Westminster Boys Cross Country team clinches 31st state title


Esfan Daya and Joseph Jacquot lead the boys Cross Country team as they win the GHSA State Meet.

This fall, the boys cross country team had one of their most successful seasons yet. The team set countless records, including both the individual school record for the fastest 5K, as well as the fastest team average at the Asics Invitational. In addition, despite the Kosh Klassic proving to be challenging in the past, the boys fought their way through the hilly course and won the meet for the first time in years. While runners from all grades contributed to the team’s year long success, key runners included juniors Esfan Daya and Joseph Jacquot and freshman Jacob Jacquot. 

“We’ve had some sub-16 minute 5k runners over the years, meaning they ran under five minutes a mile for over three miles,” said head boys cross country coach Joe Tribble. “We had three on this one team: Joseph Jacquot, Esfan Daya, and Jacob Jacquot.”

At the beginning of the season, Joseph Jacquot and Daya shone through with their speed, yet not long after, Jacob stepped up and joined them. For the rest of the season, the Jacquots and Daya were the top three runners on the team. Later in the season, Joseph Jacquot set the record for the fastest 5k in Westminster history with the impressive time of a 15:07 5km; he averaged a pace of around 4:50 minutes per mile. In addition to their successes, the rest of the team performed well, as Westminster’s second string team outclassed many rival schools’ first string teams. 

Despite the boys’ countless successes, MileSplit, a cross-country ranking website, placed the team as the fourth best out of their classification. Naturally, the boys felt irritated, as this ranking discredited their impressive accomplishments. However, Coach Tribble reassured them that they would prove the ranking wrong. 

“We’re not training for the Asics Invitational or Stars Mill or Coachwood; we’re training for one race on Nov. 5th, the state meet,” said Tribble. “You will see on the day of the state meet that we are the best team in the state, regardless of classification.”

The boys continued to improve and work throughout the weeks leading up to the state meet. Practices became more demanding, and the boys trained harder than ever for their final race. As the state championship drew closer, the practices became more individualized and catered to the boys’ specific needs. 

Esfan Daya leads Westminster boys in the 4A GHSA State Meet, placing third overall with a time of 16:30.

“You have to figure out what works best for you,” said Tribble. “it’s better to be undertrained than overstrained.” 

Typical to boys cross country fashion, the night before state was spent shaving the new varsity runners’ heads and eating pasta. This tradition has survived for many years and is a crucial part of state preparation and the comradery of the team. Nearly all the runners on the team decided to shave their heads this year, including those on varsity before; junior Lucas Mepani shaved a “V” into his head to represent the boys’ team name, “Victory.” 

“I enjoy shaving the new runners’ heads,” said junior Esfan Daya. “It puts us all in the mindset for state.”

Unfortunately, a few setbacks kept the team on edge. All top three runners were dealing with setbacks, as lingering injuries plagued Daya and sickness had sidelined both Jacquot brothers during the week. To add to it all, the state course, Carrollton, was one of the hardest on the schedule.

“My brother and I had been sick all week leading up to state, and Esfan was hurt,” said junior Joseph Jacquot. “We didn’t know how the race was going to go.”

Early on a Friday morning, fueled by caffeine and adrenaline, the boys began the race. Traversing over the hilly Carrollton course, the boys pushed themselves harder than they had all season. The state team consisted of junior Esfan Daya, junior Joseph Jacquot, senior Chase Hunsicker, junior Willem Mandel, freshman Jacob Jacquot, junior Tyler Robinson, and senior Sam Maas. The boys finished in that order, and impressive races were run by all the boys. Hunsicker, who was predicted to finish seventh out of the Westminster team, finished third, and Jacob Jacquot finished as the fastest freshman at state. 

“Chase really stepped up at the state meet,” said Tribble. “He had been running as the seventh man but ended up finishing as the third man: a really impressive race.” 

In addition, for the first time of the season, Daya outran Joseph Jacquot, finishing third overall with Joseph Jacquot right behind him in fourth. As a result, the boys ended up running the fastest combined time out of any classification, with the second place team being 12 seconds per man slower; seeing as it’s typically only a one or two-second difference between first and second place teams, this was remarkable.

“It was the first time winning all-class in all of school history,” said Joseph Jacquot. “We were really excited.”

The boy’s weren’t the only ones with an impressive end to their season, as the girls also finished well; senior Palmer Walstad won the state meet as the girls individual overall champion. Walstad trailed in second for the entirety of the race, but in the last seconds she overtook first place, beating her season-long rival.

“They were up by about a minute the entire race, but at the end, over the hills, Palmer started flying and ended up winning the race,” said Tribble. “What a victory for both Palmer and the Cats.”

Edited by James Rhee