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Runners set to battle hereford

Williamsport, North Hagerstown girls lead area charges into Saturday's state cross country meet.

Williamsport, North Hagerstown girls lead area charges into Saturday's state cross country meet.

November 08, 2002|by ANDREW MASON

andrewm@herald-mail.com

When Williamsport cross country coach Randy Buchman crunches the numbers for Saturday's Maryland state cross country meet at Hereford High School in Parkton, he says his Class 1A West champion girls squad looks like the team to beat.

However, Buchman also knows that Hereford's grueling three miles of hills don't translate well to paper.

The course may be the toughest thing for the runners to beat Saturday.

"There's practically no hillier course in the country," said Buchman. "It's infamous."

Yet, Buchman said his young Wildcats, who have five freshmen in their top seven, didn't flinch when he took them to Hereford for a preview walk Tuesday.

"I even hesitated not letting them see it, but it didn't seem to bother them," he said. "They did not seem intimidated."

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That may be half the battle right there. The other half will come from Oakland Mills and Loch Raven, which appear to be the other top 1A girls competitors.

"(Oakland Mills) has a tremendous running history," said Buchman. "We haven't won in so long (the Wildcats' last state title was in 1982) and that scares me, even though the numbers look so positive for us."

The numbers were more than impressive last Friday, as Williamsport cruised to the region title with 35 points, easily outdistancing runner-up Beall (72).

Freshmen Amanda Breeden, Makenna Hardy and Kristin Berry all finished in the top 10, while freshman Theresa Ruland and seniors Lindsay Hovermale and Brittany Kershner all cracked the top 15 for the Wildcats.

"We've got the right mix of talent, character and personality to succeed," said Buchman. "The freshmen girls, this is all they've ever known."

And, maybe most importantly, they're all healthy for Saturday.

"The trick has been to bring them along and make them competitive at the state level without pushing them too fast and over the edge into an injury, because there are so many injuries with this sport," said Buchman.

"With so many of them having little to no training, we've managed to walk the balance between pushing them to succeed without really overtraining them."

The North Hagerstown girls - who've won MVAL, Washington County and 2A West titles this fall - also should be in contention for a bigger crown Saturday.

"When it comes to racing, they all come together," said Hubs coach Kristy Johnston. "We have a chance, but there are two or three other teams out there that have a chance. But our girls are super-fit. They're ready to go."

The other top contenders for the 2A girls crown look to be Bethesda-Chevy Chase and host Hereford.

Individually, Johnston said all three of her top girls - senior McKenzie Fox (the Washington County champ), junior Jessica Hanlin and sophomore Jenna Line - have a chance to win it all. All three placed in the top 10 at regionals, led by Fox's third-place finish.

"Jenna's tough as nails, Jessica's coming into her own right now and looking as good as ever and McKenzie's always great," said Johnston. "As much as they like each other, when it comes down to it, they want to beat each other.

"That's what makes them so good. They're just naturally competitive. That's something you can't coach."

Johnston said the girl to beat in 2A is Middletown's Rocky Morgan, the MVAL and West champ. ... Other individual contenders include Catoctin's Brad Topper (the MVAL champ) and Paul Testa and Clear Spring's Jeremy Everitts (the Washington County champ) in boys 1A, Middletown's Justin Myers and North freshman sensation Hemu Arumagum in boys 2A and Thomas Johnson's Chris Lemon and Marshall Lawrence in boys 4A and Chelsea Powell in girls 4A. ... Other area team contenders include the Clear Spring and Catoctin boys in 1A and the MVAL champ Middletown boys in 2A.

And then there's that beast of a course to contend with for three miles.

"This is a course you have to run smart," said Buchman. "You have to think through it. You have to know where the hills and downhills are coming. There's practically nothing flat on it."

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