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Washington County Girls Cross Country -- Hubs aim high

August 30, 2009|By ANDREW MASON

The North Hagerstown girls cross country team was absolutely dominant at times last fall.

The Hubs posted a perfect 15 points at the MVAL Piedmont championships, sweeping the top five spots in the race. Then at the Washington County championships, they placed four runners in the top five and seven in the top 10 to win going away.

With four of their top seven back this year, along with a few key newcomers, the Hubs are ready to pick up where they left off, and perhaps raise the bar even higher.

"This team is going to be really special," said second-year North coach Lindsay Zerance, who has 18 girls on her roster. "Just the camaraderie -- they work hard and really push each other. They pat each other on the back for what they do every day. The team bonding is really going to help us."

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The Hubs' returning varsity runners include seniors Alison Harrell, Christine Brugh and Sarai Suarez and sophomore Amanda Martin. Harrell was the MVAL Piedmont champ last season and the third-place finisher at the county championships. The two girls who beat her at the county meet -- Williamsport's Tracey Forsythe and North teammate Taryn Shank -- have both graduated.

"Alison is looking great. She's been training really well," Zerance said. "She's fit and ready to go. All of them are just dying to race."

After finishing a distant second to powerhouse Century at the Maryland 2A West region meet last year, North finished a somewhat disappointing eighth at the state meet.

"It was a learning experience," Zerance said.

Century finished a close second at states to River Hill, which will compete in Class 3A this season.

"We really need to concentrate on Century," Zerance said. "This year, I think they'll have a run for their money."

She said two key newcomers to the team are junior Alexis Eichelberger and sophomore Emily Simmons. She expects both to make the varsity lineup.

Also this season, the Hubs have moved back to the MVAL Antietam Conference, which is now comprised entirely of Washington County teams.

Boonsboro



The Warriors have 15 girls on their roster, including four returning varsity runners.

Their top runner right now, though, is freshman Sarah Zielinski, the daughter of ultramarathoner Mary Zielinski.

Coach Becky Walter said juniors Sarah Lake and Bridgette Nitza and sophomore Shannon McClellan also are looking strong.

Clear Spring



Six of the Blazers' nine girls are freshmen, including Hannah Wise, the county's eighth-grade champion last fall.

The top returner is senior Taylor Reid, one of three returning varsity runners. The other two are sophomore Mikaela Shelton and senior Sydney Frazee.

Hancock



The Panthers only have four girls to begin their first cross country season since 2002. While they're one runner short of being able to field a complete team, they at least have something on which to build.

Jeff Spielman, Hancock's longtime track coach, is at the helm of the project. Michaeleon Merchant is the lone senior.

Smithsburg



The Leopards return four of their top seven runners from last year's county runner-up team, including senior Stephanie Breen, their No. 1 girl last season.

Breen finished sixth at the county championships and ninth at the 1A West region meet last season.

Coach Ray Shriver said 10 of the 18 girls on his roster show varsity potential for this season.

South Hagerstown



With eight girls on their roster, the Rebels have more than enough runners to field a complete team, something they haven't consistently been able to do in recent years.

Their top returnee is senior Danica Gunjak. Their most accomplished athlete is newcomer Sarah England. The junior placed third in the pole vault at the Maryland 2A state championships last spring.

Williamsport



The Wildcats only return one runner -- junior Amy Whitcraft -- from last year's top seven.

But with 23 girls on the team, the numbers still can work in their favor.

Coach Randy Buchman said sophomore Elisabeth Strite, who played soccer last fall, shows a lot of promise, as do freshman Alyssa Marker and junior Zoie Dobrzanski, another first-year runner.

Runners to Watch



Stephanie Breen, Smithsburg

The senior is the No. 2 returnee in Maryland 1A West.

Alexis Eichelberger, North Hagerstown

The junior first-year cross country runner won her heat in the 3,200 at the 2A West region meet last spring in 12:35.

Alison Harrell, North Hagerstown

The senior is the top returnee in the county. She was the MVAL Piedmont champ last season.

Amanda Martin, North Hagerstown

The sophomore placed fifth in the county championships last season.

Taylor Reid, Clear Spring

The senior is the Blazers' top returnee.

Amy Whitcraft, Williamsport

The junior is the Wildcats' lone returning varsity runner from last season.

Sarah Zielinski, Boonsboro

The freshman won the Warriors' first time trial of the season.

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