Warm and Humid Day Has Outcome on Finishes
by Greg Jubb
"I told my girls not to go out too fast in the first mile," announced one coach to a group of others. "I don't think they know what's going to hit them for the next two miles."
Comments like the above were--one may safely assume--were uttered en masse on Saturday morning during the Bull Run Cross Country Invitational at Hereford High School. Thousands of athletes amassed on Hereford's notoriously hilly and physically demanding three-mile course to take part in one of the most highly-anticipated meets of the year.
Despite the fanfare and crowd energy, "Bull Run" or "Hereford," to almost every participant, is synonymous with "pain." Even the spectators can't be spared.
"I'm getting a workout just by walking here," admitted one female bystander to another. "I can't imagine what it's like to run on these hills."
Amid warm and humid conditions, local high school cross country runners tested their mettle on what many consider to be the toughest course on the East Coast. And no Bull Run experience is complete without a rite of passage for Hereford neophytes. A deceptively manageable first mile may lead rookies to believe that the course seems tamer than its reputation would suggest. Yet, shortly after that first mile marker, competitors are greeted by "The Dip"--an infamous 100-meter ravine that may be more suitable for skiers and snowboarders than runners.
Every year, "The Dip" greedily claims its victims.
"It felt like I was going for a long run today, not running a 3-mile race," said Hereford Senior Jon Luckin, who placed 4th in the Boys' Elite Race with a time of 16:45. "My legs were getting heavy and the hills were tough."
Jon wasn't the only one to feel the burn.
"I was passed after the dip and tried to chase people back down, but couldn't," remarked Tyler Spear of Loyola, who finished one place behind Luckin in 16:45.
Yet for the few and the proud, "The Dip" is not the fiercest obstacle of the day. Some see it as the final test before the finish line. The light at the end of the tunnel, if you will. Many spectators are only able to see the top loop and "The Dip," but athletes and coaches alike know that most troublesome trials occur in the more secluded sections of the course.
"I don't think 'The Dip' is the most difficult part of the course," remarked Lucie Noall of Clarksburg High School, who claimed the individual championship in the Girls' Large School Race. "The most painful part of the race is the incline after the soccer fields [before Mile 2]. The terrain is tough and it saps your energy in the very middle of the run."
"The hill after the soccer fields was the hardest for me," echoed Will Bertrand, another Clarksburg runner. "Everyone said 'The Dip' was awful. I didn't realize how taxing the rest of the course was."
Bertrand, who had never competed in cross country before this season, won the Boys' Large School Race handily in 16:29. Not too shabby for a first-timer.
"I'm feeling confident for championship season and I know that I'll benefit from my hard work when it comes to track season," added Bertrand.
Each year, there is one performance that stands out from the rest. Whoever crests the Hills of Hereford with the greatest ease and fluidity becomes king or queen for a day, if not for an entire year. While the emphasis of the "performance of the day" is usually placed on one or two of the fastest individuals of the meet, it was a group of seven young women who stole the show this year.
In the Girls' Elite Race, the ladies of The Tatnall School came, saw, and conquered. Hailing from Delaware, they made their two-hour trip to Baltimore County worthwhile: Led by Reagan Anderson (18:58), Julie Williams (19:30), and Kieran Hanrahan (19:52), the Hornets swept the top three individual finishes and placed their fourth runner, Rebecca Salter (20:16), in sixth. Finishing with a team total of 46, they outran Hereford by a comfortable margin, who finished second with 92 points.
But that's not all from Tatnall.
They arrived on Hereford High School's campus, guns blazing. The boys' squad captured the Boys' Elite Race Team Title, finishing a mere 5 points ahead of runner-up Severna Park High School. Paced by Boys' Elite Individual Champion Alex Giacco (16:22), Tatnall nested three runners comfortably in the top ten, all of whom broke the 17-minute barrier.
Though the 2012 Chapter of the Bull Run Chronicles is in the books, "The Dip" will not dormant for long. The best runners in the state of Maryland will lace up again at Hereford for this year's State Cross Country Championships in mid-November. The next two months of training will allow athletes to sharpen their skills and finalize their race tactics. Those who prepare well may be the next legends of Hereford.
As for those who do not take their preparations as seriously...
..."The Dip" awaits…