End of era in cross country


Tyler Ellison

Gilchrist watches over his athletes while they run through their warm-up laps on Oct. 20.

Tyler Ellison, Staff Writer

As the runners take their stance on the starting line of another race, many of the skills the cross country team have developed this fall are finally being put to the test. Now that the team has crossed the finish line of their season, they’ve also wrapped up their district and state competitions.
These meets and competitions last around three to four hours, as the team will often warm-up and get an understanding for the course before the races begin, which takes multiple hours by itself. Additionally, meets don’t take place at CHS, and often require the team to take a bus to the competition site. This, along with practices throughout the week, is another aspect of the commitment cross country athletes have to make.
The boys team has recently placed third in the Third Battle Invitational on Oct. 15, fifth at the FCPS Junior Varsity Championships on Oct. 19, and then third in the Concorde Districts on Oct. 27. Junior and captain Luke Barlow is eager about the potential within the boys team this year.
“Something special about this year that we haven’t had in past years is a pretty big opportunity to go to states,” Barlow said. “Our boys team hasn’t been to the state championship for cross country as a team since 2016.”
Within the girls team, there are also high hopes for success. So far, the girls have participated in a set of competitions at Lake Fairfax known as the Concorde District Meets, scoring first in one meet on Sept. 15 and second in two others on Sept. 21 and 25. Junior Molly Hogan credits their success to the team’s closeness.
“I think that the girls team stands out this year because of how close we all are,” Hogan said. “We talk and give advice to each other on the runs, so it’s become a really supportive group.”
Cross country coach Matthew Gilchrist also believes that the work ethic and sense of motivation within both cross country teams has been an additional factor in their success.
“I’ve seen them grow and I can look at where they are, both time-wise and how they stack up against the other teams in our region and see that they can be competitive,” Gilchrist said. “But you know, part of that is essentially their own belief that they can be successful.”
With this year’s cross country season concluded, and after 27 years of cross country and indoor and outdoor track, Gilchrist prepares to retire from his position as a coach for the sport. He stills hopes to remain involved by helping put on meets and other events. He leaves his parting message to his athletes.
“I’ve always believed that success is something that is built up on 1,000 days of preparation and there’s no shortcuts to it,” Gilchrist said. “I think satisfaction really comes from knowing about the days, weeks and months leading up to it and, I can say this after coaching at Chantilly for 22 of my 27 years, I wouldn’t want to do it anywhere else. Chantilly’s got a very proud, proud tradition. I hope that’s thrilling for them as athletes to be part of it as it has been for me as a coach.”