For decades, the only constant Arlington County championship sporting event among the jurisdiction’s four high schools is the annual girls and boys varsity cross country meet, run each fall at Bluemont Park.
This year’s meet is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 3, weather permitting, beginning at 5 p.m., and will have runners participating from Bishop O’Connell, Wakefield, Washington-Liberty and Yorktown high schools.
The event is the biggest school-year gathering of competing high-school athletes in the county at any one time or venue. Sometimes there are annual indoor and outdoor track and field and wrestling county championships, but all four schools don’t always participate. The annual county golf championship match during the fall does not include O’Connell, because the private school holds its golf season during the spring.
There have been discussions, but other sports currently don’t hold such one-day or even two-day all-county high-school competitions.
The county cross country meets consist of two varsity races. Often, junior varsity and freshman runners also compete in those events, which can have upwards of 100 runners in each. The meets are much anticipated by the runners and coaches.
Often, the principals and directors of student activities from the four schools are present, and there are scads of other spectators.
Former O’Connell head cross country coach Cindy Walls used to say winning the county meets were the biggest deal to her teams other than winning a state title. Her teams always went all out to win, and often did.
The two-time defending individual boys champion is Yorktown’s graduate Owen McArdle. He said the race was unique and one he looked forward to because all of the runners knew each other, the meet was at home in Arlington County and, for him, it was always fun having all of the local runners together to see how they stacked up against each other. Kind of a county bragging-rights thing.
The 2020 girls champion was Yorktown’s Piper Dean. She called the win one of the biggest victories of her life.
McArdle and last year’s girls individual winner, Anna Corcoran, also of Yorktown, graduated and are now running in college at the University of Virginia and Duke University, respectively. So there will be different individual champions this year.
On the boys side, it could be Yorktown’s Jack Levine. He was second last year as a junior and returns to the team. Levine finished a strong second earlier this season at the Monroe Parker Invitational at Burke Lake Park.
Last year’s girls second- and third-place finishers as sophomores were Yorktown’s Sofia Sheldon and O’Connell’s Molly Weithman, respectively. Both return this season.
The defending team champions are both the Yorktown girls and boys squads, with Washington-Liberty second in each in 2021. The Yorktown squads are considered top contenders again this year.