Cross country girls take first through sixth; boys claim first, second
MARTIN LUTHER KING PARK, Sept. 23 -
Blair runners clinched an easy victory in their cross country meet against Springbrook Tuesday, tacking on another win as they improve to 2-0. Senior captain Elaine Chung, freshman Myla Sapp, sophomore Martha Lafen, senior Abby Cember, sophomore Jenny Sholar and junior Jan Nguyen stole the first six places respectively, keeping together in a pack for the majority of the race with Chung leading the last stretch by several hundred yards. Seniors Rutvij Pandya and Greg Vogel claimed first and second place for the boys after sprinting ahead of a Springbrook runner during the last minutes of the race.
Blair was able to win the meet despite a large fraction of the team sidelined with injuries or illness, including sophomore Theresa Regan and junior Roxanne Oroxom, two of the top three Blair girl runners.
During the beginning and middle of the boys' run, Pandya was forced to keep a quick pace while the leading Springbrook runner jutted ahead. "It was definitely tough," Pandya said of his attempt to trim his competitor's initial lead. "I thought I would lose him."
But Pandya caught up, and ran shoulder to shoulder with his challenger and teammate Vogel while approaching the last part of the race. With a burst of speed, both Vogel and Pandya surged passed the Springbrook runner with about a quarter mile left to go, and gathered several seconds of lead-time for their victorious sprint through the finish line.
For the first part of the girls' race, Chung remained solidly in the lead followed persistently by Nguyen and several other determined Blair runners. The Blazers widened their lead over Springbrook throughout the race, and by the last mile it was clear that a Blair victory would ensue.
Chung ran consistently towards the finish, developing a massive lead that carried her into first place almost a full minute before any other racer. Sapp, who took second place, arrived at the finish with an impressive time of 23 minutes and 32 seconds. Her four fellow teammates followed closely behind, arriving within 30 seconds of her finish.
With the help of a simple "out and back" course, Blazers made the win look easy. Pandya claimed a spot for one of the ten fastest times on the course, and may have beaten a record-holding Blair alumnus. "Greg and Rutvij just get faster and faster each time," Coach James Demma said. "This is a really strong team, and everyone really put it out there."
Sapp admitted that she even surpassed her own expectations for the meet. "I was really surprised," she said. "I didn't think that I would do that well, but I guess I was wrong." Overall, the team and coaches were overwhelmed by their success. "When do you think was the last time cross country won two meets in a row?" Demma asked the team during an after-meet chat. "The '70s maybe!" he joked.
Despite their crushing victory, Demma still believes there is room for improvement. He was worried about the lack of competition for the girls' team, which he believes may have negatively affected their times. "It's a mental problem," he said. "The team should be able to push past each other just as much as they would push past another team." For the boys' team, he wants all runners stay together during the warm-up because it is crucial for developing a positive mindset prior to the race. "I would like the team to be more cohesive and unified," he said. "I think it will make us faster. I know it's an individual sport, but we're also a team and each player is part of the whole."
Cross Country's next meet is Wednesday, Oct. 1 against Paint Branch at 3:30 p.m.
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