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Williamsport on right path for cross country title

September 02, 2008|By ANDREW MASON

Williamsport hasn't won a boys cross country team title since 1975.

Thirty-three years later, the Wildcats finally have the runners to win another one.

"We have more depth than we've ever had on the boys team," Williamsport coach Randy Buchman said. "The main group of guys put in a lot of miles over the summer, and that's kind of unprecedented compared to teams in the past, having a group of guys committed to excellence over the summer.

"They have a sense that they have a real opportunity. I think we're the team to beat in 1A, if we're healthy."

The runner to beat is Williamsport senior Michael Lilley, who is aiming to become the Wildcats' first individual boys state champion since Barry Holder in 1978. Lilley finished third at last year's Maryland Class 1A state meet and is the top returner this fall.

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His summer running log indicates that he's more than prepared to be No. 1.

"I got in some really good training," said Lilley, a three-time state champ in track. "I built up to 80 miles a week by the end of the summer, mostly by running 12 times a week."

He said his summer mileage is nearly double what it was last year.

"He wanted to come into this season feeling like he prepared more than anyone else in Maryland, and he probably has," Buchman said. "I can't imagine a high school kid being more dedicated to a sport than he is. He's just a machine about it."

Williamsport's other top returners include seniors Naseem Haje, Rio Ferrario and Nathanial Clark, junior Danny Quinn and sophomore Graylon Wright.

And then there's senior Jesse Buchman, the coach's son, who gave up soccer to run cross country for the first time this fall. But he's no stranger to running, having been named The Herald-Mail's Washington County Boys Indoor Track & Field Athlete of the Year last winter for his outstanding performances in the middle distances.

"I didn't have anything to do with it," said Randy Buchman of his son's decision to run for him. "It's not a subject we could even talk about. Even when he told me he was doing it, I made no comment for several months.

"But I can't deny that I'm thrilled to pieces."

While Jesse Buchman is currently sidelined with a hip injury, his team hopes to have him back by the middle of this month.

Fortunately for the Wildcats, they can still win without him.

"We have seven guys who are really strong," Lilley said. "So even if we lose two, we still have a strong top five."

Boonsboro

With 22 girls and 14 boys, the Warriors' program has nearly doubled in size from last year.

"We're looking better than we have since I've been here," said third-year coach Becky Walter.

Many of the newcomers are recruits from the track and field team, such as senior Scott Rice, the county record holder in the pole vault.

Senior Katie Marshall, an all-county first-team runner last year, is the top returner on the girls team. She has the unique distinction of also being the Warriors' top discus and shot put thrower in track.

Jordan Acton leads the boys. The senior, perhaps better known for his 800-meter speed in track, will be out to prove he belongs among the area's best after falling one place short of qualifying for states last fall.

With both teams finishing last at last year's 1A West region championships, there's only one direction they can go.

Clear Spring

Senior Cory Horton is the only remaining member of the Blazers' state-champion boys teams in 2005 and 2006, and coach Jaime Mason said she's counting on his leadership more than ever.

Clear Spring only has eight boys and nine girls on its teams this year.

"We're small," Mason said. "We're just hoping to do the best we can."

While the girls were disappointed in finishing in the bottom half of the team standings at most meets last year, they brought back a lot of experience as six of their top seven return.

"They definitely weren't satisfied with last year," Mason said. "They've taken a lot of initiative themselves and put in a lot of work this summer."

North Hagerstown

Lindsay Zerance, a 2002 North grad and former standout runner for the Hubs, has returned to the program as a first-year head coach. She takes over for Gerald Crable, who coached only one season.

"I'm really excited for this year," Zerance said. "But it's my first year. It's a trial run."

The girls team should be a county title contender with four of its top five returning from last year's Class 2A state-qualifying squad - seniors Brooke Pettner and Taryn Shank and juniors Alison Harrell and Christine Brugh.

"They're looking really good," said Zerance, who has 14 girls, but only seven boys, on her roster.

She said seniors Nathan Ober and Charlie Abeles are looking strong.

Saint James

Second-year coach Mike Spinnler, the local running guru, had 11 boys show up at the team's preseason camp, including 10 returners. And the team is still young with only one senior (Alex Graham).

"They're buying into it," said Spinnler, who expected more runners to join. "We're very excited about trying to make some improvements."

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