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Blazers battling to prove they're No. 1

October 05, 2006|by ANDREW MASON

Despite returning five of her top seven runners from last year's Maryland Class 1A state champion boys cross country team, Clear Spring coach Jaime Mason had reason to worry before the start of this season.

Josh Keyfauver, the Blazers' No. 1 runner and team leader last fall, had graduated.

"I was really worried over the summer, because I didn't know who would be No. 1 and that they'd be battling," Mason said.

But the battles for position on the team seem to have only made the Blazers a stronger unit.

"It's actually made them closer because they're working harder together," Mason said. "When they practice together, they know they're running with the competition."

Through seven races this season, three different Blazers have enjoyed the team's top spot - Dustin Adams, Cory Horton and Ryan Shifler.

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"It's really cool because we don't know who it's going to be every week," Mason said.

Horton has been the team's top finisher four times. Last Saturday, he led Clear Spring to a third-place finish out of 26 teams in the small-school race at the Bull Run Invitational on the infamously challenging course at Hereford High, which is also the site of next month's state meet.

"We wanted to go down there and see the course and run it and make it less intimidating in November," Mason said. "It was the most exciting race we've had so far, just how well the boys raced."

While the Blazers didn't win, they were first among Maryland 1A teams.

"We do think down the line, but we just try to take it one race at a time and just focus on what's next," Mason said.

Next up for them is Saturday's Interstate Classic on their home course, where they'll try to defend their small-school title. The 21-team meet will also serve as a preview of the 1A West region race, which the Blazers also host on Nov. 2.

"The region race is Saturday, minus Fort Hill and Poolesville," said Mason, whose boys have already defeated Fort Hill and Poolesville this season. "All of the other teams will be there."

The last three years, the 1A state-champion boys team has come from the West region.

"Anything can happen," Mason said. "We can only control ourselves."

Finishing kicks: Berkeley Springs junior Rachel Buser, the two-time Herald-Mail Girls Runner of Year, finished sixth in the elite race at the Bull Run Invitational, ending her unbeaten streak that spanned more than two years. ... The Chambersburg girls, who had been ranked as high as No. 2 in the Pennsylvania state rankings this year, suffered a huge blow last week when they lost senior Brooke Jacobs, a two-time All-Area first-teamer, to an injury. Trojans coach Chris Monheim is unsure if Jacobs will return this fall. ... The Washington County championships have been moved up a day to Oct. 13 at Smithsburg. The girls race begins at 4:30 p.m., the boys race at 5:15.

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