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HCC gets run of area's best

January 18, 2007|by ANDREW MASON

Williamsport senior Jordan Atha hopes there's more to her running career than being a Maryland Class 1A state champion.

"I don't want that to be the way I go out. I don't want to just stop," said Atha, who won 1,600-meter gold last spring. "I want to keep going and run faster."

That's why Atha signed a letter of commitment with Hagerstown Community College to continue her track and cross country pursuits with the Hawks.

"I'm just excited to run in college," said Atha, one of six Washington County standout seniors who committed to HCC on Wednesday night during a group signing at the school.

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Joining her were: Boonsboro's Sarah Johnson, the defending Class 2A-1A indoor state champ in the shot put; South Hagerstown's Trey Jones, the reigning Class 2A outdoor state champ in the shot put; Clear Spring's Dustin Adams and Ryan Shifler, who together helped lead the Blazers cross country team to 1A state titles each of the last two falls; and Williamsport's Justin Cole, a four-time Class 1A state medalist in cross country.

"It's a fantastic class of kids. It's the best local class we've brought in since I've been here," said Andy Reid, in his third year as HCC's track and cross country coach. "These are the type of kids you want in your program - winners. Success breeds success. They're only going to make the program better.

"And this isn't the end of it. We're hoping to get commitments from more area kids."

Johnson said she wants to compete for the Hawks because, "I'd die without sports," while Jones said, "I'm just taking it step by step. I just want to continue to improve."

The massive improvements made by HCC sophomore Tony Clement - under the guidance of assistant coach Brian Ferrari, the team's distance-running specialist - also have been motivational. Clement went from being a 4:27 1,600-meter runner in high school to placing third at nationals in the indoor mile in a school-record 4:10.56 less than a year later as an HCC freshman.

"(Clement) was definitely an influence for me," Cole said. "I want to follow in his footsteps."

"If Ferrari can do that with him," Atha said, "hopefully I can run a lot faster too and go somewhere."

HCC has proven to be a valuable stepping stone for athletes on their way to four-year college programs.

"We're looking for a two-year commitment from them," Reid said. "And then we'll get them placed in a four-year university that fits them, athletically and academically."

"HCC's a good place to make a leap to the next level, and I'm not quite there," Shifler said.

Frederick High School senior sprinter Justin Brown also signed with HCC on Wednesday.

"I was thinking about going to Frederick Community College, but when I found out they didn't have a track team, I was like, 'That won't work,'" Brown said. "Now I'm here."

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