Berkeley Springs, however, couldn't conquer its biggest obstacle - the absence of No. 2 runner Valerie Peer, last year's state runner-up who's sidelined with a knee injury - as the Indians were edged 32-43 by Williamsport for the small-school team crown in the much-anticipated matchup of two state-title contenders.
Laura Forsythe placed eighth overall, third among small-school runners, in 21:05 to lead the Wildcats.
The morning's other top-billed duel - Buser vs. Potomac Falls' Kiersten Petersen - was short-lived. Petersen, who convincingly won Boonsboro's Frank Keyser Invitational earlier this season, trailed Buser by about 10 seconds at Mile 1. After losing more ground to Buser in the second mile, Petersen, alone in second place, accidentally took a wrong turn shortly before Mile 2 and was out of the race.
"I looked behind and didn't see Petersen back there," Buser said. "I just ran my race and stayed focused."
Without Petersen, Potomac Falls was no match for Gettysburg, which won the big-school title with 33 points. Potomac Falls was second with 92 and North Hagerstown was third with 100.
n In the boys race, Williamsport junior Justin Cole served notice to Washington County - and North's Hemu Arumugam. If Arumugam wants to win a third straight county title in two weeks, he's going to have to get past Cole.
Cole was the small-school champ in 16:48, edging Arumugam by 2 seconds for third place overall.
"That's the wake-up call," Cole said. "I'm out and I'm ready to take on Hemu. We were battling it the whole time today, and it's going to be another battle between us at counties."
It was Cole's first career victory over Arumugam.
"That's been my goal ever since I've known that he's the best," Cole said. "It feels really nice to beat him, but he's my friend and I don't want to rub it in."
Arumugam just took it in stride.
"I knew he was coming up," the North senior said. "That's good. It'll give me some more motivation. I'm already pretty motivated. Now I just have to pick it up."
Josh Keyfauver placed 11th overall, third among small-school runners, in 17:30 to lead Clear Spring, which scored 33 points to easily take the team title. Catoctin finished second with 91 and Williamsport was third with 105.
Gettysburg's Bryan Beegle was the overall champ in 16:22, and Potomac Falls beat runner-up Jefferson 40-82 for the big-school victory.