Cross Country Competes in the Manhatton Invitational


Photo courtesy of WJ Cross Country

Senior Alex Fintenko runs in the Bronx. This was the cross country team’s second travel meet this year.

On Oct. 9, Cross Country traveled to New York and competed in the Manhattan College XC Invitational. This was the team’s second travel meet of the season. At the meet, the girls finished second and the boys finished seventh.

The meet is one of the largest for high schoolers in the country with about 10,000 runners participating before the pandemic, according to cross country coach Tom Martin. WJ has been taking part in this meet since about 1988.

Despite the large scale of the race, the team’s preparation was not any different than for other meets.

“We go up on Friday. We review the course, do a course run and then the kids get to tour Manhattan; and then the next day we get up and then we run on Saturday,” Martin said.

The actual race took place in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. The race was unique for cross country because it was only 4km rather than the usual 5km.

“I think it’s the only race that’s not a 5K. So it was definitely a different kind of race, a faster race so everybody had the mindset, you know, go out strong just go out fast and maintain that tempo,” senior Alex Fintenko said.

The team had a relatively strong performance.

Beyond the actual racing, the meet provided an opportunity for the team to get to know each other better. The pandemic obviously put a strain on the connections within the team and this meet gave the team a chance to reconnect.

¨I think it was bonding for all of us because it was a smaller group,¨ junior Jocelyn Gaul said.

Fintenko also felt the team connected over the meet.

“It was a great bonding experience because you know we spent four hours on the bus there and back together and then we got to walk around New York together, eat together, prepare for the race together,” Fintenko said.

Martin points out that WJ is one of only a few MCPS high schools to take part in travel meets regularly. He finds that the meets and the resulting bonds that develop improve the team’s performance and lead to stronger results in county as well as state meets.

“It builds team unity. Travel meets like that kids get closer together, and when they become closer together they start to run for each other and when you run for each other there’s a synergy involved your performance will increase because of that synergy,” Martin said.

Fintenko agrees that the race was helpful for improving future performances.

“Overall I had a lot of fun because when I finished I felt like I still had energy for a little bit more and I think that this race was great preparation, the big important 5Ks that we have coming up,” Fintenko said.