Boys’ cross country competes in Charlottesville, Virginia


Richie Mercado

Mavericks lead the pack as the University of Virginia Cavalier Classic begins.

Russell Li and Wilson Bailey

As their twin-engine plane descended towards Charlottesville, a dozen boys on the cross-country team began to celebrate, thrilled that their long, perilous journey was almost over. 

Seconds later, the plane rapidly banked left, heading away from Charlottesville-Albemarle airport. Puzzled at this change in direction, it dawned on the boys that the pilot had missed the runway.

Their odyssey began on Friday, Sept. 13, when the Mavericks’ top 12 runners left to compete in the University of Virginia Cavalier Classic, a five-kilometer race.

After waiting two hours on the runway at Charlotte Douglas for the second leg of their journey, the team was thrilled when their plane finally took off. The plane would later be diverted from two airports, including Charlottesville, before finally landing in Newport News, Virginia, 140 miles away from their intended destination. 

The team eventually arrived at their hotel at 10:30 p.m. after a two-and-a-half hour bus ride to Charlottesville—almost seven hours behind schedule. 

The team woke up the next day sleep-deprived, cramped and dehydrated.

“Being on a plane and a bus for the whole day means that you don’t have enough water on you,” captain Ishan Shah said.

Despite the obstacles, the team outperformed expectations. Nine runners setting personal bests, contributing to a second-place team finish behind reigning Virginia 3A state champions Western Albemarle. Sophomore Emmanuel Sgouros and captain Davis Thames finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Five other Mavericks placed in the top 20.

“The course took the life out of my legs,” Shah said. “Despite all those hills, everybody ran very well.”

According to Head Coach Richie Mercado, the Mavs misjudged the difficulty of the numerous rolling hills because they did not have the opportunity to walk the course beforehand. Some runners felt fatigued after running the first kilometer too quickly.

“Our main pack needs to focus on themselves instead of chasing after Emmanuel and Davis,” Mercado said. “They need to do their job at their pace so they don’t wear out later.”

According to Shah, the odds of winning SPC are higher this season because of their bonding experiences.

“Last year, the team wasn’t as tight-knit—we were running for ourselves and not together as much,” Shah said. “This season, it’s all about the group. We’re trying to do big things.”

In the Brenham Hillacious Invitational on Sept. 28, the Mavs placed sixth out of 33 schools. 

St. John’s will host the Maverick Ramble on Oct. 12, a key benchmark before the SPC meet on Nov. 9.