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Lilley hopes all his miles lead to victory

November 07, 2008|By ANDREW MASON

No other high school cross country runner in Maryland can match Michael Lilley's dedication to the sport.

At least that's what the Williamsport senior keeps telling himself.

"Every time I toe the line, I can draw on that -- that nobody else trained as hard as I did over the summer," Lilley said. "I built from 50 miles a week to 80 miles a week by the end of the summer. I basically had no summer vacation. All I did was run. I went to bed early, ate healthy, everything."

All the hard work has paid off, as he is undefeated on Maryland soil this season.

But Lilley still has a lot to prove Saturday at the Maryland State Cross Country Championships at Hereford High School. He'll be racing for the one title that's eluded him in Class 1A, while trying to become Washington County's first individual boys champion since Tim Mason won his second straight 1A title for Clear Spring in 1997.

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Lilley has won three state titles in track.

"I've won the 1,600 (twice outdoors) and the 3,200 (indoors)," said Lilley, who placed third at last year's state cross country meet. "If I want to be a true distance runner, I need to win in cross country, too."

One of his top challengers is his own teammate, fellow senior Naseem Haje.

The pair finished 1-2 at last week's West region meet, leading the Williamsport boys to the team title.

"Hopefully Naseem and I can be up front and control the race," Lilley said. "I'm sure he has his goals and that he wants to win, too. I don't think he toes the line saying he's going for second. But he never talks to me about it."

What the Wildcats are talking about is winning their first boys team title since 1975. They'll have to get by defending champ Glenelg to do it.

"Obviously, our first two guys are going to do very well, so it's really going to come down to how our third, fourth and fifth guys do," Williamsport coach Randy Buchman said. "I know we have a very, very strong 1A team -- strong enough that it would win most years. But whether it will be strong enough to beat Glenelg, we'll see."

Smithsburg junior David Wilson, who placed third in the 1A West region meet, should be in the running for another top-three finish Saturday. He, Lilley and Haje have made Washington County a force at the front of the pack all fall.

"They could possibly go 1-2-3 at states. It's incredible the amount of talent that's right here," Smithsburg coach Ray Shriver said. "It's Lilley's race to lose, and I don't think he will. I'll be shocked if he didn't win. And Naseem and David have been going back and forth all season."

If anyone's going to break up that trio, it likely will be South Carroll's Jake Zamostny. He finished second to Lilley by 14 seconds at the Bull Run Invitational on the state course at Hereford last month.

"Me, Wilson, Zamostny and Naseem will be top four for sure," Lilley said. "And then it could be anyone's race, anybody's day."

Lilley has dedicated countless weeks to making Saturday his.

"What I put myself through over the summer, all the miles I ran, I'm just such a different runner this year," he said. "I'm so much stronger, especially mentally. I just don't want to lose."

In the girls races, Williamsport senior Tracey Forsythe is the county's only returning state medalist (top-15 finisher). She placed ninth in Class 1A last year, and said her goal is to crack the top five Saturday.

"We're all peaking right now," said Forsythe, who placed third at the West region meet last week, leading the Wildcats to a runner-up team finish. "We'll be ready for it."

The North Hagerstown girls team, which ran away with the MVAL Piedmont and county titles this season, would be more than happy with a second-place finish in Class 2A on Saturday.

"I'd love to get a banner at the high school for getting second in the state," North coach Lindsay Zerance said. "That would be just amazing."

Perhaps even miraculous.

The Hubs finished a distant second to Century in the 2A West meet, while defending champ River Hill still appears to be the team to beat.

"It's not going to be easy," Zerance said. "It's going to be a tough race, but we're going to be on it. We have trained so hard. We want it bad."

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