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The countdown is on at the county championships

October 13, 2005|by ANDREW MASON

andrewm@herald-mail.com

Three, two, one ...

When the 28th annual Washington County Cross Country Championships blast off at 10 a.m. Saturday at North Hagerstown, the Williamsport girls team and North senior Hemu Arumugam each will be gunning for a third straight county title, while the Clear Spring boys team will be aiming for its second straight crown. The first girl to cross the finish line will claim her first county championship.

While the Williamsport girls and Clear Spring boys seem like very safe bets to win the team titles again, Blazers coach Jaime Mason is quick to stress that "anything can happen on race day."

"We proved that last year," she said. "We're not counting any chickens yet."

At last year's county championships, the Clear Spring boys forced favorite North to count points, and the Hubs came up one too many as the Blazers prevailed, 47-48.

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Clear Spring returns Josh Keyfauver, Dustin Adams, Ryan Shifler and Ben Courter from its top seven last year and has been getting plenty of help from varsity newcomers Justin Grove, Cory Horton and Jessie Wolfe.

This season, the Blazers have won small-school titles at the Don Stoner Invitational and Interstate Classic. And although they only finished seventh at the Frank Keyser Invitational, they beat every other county school there.

"We've raced everybody, but anything can happen on any given Saturday," Mason said. "That's what I keep telling the boys."

Arumugam recently learned that lesson at the Don Stoner Invitational, where he was beaten by Williamsport junior Justin Cole for the first time ever.

Arumugam and Cole, who placed fourth in the county last year, are the only returning All-County boys.

"I'm out and I'm ready to take on Hemu," Cole said after Don Stoner. "We were battling it the whole time today, and it's going to be another battle between us at counties."

It's hard to imagine any school giving the Williamsport girls much of a battle Saturday. No county team has even come close to beating the Wildcats since 2002, when North edged them 30-33 at the county meet.

Williamsport took seven of the top 11 places last year and returns six of those runners this year.

Gone, however, is Clear Spring's Ashley Lockard, the county champ in '03 and '04 who now runs for Hagerstown Community College.

Williamsport's Theresa Ruland, Laura Forsythe and Jordan Atha, North's Anna Lenhart and Smithsburg's Emily Ledden are the returning All-County girls in the mix for the title this year, along with Boonsboro junior and first-year harrier Hayley Harnett.

"I miss Ashley," Mason said, "but it will be nice to see who's next."

n Here are next week's big meets: Mid-Penn championships Wednesday at Carlisle; West Virginia Region II Class AAA championships at Elkins on Oct. 20; West Virginia Region II Class AA-A championships at Keyser on Oct. 21; and the MVAL championships Oct. 21 at Linganore (Kemptown Park).

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