Cross Country states their place

McLean Cross Country finishes season with high placements at States


Photo courtesy of Thaïs Rolly

The girls XC team from left to right, consisted of Antigone Stark, Elise Walker, Sara Abouelnaga, Thaïs Rolly, Leah Durkee, and Brianna King. After all their scores were added up, the Highlander runners earned the silver medal at states.

The McLean Cross Country (XC) team was wide awake at 8 AM, getting ready for what would be their final race of the season. On Nov. 13, they made it through both Districts and Regionals in the previous weeks, and then had to face the State Championship.
The girls varsity team, as well as boys varsity runner Xavier Jemison, consisted of the McLean XC runners who made it through districts and regionals to compete for the team at the state meet.
“I remember during our race at districts one of my teammates asked another, an upperclassman, if we were expected to get first, and her response was that we were really only aiming for the top four,” said freshman Leah Durkee, girls varsity runner. “So for us to go as far as we did was really amazing, and I think we showed that McLean cross country definitely has a lot to offer.”
The girls team went on to place second at states, and senior Xavier Jemison came in with a strong solo performance for the boys, finishing third.
“We knew that our team was very strong this year after winning Districts and Regions, but we never expected to place second in all of Virginia,” said junior Thaïs Rolly, girls varsity runner.
There were several important factors contributing to the team’s success, consistency serving a leading role.
“We had an exceptional group of athletes who were dedicated from the start. They started running in the summer and they just kept going,” XC head coach Kyle Jemison said.
Before the season had started, and even before the team was made, McLean runners were already preparing.
“We had freshmen that were coming out for green days in the middle of the summer, before the season started in August,” Kyle Jemison said. “I think that paid off a great deal.”
Even as their schedules got busier, the team remained dedicated.
“It’s really hard to start training in June, July, and keep that same level of momentum when you hit late September, when school has started,” Kyle Jemison said.
Aside from consistency, balance also played an important role in the team’s success.
“Once I changed my routines to incorporate more balanced workouts rather than simply upping the mileage, there was a clear improvement in my races, in regards to both my times and how I felt,” Durkee said.
The runners’ performances also helped McLean make its name in Virginia high school sports, with a string of massive successes straight from a virtual school year.
“It feels great, [because] especially in the past, McLean has been pretty bad at sports overall,” Xavier Jemison said. “It’s a fun opportunity, definitely a challenge. I love it. I think our team did great.”
Although Xavier Jemison will graduate this year, leaving a slot in the boys roster, the girls team had a very young roster so they have great potential going into next season.
“We have no seniors on the varsity team, so we are losing no one next year, and our team will only improve,” Rolly said.
The girls team has their goal in sight, ready to aim one place higher in 2022.
“You come second at States, and you’ve got all the girls returning,” Kyle Jemison said. “The hope is that you do one better, and bring home the state trophy.”
With their growing success, the future of XC at McLean is bright.
“I think we’re a good solid unit, and I think we have a lot of fun. We support each other in a lot of different ways on and off the track, and I think that’s the key,” Kyle Jemison said.