering—by her side.

“I felt very excited and nervous going into the State Championship because I have never run something so big and serious before, but I knew we were going to do amazing…learning from my older teammates how to train and race as a team has helped me in races, and in almost every race when I’m near one of my teammates, we always manage to say ‘keep it up’ or ‘stay with me’ on the hardest parts of the course. Those words always help me to never give up, and continue to finish the race strong,” Denaro said.

The girl’s unwavering support for each other is not only important to their success but also touching and wholesome to see the close bonds they’ve developed with each other throughout the season.

Each girl sported a classic cross-country hairstyle: braids, tied off with a signature green ribbon to display their Wildcat pride. In addition, they made and wore their own green States shirts with funny, personalized messages written in puffy paint and covered their faces and scalps with green glitter. Despite it being a rather cold and intense day, everyone’s kindness and good spirits—whether they’re on the team, running, or not—brought lots of warmth to the course.

“The atmosphere was super competitive, but everyone is friendly and most girls know each other from racing against each other over the years, as well as through bonding over the difficulty of the sport,” sophomore Annie Linkie said.

In addition, other members of WJ’s team traveled 90 minutes north to root for their friends. They helped motivate the girls on the way there, during warm-ups and followed them along parts of the course, raising the spirit with their loud cheers.

“I think that having teammates support you really makes the difference, especially on a course like Bull’s Run.They definitely didn’t miss a single spot, running around the area to make sure we’d see them several times throughout the race. I’m so grateful for everyone that cheered us on and came to support us!” Huserova said.

In addition to having the greatest cheer squad by their side, the girls have had the state champion title on their minds from the start of the season, giving them a rather strong incentive to push themselves. Beyond that, running the course again was its own battle—but it was no match for the girls.

“We did our usual warm up: run a mile, do sprint dynamics in our sweatpants, and take them off minutes before the race to keep our muscles warm. Yes, I was exhausted, but I felt more prepared because I’d done it before, knew how to pace it, and knew which parts were hardest,” Linkie said.

Huserova, a highly regarded member of the team, unfortunately faced medical challenges early in the season. Thankfully, she trained hard despite her obstacles, allowing the team to come out on top. As for herself, she outran both her previous race at the Bull’s Run course as well as her fastest race of the season, with a time of 21:31.97.

“This was definitely easier for me than last time because I was anemic in the beginning of the season, so at states I felt my higher iron levels making a difference,” said Huserova.

It was a long, hard-fought race as well as season, but the girls didn’t let their guards down and remained relentless against the Frederick High School athletes, their biggest competitors, and pulled out a one-point win and took home the trophy.

“Being able to win is really the most rewarding feeling, especially to end my last season of cross country. We’ve all worked so hard and were incredibly happy to see it pay off!” Huserova said.

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Sophie Linkie, Online Opinion Editor
Senior Sophie Linkie is excited to do her first year with the Pitch as an Opinion Editor. In addition to her interest in journalism, Sophie enjoys swimming, nature, and loves dogs.
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