SCHWETZINGEN, Germany - It was a victorious day for Patch at the DODDS-Europe cross country championships Saturday at the Tompkins Barracks training area in this Heidelberg suburb.
Patch teams took first in both boys and girls Division I competition, with the top four female runners across the line wearing Panthers colors.
Wiesbaden senior Ryan Fisico took first among the boys and remained undefeated for 2011, finishing the 5-kilometer run at 16 minutes and 24 seconds. And in a surprise upset, Patch sophmore Baileigh Sessions passed her previously undefeated teammate, Morgan Mahlock, to win first in the girls race coming in at 19:13. Mahlock came in behind her at 19:32.
Fisico said he was nervous as he spent most of the race trying to catch Naples' John Fain.
"John Fain definitely gave me competition, and that was good," Fisico said. "John Fain had the pace going for I think the first 3 kilometers. And from there I took off. I just surged. It was definitely hard to pass him and I respect him for that."
Fisico wants to run for Stanford University next. He has already applied and hopes to get a response in a few months.
Sessions has come in second behind Mahlock all season. The two trained closely together and find that competition feels like just another run together.
"I was just kinda going on Adreniline for most of it," Sessions said. "And it was just kinda a surreal feeling but it was good."
Mahlock, who didn't appear disappointed at all, said she ran her usual speed in this race but Session suddenly sped past three quarters through the race.
"We've been good competition for one another," Mahlock said. "I'm super glad for her. I'm glad it was my own teammate. We're really good friends."
"She's really been my mentor the whole season," Sessions said about Mahlock.
Both plan to run track in the spring and will continue training until then.
Sessions and Mahlock aren't the only talented girls at Patch as the team took the Division I title with 20 points, far ahead of Ramstein's 83.
The European championship may not be hosted in Tompkins Barracks training area next year, where it's been hosted for at least 15 years, according to Coach Sharon Brady, Heidelberg cross country coach.
As part of the drawdown of the Heidelberg garrison, the training area will soon be turned over to the local German community.
"We don't know if we're going to have access to it next year," Brady said. "Plus, with the school downsizing, we don't know what kind of support we'll have to run it because all the people out here are Heidelberg parents."
Brady said the number of runners on her team will be cut by half next year, so there will be less parents of team members to help organize races.
"All this was them," Brady said. "All the concessions, all the course marshals. Everything out here, we bring out. The tent, the generator, the grills."
The course is popular with both runners and spectators because of a wide starting area and the visibility of runners by spectators throughout the race.