Sessions wins for third time; Bailey takes first title
BAUMHOLDER, Germany – Under grey skies that threatened a soaking but later turned almost balmy, one new champion was crowned and a twice-returning champion continued her remarkable winning streak Saturday at the 2013 DODDS-Europe cross country championships.
After finishing seventh last year on a slippery, snowy course, Patch junior Mitchell Bailey earned his first individual title, running out front from the gun to win uncontested. Bailey clocked 16:52.59 on the 3.1-mile course, beating his time last year by more than 45 seconds.
Girls’ winner Baileigh Sessions also took the lead early and never relinquished it, earning an incredible third-straight European championship.
A few runners, including Ansbach's Kelly McCaskill, tried to stay with the senior through the first loop on Baumholder’s Rolling Hills Golf Course. But Sessions eventually dropped every one of them, averaging a brisk 6:21 mile pace that put her through the finish chute in 19:46.03, about 46 seconds ahead of Ramstein’s Madison Morse.
Sessions said she was thrilled to win her last cross country race for DODDS-Europe and has her heart set on running in college, hopeful that she’ll receive a running scholarship to one of several universities she’s considering.
“I love doing this,” she said of running.
While all bets were on Sessions to be out front, the boys’ race was more of a toss-up, with Bailey expected to compete for the top spot with a strong contingent of runners from Wiesbaden, Vilseck, Kaiserslautern and Ramstein. To the surprise of perhaps everyone except his coaches and team, Patch senior John Kellett-Forsyth clocked 17:04.82 to place second on the strength of a strong kick over the race’s final minutes.
“I felt really, really good,” he said afterwards. “I started my kick about midway on the last turn. I caught about 10 people (behind Bailey). I started picking them off.”
Kellet-Forsyth’s high finish helped Patch hold off a deep, talented Wiesbaden team to take the boys’ Division I team title by a mere three points, 37-40.
Philip Bailey, a proud Patch coach and father of Mitchell, said his top runners needed to deliver a one-two finish to beat Wiesbaden. “We told him he needed to get second place,” he said of Kellet-Forsyth. Also turning in a strong performance for Patch was Sam Taylor, who was 10th.
Wiesbaden, as expected, was tough. The Warriors placed four runners in the top 10: senior Alex Wieman third in 17:16.41, junior Ryan Parker fourth in 17:19.08, and seniors Kelsey Thomas, sixth, 17:36.43, and Jesse Hendrix, seventh, 17:37.95.
After the race, the Warriors guessed that Patch may have squeaked by them for the title, but they didn’t seem disappointed.
“I think we ran just as we were hoping to,” said Wieman, who on Friday learned he was accepted to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
The team worked harder as a group this summer, Wieman said, and came into the season in better shape than last year.
Running close-knit was a recipe for success. “You feel more comfortable when your teammates are with you,” Thomas said.
In the girls’ Division I race, Ramstein topped defending champion Patch, 40-51, for the team crown.
“Great girls,” summed up Royals coach Alan Correa. “We knew right away we had a good set of girls.”
Looking ahead, he said, “They’re all coming back next year.”
Correa noted that junior Josh McDowell, who was considered a contender in the boys’ race, didn’t run because of an injury.
In Division II, SHAPE ran away with the team title in both the boys’ and girls’ races, with Naples finishing runner-up in those races. As they have all year, SHAPE’s Alina Salagado and Anna Kyle ran close together, with Salagado cracking the top 10 for the first time, finishing 10th in 21:32.67. Kyle was six seconds back in 12th place.
After finishing eighth last year for Vilseck as a freshman, sophmore Kristen Carson turned in a fourth-place finish for her new team, Brussels American.
“I was so nervous beforehand,” she said. “With all the adrenaline, I ran about a minute under what I did last year.”
Patch junior Kelleen McGuinness also turned in the race of her life, finishing in third place, which she said she wasn’t expecting. “I was just hoping to do well with my team,” she said. “I was so excited to run.”