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Leopards in winning form

November 02, 2007|By ANDREW MASON

WILLIAMSPORT - The Smithsburg girls cross country team is peaking at the right time of the year again.

The defending state champion Leopards edged Brunswick 73-78 to win the Maryland Class 1A West region meet Thursday afternoon. In the past two weeks, they've also won MVAL Antietam and Washington County titles.

"It's all coming together really well," said Natalie Mancini, who placed ninth in 20:45.6 to lead the Leopards on Williamsport's 3-mile course. "We're just really blessed."

While Brunswick's top three runners finished ahead of Mancini, Smithsburg placed all seven of its runners ahead of the Railroaders' fifth girl.

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"We don't have that dominant runner," Smithsburg coach Ray Shriver said, "but we have seven or eight very good runners who run together well and push each other."

That was evident at the finish line as Mancini edged teammate Chelsea Connelly by three-tenths of a second.

"We're calling it a tie. It was too close to tell," Mancini said. "Chelsea and I have been going back and forth all year. We just want to get the team as far as we can."

The state meet at Hereford on Nov. 10 is all that's left.

"Hopefully we're peaking for next week," Shriver said. "That's our goal."

Allegany's Lauryn MacFawn, the two-time defending state champ, easily won Thursday's girls race in 18:48.1. Brunswick's Sara Fisher was the runner-up in 19:39.6, and Williamsport's Tracey Forsythe was third in 19:53.8.

"I was happy with it," said Forsythe, the MVAL Antietam and Washington County champ. "That's the first time I broke 20."

The Williamsport junior said she was surprised, however, to be beaten by Fisher, who finished 43 seconds behind her at the Antietam meet.

"That just makes me want to work harder for next week," Forsythe said.

The boys race featured the top three returning runners from last year's state meet - Northern Garrett's Ryan Bowser, the reigning state champ, Smithsburg's Corey Centofonti and Williamsport's Michael Lilley.

And it was a three-man race from the gun.

Bowser went through 2 miles in 10:31, Lilley was a stride back in 10:32 and Centofonti was still within striking distance at 10:39, ready to make his move.

"I started closing in on both of them, but then Bowser took off," Centofonti said. "He's just really strong."

Bowser won in 15:53.2, and Centofonti pulled away from Lilley in the final half-mile - much like he did to win last week's county meet - to place second in 16:02.4. Lilley took third in 16:14.0.

"I really wanted to break 16," Centofonti said. "I was kind of upset."

"Bowser did everything I wanted to do today," said Lilley, who last spring held off Bowser to win the state 1,600-meter title. "I've never even broken 16 on my own course, and he comes down here today for the first time and does it."

Other top-10 finishers included Clear Spring's Ben Courter (sixth, 16:49.7) and Cory Horton (seventh, 16:54.3).

Mountain Ridge edged Smithsburg 78-85 to win the boys team title.

The top six teams in each race qualified for states. Both Williamsport teams advanced, taking third in the girls race and fourth in the boys. The Clear Spring boys, the two-time defending state champs, finished fifth to earn their spot.

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