Bal­ti­more sis­ters lead O’Con­nell to ninth straight ti­tle; fa­vorite Wa­ver­ing doesn’t wa­ver

The Washington Post Sunday - - WASHINGTONPOST.COM/SPORTS - BY JA­COB EMERT ja­cob.emert@wash­post.com

Gabriella Bal­ti­more once re­sented run­ning be­hind her sis­ter, Is­abell. A year older, Gabriella thought that meant she should be a year faster. And when she wasn’t, she didn’t like it.

Over time, though, Gabriella grew to ap­pre­ci­ate the rar­ity of be­ing team­mates at O’Con­nell with her sis­ter. So right around noon on Satur­day in the wind­ing wood of Lake Fair­fax in Re­ston, Gabriella watched from three spots back and felt noth­ing but joy as Is­abell fin­ished first in the WCAC Cross-Coun­try Cham­pi­onships.

“It’s so im­pres­sive. I look up to her and ad­mire what she does,” said Gabriella, a se­nior. “I re­al­ized there is so much more to run­ning than win­ning the race. I’m like the momma of the team . . . and I’m so proud of her and the team.”

A ju­nior, Is­abell won the race in 20 min­utes 41 sec­onds. Gabriella fin­ished in fourth place at 21:17 — Me­gan Crilly of Good Coun­sel (20:47) and Emily Car- roll of St. John’s (21:07) filled the gap — and to­gether they led O’Con­nell to its ninth con­sec­u­tive WCAC girls’ cross-coun­try ti­tle.

Jack Wa­ver­ing of Good Coun­sel de­fended his per­sonal ti­tle in the boys’ race, win­ning in 16:32.

The younger Bal­ti­more sis­ter hurt her knee dur­ing prac­tice early in the week, a bad sit­u­a­tion for any run­ner but one com­pounded when cou­pled with the seem­ingly never-end­ing hills that cover the 5,000-me­ter course.

The adren­a­line pushed away the pain as long as pos­si­ble, but down one last steep de­cline in the fi­nal leg of the race, the limp and gri­mace be­came ap­par­ent from out­side the ropes. Bal­ti­more pow­ered through, though, and cap­tured her first in­di­vid­ual ti­tle.

“It feels good be­cause I’ve been try­ing to win it for three years now,” Bal­ti­more said. “To fi­nally have it, it feels re­ally good.”

Good Coun­sel fin­ished in sec­ond place in the girls’ event, plac­ing four fin­ish­ers in the top 10. Bishop Ire­ton closed out the top three.

In the boys’ race, Wa­ver­ing was the first of four Good Coun­sel run­ners to claim the top four spots. The Fal­cons ran away with the team com­pe­ti­tion, beat­ing Gon­zaga and O’Con­nell.

For Wa­ver­ing, who was plenty fa­mil­iar with the early creek and con­stant climbs from run­ning the course nu­mer­ous times, the win was just as sweet as his first con­fer­ence crown.

“I came in here know­ing I had a tar­get on my back, es­pe­cially from Kevin Dan­na­her, O’Con­nell’s fastest guy,” Wa­ver­ing said. “I’ve raced him a cou­ple times this sea­son, and I’ve beaten him, but the gap be­tween us has been shrink­ing. To take the race by my­self to­day was a lot of fun.”

Wa­ver­ing fin­ished 26 sec­onds clear of the field. Matt Lopez (16:58), Kevin McGivern (17:06) and Jimmy Vaz­zana (17:08) rounded out the top four run­ners from Good Coun­sel. Dan­na­her fin­ished fifth in 17:09.

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