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Highlights flash before Shriver's eyes

December 12, 2007|By ANDREW MASON

Good luck trying to get Smithsburg coach Ray Shriver to choose the highlight of this past cross country season.

"I don't know," Shriver said. "I could say sweeping the county titles, sweeping the Antietam, the girls winning the region, both my sons (Jake and Phil) making second-team all-conference.

"I'd be hard-pressed to pick any one of those out because they're all pretty special to me."

For guiding the Leopards through such a special season, Shriver is The Herald-Mail's 2007 All-Area and All-Washington County Boys and Girls Cross Country Coach of the Year.

"It was just God smiling on me," said Shriver, who's coached the Smithsburg cross country teams for seven years. "It was a great group of kids - one of the hardest working groups of kids I've had, probably more focused as a whole than any other group. And we had some really good talent, kids who were great leaders."

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None displayed more talent and leadership than Smithsburg senior Corey Centofonti, who won his second straight county title and placed second at the Maryland Class 1A state championships.

"I'm nothing without my coach," Centofonti said. "He's a great coach. He peaked us at the right time. I've been honored to run under him for four years."

The Leopards swept the boys and girls team titles at both the MVAL Antietam Conference and county championships. At the West region championships, the Smithsburg girls won while the boys took second. At states, the boys finished third and the girls were fourth.

While the Smithsburg girls failed to defend the state title they won in 2006, it wasn't due to a lack of effort, as their top five girls ran significantly faster than the previous year's top five on the same course. The competition was just that much tougher this year.

"It was a little disappointing because I really thought we could pull it off," Shriver said. "I believed from Day 1 that we had a chance to win the state titles - girls and boys. And they believed from Day 1 that they had a chance to win.

"When a coach has both teams believing they can do that, and they're willing to do what it takes to do that, it's just such a joy."

Shriver didn't have to crack many whips.

"If the kids are just going through the motions, I don't even yell at them," he said. "'You'll be as good as you want to be,' I tell them. And the kids this year wanted to be good.

"Every kid is different. I just try to adapt to the kids, because one style doesn't work. I encourage more than anything else. I'm probably a better motivator than I am an expert in the sport."

He said Kate White, his assistant coach and a recent Youngstown State graduate, probably has more knowledge. She competed in college.

"She's brought in some expertise that's balanced our approach, and she's brought a lot of energy to the team," Shriver said.

"Even though we were focused on winning and working hard, we never lost our zest for fun," he said. "On Fridays before meets, we play games - dodgeball, kickball, ultimate Frisbee. ... The whole season was just a lot of fun."

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