Friendly foes shooting for state

Three’s company


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After finishing 1-2-3 in Tuesday’s Cedar Run-Cardinal District meet, Hylton’s Jemissa Hess, Stonewall Jackson’s Kristin Milot and Forest Park’s Beth Fahey walked tiredly from the finish line, arms wrapped around each others’ shoulders.

It was as if they were in a special sorority that only fast girls need rush for.

Hess finished third and second in the last two Group AAA state meets, Fahey was all-state as a sophomore and Milot won the district championship in the 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs after finishing all-Northwest Region in her first healthy year of cross country.

“Without a doubt, when you’re talking about those three, they could all be in the top five in the state,” said veteran Potomac coach Bill Stearns, who’s had his top runner Jill Porto training with Fahey the last couple of weeks.

Spend some time with these group of girls and you see why they are close in not just foot speed, but personalities. Their relationship has only gotten stronger since attending the Blue Ridge Running Camp in Harrisonburg this July.

“We’re always friendly with each other but we learned so much about each other this summer,” Milot said. “It was really fun.”

“We had fun at camp,” giggled Fahey, who wouldn’t elaborate on exactly what they did that was so fun.

Their coaches know they get along and it has had nothing but positive effects, said Forest Park coach Dave Davis said.

“They all want to beat each other but they all like each other,” he said. “With Kristin and Beth being freshmen at the same time, between those two, I see a lot of similarities in what they do and how they run and what their attitude is. It would be amazing to have all three on the same team.”

Hess is setting her sights high this season. With the graduation of state champion Keira Carlstrom of Oakton, the path to a state title appears clear. However, she wants a little bit more than just that.

“I want to win states but I want to go on and place in the top eight at Foot Locker [National Championships],” Hess said. “That’s my farther on [down the road] goal,” Hess said.

First-year Hylton coach John Rock has been amazed at Hess’ ability.

“She’s got such a powerful stride, every step she takes is very, very powerful,” Rock said. “You see that during long distance runs and intervals and repeats. She’s taking up a lot of ground on every step.”

And Hess can turn on the jets when she has to. Last track season, Milot went out to a blistering pace for the first six laps of a 3,200-meter race at the Twilight Invitational at Potomac, only to be reeled in by Hess in the final two laps.

“She can be cruising at a good pace and if the game plan is to pick it up at mile two or pick it up with 200 yards to go, she can drop the hammer down and it looks like it’s second nature for her,” Rock said.

Fahey has shown a similar kick this season. At the Chancellor Invitational, Davis had her sit way behind the leaders until the final part of the race. Fahey finished second after spending much of the race in the middle of the pack.

“We accomplished quite a bit by being able to chase people down,” Davis said. “And that’s just a confidence booster.”

Hess, Fahey and Milot, along with Porto and Osbourn Park sophomore Emily Arena, spearhead arguably the most talented group of girls that Prince William County has produced since the early 1990s. The last individual state champion from Prince William County was Woodbridge High School’s Lorie Olson, who won in 1992.

“If everyone stays healthy and everything goes according to plan, all four (including Porto) could be in top 10 in the state,” Davis said. “One can be fourth in the region meet and be state champion.”

In fact, these three are so good that they motivate members of the boys cross country team. All of them spend a good deal of the season training with the opposite sex.

“If they [the boys] are in my race, they are going to beat me, even if it’s by a second,” Milot said. “I think it motivates them especially.”

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