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County boys 'race to replace' at Friday's championships

October 12, 2006|by ANDREW MASON

For the first time in four years, a runner other than 2006 North Hagerstown graduate Hemu Arumugam will be crowned king of Washington County boys cross country.

The "Race to Replace" is likely to be a three-man showdown between Williamsport teammates Justin Cole and Mike Lilley and Smithsburg's Corey Centofonti on Friday when Smithsburg hosts the 29th annual county championships.

Cole, Lilley and Centofonti have separated themselves from the rest of the county at meets this fall, while taking turns beating each other.

"I've got my plan, and I think Lilley's got his plan. We want to go 1-2," said Cole, the runner-up to Arumugam last year. "But the order is the big question between us. We've been going back and forth all year."

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At the Brunswick Invitational last month, Centofonti beat them both on his way to victory.

"He took advantage on the right day," said Cole, who finished ahead of Lilley and Centofonti at Clear Spring's Interstate Classic last weekend. "He can brag all he wants."

Williamsport's Jordan Atha, who placed sixth last year, is the top returner and favorite in the girls race.

"It'd be a really big deal to me to win," said Atha, the reigning Maryland Class 1A state champ in the 1,600. "I still need to prove that I can do well in cross country."

While Atha was the small-school champ at the Interstate Classic, teammate Tracey Forsythe finished only 7 seconds behind her in second place.

"Tracey is like right behind me," Atha said. "That means I have to work a lot harder, but I'm happy that I have someone right there with me. It's nice when you have a friend to run next to."

The Williamsport girls are the favorites to win the county team title for the fourth straight year. But they better watch out for Smithsburg. The Leopards finished only eight points behind them at the Interstate Classic, and actually had all five of their scorers across the finish line before the Wildcats had theirs.

"We're closing the gap," Smithsburg coach Ray Shriver said. "Every big meet, we're getting closer and closer."

The Clear Spring boys team, the two-time defending county champ, is still the class of the county. The Blazers - who return three all-county runners in Cory Horton, Ben Courter and Dustin Adams - had no trouble beating the other county schools on their course last weekend, despite the DNF due to illness of Ryan Shifler, who was the team's No. 1 runner at one point this season.

"Nothing's a given. Upsets happen all the time," Clear Spring coach Jaime Mason said at the Interstate Classic. "Today, we lost one runner. Next week, we could lose two. Anything can happen."

The girls race begins at 4:30 p.m. Friday. The boys race follows at 5:15.

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