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Senior Leaders Pave the Way for Stuart Runners, Boys Team Eyes Repeat as District Champions

 

Coming off a strong 2005 season including a district championship for the boys, J.E.B. Stuart High School’s cross country teams continued to roll with wins last week against Washington-Lee, Edison, and Mount Vernon.

“We build on success by striving to meet personal bests,” said Stuart Head Coach Ron Kronlage. “Everyone knows it’s a team effort and everyone needs to be putting in a strong effort individually.”

The teams’ race on Sept. 20 echoes Kronlage’s philosophy.

On the boys side, senior Ethan Rissell (17:28) and junior Abiy Mohammed (17:43) delivered a 1-2 punch to lead the Raiders. Seniors Mustansar Haidat (18:15), Andrew Moy (18:44) and Mitchell Mellor (18:59) rounded out the top five for the Jaguars, placing fifth, eighth and 12th, respectively. Senior John Tran also ran a strong 19:14 for 15th.

The seasoned group helps sets a positive tone at practice, says Kronlage.

“The key to running well is for each team member to have specific expectations of each other. Our team has a lot of senior leadership, which I can depend on to run productive practices.”

Rissell, the team’s head captain, says the Raiders’ success has been a direct result of this confidence.

A couple years ago we’d think ‘Maybe we’ll do okay in this race’ but now we’re like ‘Yeah let’s do this, let’s run our butts off and win,” the senior said. “We’re a lot more determined.”

The Jaguars will need that confidence as they head into an important stretch of the season, traveling to Falls Church on Oct. 4 to compete with Mount Vernon, Edison and possibly Loudoun Valley. Kronlage says the Raiders will focus on avoiding injuries and staying in key racing form for the district meet, which will feature a healthy Washington-Lee squad that the Jaguars haven’t seen since October 2004.

“Last year a lot of Washington-Lee’s runners were injured, and this year they will all be in top condition,” said Rimmel. “Although we only lost two of our top seven runners, we need to have a lot of determination and confidence.”

The Raiders have faced Washington-Lee before, but the Generals have chosen not to race their varsity against the Raiders in regular competition the past two years.

Being the defending champions, Rissell admits there is a bulls eye on Stuart’s back going into the district meet.

“There’s a lot of pressure to do well,” he said. “But we want to win so badly to show everyone that last year’s wasn’t just a fluke.”

Also led by a group of veterans, the girls runners had a solid performance at the meet on Sept. 20 and are aiming to make the regionals and challenge for third at the district meet. The Lady Raiders had five runners in the top eight, led by sophomore Victoria Fowler who took second with a time of 22:05. Following Fowler was junior Elaine Twigg, (22:45) for third, senior Linh Bahn (22:59) and freshman Nadia Thura (23:01) in fifth and sixth, and senior Jenny Yoon (23:24) finishing out the Raiders’ top five with eighth.

“The girls work hard,” said Kronlage. “Vicki is a strong vocal leader and Yoon and [senior] Jennifer Lam lead with great work ethics for the team.”

The team travels with the boys to Falls Church on Oct. 4, where they will focus on maintaining racing form and staying “mentally strong.” “Everyone wants to improve their time, but what’s more important is their position,” said Kronlage.

Both teams hope by the end of the season one more Kronlage philosophy will pay off.