McLean's young star distance runner Xavier Jemison enjoys the view from the front. To watch him race is to witness track's version of cat and mouse.
Upon the firing from the starter pistol, Jemison typically races toward the front and takes command. It is not unusual, like at Saturday's winning Class 6 boys 1600 performance, for the super sophomore to take out the first 200 meters in 28.5 seconds.
It's a dangerous game, but one that the Highlander relishes. Catch him if you can. In the 1600, nobody could, and Jemison held on for a 4:20.18 win, two seconds ahead of the quartet of Albert Velikonja (Yorktown), Jacob Hamacher (Patriot), Josh Daggett (Riverbend), and Sean Stuck (West Springfield).
An hour later, Jemison placed second in the 1000, but with a much grittier performance in which he held back in fourth before making a last lap charge to pass Yorktown's Reece Shuttleworth, and nearly catching his twin brother Bowen, who finished .01 second ahead for a 2:33.13 victory.
Jemison bounced on to the national scene at last month's VA Showcase , where he placed second in the invitational one mile run with a time of 4:18.31, outkicking Loudoun Valley's Carlos Shultz down the final stretch to pull into the runner-up spot behind Caleb Brown of Shelby (NC), who broke the tape in 4:15.19.
Making Jemison's performance more notable, at least for the knowledgeable track fan, would come from the fact that McLean is not known as a powerhouse track school in Northern Virginia, especially in the distance events, where Loudoun Valley, Lake Braddock, and a few other schools tend to rule the roost.
It's a situation that McLean's new track coach would like to alleviate, starting with Xavier, who also happens to be his son.
"I'm originally from Chicago," said Kyle Jemison, the Highlanders' new coach. "I moved to the D.C. area, and worked with the federal government for 20 years. Then we moved back to Illinois."
But life threw the Jemison's a curveball, in the form of a foreign service job offer in the McLean area. Given the choice of anywhere to live in Northern Virginia, and armed with the knowledge that his son was already a star AAU track athlete as a seventh and eighth grader, the elder Jemison chose to stay in McLean and enroll his son at the local high school.
Was there ever a consideration to move closer to a traditional distance powerhouse school?
"No," said Dad, without hesitation. "When you have a great runner, he can run anywhere."
And almost anything. As a freshman, Xavier was equally impressive in the 400 (52.08), 800 (1:57.27), and 3200 (9:49.74). He would like to sharpen his cross-country skills, but it's not his fault that rust has developed.
"I broke my shoulder last fall and was out for two weeks," said Xavier, turning around to display a tennis ball sized bump on his right shoulder blade. "And at the district meet, I strained my Achilles (tendon)." This fall, he will push to break the 15:30 barrier.
Undaunted, the younger Jemison pushes on. At the VA Showcase, he said that he liked the Liberty track, but admitted that it's "the only big track I've ever been to." Last year, as a freshman, he won the fast section of the non-invitational 1600 in 4:28.
At the end of the1000 on Saturday, Jemison's 18 points accounted for all of McLean's total, and had the Highlanders tied for sixth place.