The Northern Region cemented its dominance over the Virginia AAA cross country landscape at last Saturday’s state meet in The Plains, Va., where Chantilly and Lake Braddock destroyed the competition en route to clean sweeps in individual and team titles. Senior Sean McGorty spearheaded Chantilly’s first-ever boys team title, while Lake Braddock senior Sophie Chase guided her team to its first girls title since 2009.
After playing second fiddle to Annandale’s Ahmed Bile — who’s currently a freshman at Georgetown — the previous two years, McGorty glided well ahead of the pack to claim his first individual cross country state title in record fashion. His time of 14 minutes 47 seconds made him the first runner ever to break the 15-minute mark at the state meet on Great Meadow’s 5-kilometer course.
“I felt like it just completed my journey,” said McGorty, who ran Saturday’s race at a lightning quick 4:46-per-mile pace. “I started running cross country my freshman year, so to be able to win states senior year, that was really special to me.”
McGorty’s breathtaking performance stole the show, but he was quick to point out that his team needed solid showings from each of its runners to get the job done. The Chargers’ number two runner, Logan Miller, turned on the jets during the final stretch to barely brush past Edison senior Louis Colson for a third-place finish in 15:36. Chantilly senior Faris Sakallah came in with a time of 16:05, while the Chargers’ four other runners also broke the 17-minute mark.
“I definitely wasn’t expecting a third place,” Miller said. “But I felt good during the race, especially on the last hill where you come down; I passed a lot of people during that. I hope I made a difference in the team score. I know all of us did.”
The Northern Region champions came away from the state meet with 57 points, 15 points clear of second-place Midlothian and well ahead of Battlefield and Lake Braddock. It was an appropriate coronation for Chantilly, which went undefeated against state competition this season.
“They haven’t been hard to motivate this year or keep focused, and that’s not always the case,” Chantilly coach Matt Gilchrist said. “Sometimes the biggest challenge is to keep six, seven, eight guys focused on the goal at hand. We’ve had our ups and downs, we had people get beat up here and there, but I think the special thing is that they’ve been good at keeping the team above the individual. When we win as a team, that supersedes whatever you did as an individual.”
The Chantilly girls also put forth a good showing, finishing in sixth place in their first state meet appearance since 2000. Senior Kendall Cowne paced the Chargers with a time of 18:29 that earned her a 10th-place individual finish.
Saturday’s race marked the first time Chantilly’s boys and girls cross country teams had qualified for the same state meet since 1985. The camaraderie shared between the two teams helped motivate each runner during their races, as each team cheered on the other down the course’s final stretch.
“Coming in freshman year and sophomore year, I never thought our team would be this good,” Sakallah said. “But we bonded together and started working harder and harder. After last year, being mostly undefeated during the regular season, we came into this season with high hopes, so this was definitely a big goal.”
To the shock of no one, Sophie Chase once again displayed her impressive hold over state competition, this time finishing nine seconds ahead of the state meet record she set at Great Meadow last year. Her 17:24 time was comfortably clear of West Springfield junior Caroline Alcorta, who took second place in 17:45. The Spartans took fourth place with 125 points.
Lake Braddock’s 47 points were well clear of second-place Oakton, which finished with 101 points to edge Midlothian in a sixth-runner tiebreaker. The trophy marked Lake Braddock coach Mike Mangan’s fourth girls state title since he took over the program in 2000.
Thanks to solid races by all their runners, including Hannah Christen’s third-place finish, the Bruins would have won the title even without Chase’s record performance. In Chase’s eyes, that team effort made this victory far sweeter than her first individual state title last year.
“It’s just unbelievable how far we’ve come in a year,” Chase said. “This time last year I was walking home alone with Hannah, and even though I had won and we both had really great races, it didn’t mean as much as it does now. Walking away as a senior from this and kind of handing it off to the juniors next year, it’s unbelievable, and I know they’re going to continue the success and the tradition that we’ve had.”
The Lake Braddock boys side, meanwhile, exceeded its own expectations this year with a fourth-place finish at Saturday’s meet. Senior Nick Tuck completed the race in 15:29, while junior Alex Corbett came in 13th with a time of 16:05.
McGorty and Chase will be aiming to win next Saturday’s Foot Locker South Regional meet in Charlotte, N.C.