Leaders of the Pack
Nobody has a better one-two punch than the Bishop O’Connell High School girls cross country team. Nobody!
And, whether they realize it or not, that duo truly complements each other. They really, really do! Two very different runners in their approach and disposition, who, in their own way, bring out the best in each other.
Through her eight years at the helm, Coach Cindy Walls and her program have produced several elite runners. And, this year is no exception with junior Devin Nihill and senior Emily Blagg (pictured left) emerging as the leaders of the pack. That duo makes O’Connell as formidable as ever – and never was that more evident than the recent Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championships at Lake Fairfax Park where the Lady Knights dominated in winning their fifth straight WCAC title.
That one-two punch was awesome, overcoming the elements and showing the way against a talented field of runners. Nihill took the lead at the half-mile mark and never looked back in claiming top honors – amazingly, the school’s fifth consecutive individual championship on the girls’ side. Blagg was right there also, finishing third overall as the DJO girls outdistanced their nearest competitor, Good Counsel, by a 33-59 count... just a dominating performance, especially so by Nihill and Blagg.
As chronicled in this blog recently, Nihill is just an outstanding talent on the trails. She is a gifted athlete, with a beautiful, efficient stride, who possesses a calmness in her racing. She has a toughness that is beyond compare, displaying the unique ability to push through the pain of workouts and reach the times established for her on a daily basis. Her greatest attribute is her will to win! Devin is a fierce competitor. She exudes confidence! Nobody is more driven. Or, more determined. She’s the best! In a manner of speaking, one of a kind: an athlete on a mission.
Blagg, on the other hand, has been somewhat overshadowed by the emergence of Nihill this fall and Sarah McCarthy a year ago. She was the WCAC individual champion as a sophomore sensation in 2009. The beauty of Blagg is her consistency, her work ethic and her leadership presence. She too is one of a kind, just in a very different way than a Devin. Emily has tremendous knowledge of the sport and her own individual racing style, with an uncanny ability to trust her talent early in the race and not go out too fast. She too is very, very special.
Next up, the Virginia Independent Schools state championships at Woodberry Forest this Friday as the DJO girls seek a fifth straight State title. Expect Nihill and Blagg to be right there when all is said and done as the Lady Knights reign supreme once again. It is who they are!
Good luck Lady Knights!
Ditto to the boys cross country runners, who are led by junior J.J. LaPointe.
Inspired Play Sparks DJO Girls
First-year coaches Eric Parson and Quinn Holloman pushed their racquet team to be the best that they could be, both on and off the court – teaching ‘em to play the game the right way: respect their teammates, respect their opponents and, most importantly, respect the game itself. They called it “the warrior mentality.”
And, in the end, the Lady Knights were right there! That “warrior mentality” came to the forefront. They did themselves proud, finishing second only to St. John’s in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship tournament last week. Everything came down to the last day, last Monday, at Olney Manor Park.
Singles standouts Alexandra Roberts (pictured left), Emily Rivers and the #3 doubles team of Leah Retta and Rebecca Culhane advanced to the finals, with Roberts coming up big and garnering top honors at #5 Singles.
It was not easy, playing in frigid temperatures and going up against some of the metropolitan area’s top talent. The weather reduced the normal three-day affair to two days, with play doubling up on Friday and Monday.
The Lady Knights opened impressively, scoring the maximum nine points in the first round. Highlights included freshman sensation Claire Zorrilla avenging two losses from the prior week’s Paul VI rivalry – scoring a tie-break win over her singles foe, Nora Howe, and teaming with Stephanie Gulley in #1 doubles to post the triumph over their PVI counterparts.
With snow forecast for Saturday, the decision was made to play through the second round of singles on day one. Senior Emily Rivers sustained her inspired play from the morning session and overwhelmed her opponent from St. John’s, avenging a loss from earlier in the season with an exclamation point. Junior Alexandra Roberts also retaliated against her St. John’s nemesis, winning a hotly-contested battle on center court as both Rivers and Roberts booked a place in the finals to be played on Monday with their inspired play.
Matches resumed on Monday with the doubles second round. DJO’s senior duet of Leah Retta and Rebecca Culhane continued their undefeated season with a decisive victory over a quality team from Bishop Ireton, advancing to the doubles finals to be played later that day.
The DJO girls accumulated a total of 18 points and secured a share of second place with Paul VI.
The seventh-seeded Lady Knights now advance to the Virginia Independent Schools Girls state tennis tournament this week, traveling to Richmond to take on #2-seed St. Catherine’s School on Tuesday at 2 p.m.
Kudos O’Connell tennis and good luck in the State playoffs!
This is Tommy Orndorff and that was The Week That Was.