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Cross country: Warriors aim to end title drought

August 27, 2012|By ANDREW MASON | andrewm@herald-mail.com
  • Washington County Preps Previews
Washington County Preps Previews

While Boonsboro hasn’t won a girls cross country title since 1995, and its boys never have placed higher than second, the Warriors might have the runners to contend for both Maryland Class 1A championships this fall.

One thing’s for sure, Boonsboro indeed has runners — a program-record 51 of them (25 girls and 26 boys).

“There’s a lot of bodies working hard,” Warriors coach Becky Walter said.

The Boonsboro girls return four of their top seven runners from last year’s team that won the Washington County title and finished second at states, including senior Sarah Zielinski, junior Kortney Cunningham and sophomore Ella Hawkins, who took three of the top six places at the county championships last fall.

“We want better, and you can’t do that much better. We want the state title,” Walter said. “Bohemia Manor (the four-time defending girls champ) lost a lot — three of their top five. Looking at last year and knowing what we have, I think we have a really good shot at our goal.”

Zielinski is ready to lead the way again. Last year, she won her second straight county title and was the state runner-up.

“She’s determined to not lose,” Walter said. “It’s all about states for her.”

The Boonsboro boys return all seven of their varsity runners from last year’s team that placed second to Williamsport in the county and finished eighth at states.

Junior Sean Snyder is their top guy again.

“He ran a lot of miles this summer, and he would really like to make his name known,” Walter said.

Snyder should have a bunch of teammates right behind him.

“We have anywhere from eight to 10 guys who will run varsity,” Walter said. “With the pack that we have, I think the boys are legitimate contenders to win the state title. Bohemia Manor and North Carroll will be the biggest competition, I think.”

Here in the county, though, the Williamsport boys are still the team to beat.

“I’d like to see our boys give them a little bit of a fight,” Walter said.

Williamsport

The Williamsport boys have won the last four county titles and certainly have the team to make it five straight this fall.

They return eight of their top nine runners from last year’s team that finished second in the state in Class 2A. Seniors Cody Grams, Cody Bowman, Caleb Buchman, Austin Schetrompf and Scott Long, along with junior Clayton Smith, all placed in the top 10 at last year’s county meet. And Bowman was a 2A medalist, finishing 13th at states.

However, Evan Hardy, the one varsity runner they lost to graduation, might be impossible to replace. He was a two-time county champ and two-time state runner-up in cross country and an eight-time individual state champ in track.

“We have a lot of weapons, but we don’t have a star quite like Evan,” coach Randy Buchman said. “But hopefully we can outnumber others with a pack of quality runners.

“All the guys had bigger and better summers than they had any other summer, every one of them. I think Bowman is going to be our top guy and think from 2 to 7 it’s going to shift from week to week. ... I won’t say we’re the team to beat, but we’re among the better teams in Maryland 2A.”

The Williamsport girls return their entire varsity lineup from last year’s team that finished fourth in the county.

However, sophomore Meggan Grams, who won three county titles in track as a freshman, is beginning the fall with an IT band injury.

“I think we’re going to have a better team than last year,” Buchman said. “But the competition in 2A is just such a brutal proposition.”

St. Maria Goretti

The Gaels, in their third year as a program, return six of their top seven runners from last year’s boys team that won both the Independent-Parochial School League and Hagerstown City titles.

Senior Mitch Swope was the IPSL champ and city runner-up. While he’s the top returnee, the Gaels’ top runner is senior Luke Daigneault, who transferred from Smithsburg. Daigneault was the 1A state runner-up in cross country and a three-time state track champ for the Leopards last school year.

“Did we steal him? No,” Goretti coach Mike Spinnler said. “He transferred because he has high aspirations as a runner, and I coach runners with high aspirations. He wants to make that next step.”

While Spinnler said his girls team still has a lot of work to do to match the success of his boys, he likes what he’s seen from junior Keeley Scott.

“She has taken the bull by the horns, trying to change the environment on the girls team,” he said. “The boys team is very serious and on a mission, but Keeley is the first girl who has really bought into it.”

The Gaels only have six meets on their schedule this fall, with the finale being the third annual city championship with North and South Hagerstown on Oct. 8 at Hagerstown Community College.

“We’ve made it really clear and I’ll say it again, we’d be more than willing to compete in the Washington County high school cross country championships (on Oct. 25 at North). But up to this point, we haven’t been allowed to participate,” Spinnler said. “If that invitation comes in, we’ll add meet No. 7.”

North Hagerstown

The Hubs return five of their top seven runners from last year’s girls team that placed second in the county and 10th at states in Class 3A.

“I have a nice core of returnees and some very good freshman girls,” coach Lindsay Zerance said. “Is it enough to win a state championship? No. Is it enough to win counties? I’m not sure. But they have potential, and that’s the nice thing.

“I’d love to get back to states and improve on last year’s 10th place, but just to make it there would be great.”

Zerance has very high hopes for junior Emily Ward, and for good reason. Ward finished second in the county and fourth in the state last fall, and she has 5:09 mile speed, as she displayed on the track last spring.

“Emily is so goal-oriented,” Zerance said. “She’s been working really hard and is just so driven.”

After finishing near the bottom at most races last fall, the North boys seem poised for improvement.

Of the 26 boys on the roster, six ran varsity for the Hubs last year, and another, senior Bryan Durboraw, previously starred for rival South, winning the city title and placing third in the county for the Rebels last fall.

“I think it’s going to be a total 180,” Zerance said of her boys team. “They want to go to states. That’s the ultimate goal. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a boys team at states.”

South Hagerstown

Cross country is a growing sport at South. On the first day of school, the Rebels had 18 girls and 15 boys on their roster.

It was only a couple of years ago that just fielding a complete girls team was a victory in itself for South.

“I’m thrilled,” said Tammy Marriner, who’s in her third year as South’s coach. “My first year, I had five girls. Last year, I had 10, and this year, I have 18.”

Six of the top seven girls are back from last year’s sixth-place county team, including Sage Brewer and Patricia Holmes, who led the Rebels as freshmen last fall. Marriner said she has some strong freshmen this season too.

“I am so psyched,” she said. “Our girls’ goal is to get to states. They’ve never gotten to states. I don’t know if that’s achievable this year, but that’s in the back of their mind. The girls seeing the success of the boys program has helped.”

The South boys finished third in the county and qualified for states for the first time in ages last year. They return four of their top seven from that squad, led by senior Daniel Hockensmith, who was their No. 3 runner last fall.

“We’re a young team. We have three seniors and most of the other kids are sophomores,” Marriner said of her boys. “Our kids are very serious and committed, but it takes a while to build a program. Each year we’re earning more respect.”

Smithsburg

Lauren Johnson, the Leopards’ longtime frontrunner, finally graduated, but they still have five of their top seven from last year’s girls team that finished third in the county and qualified for 1A states.

Coach Ray Shriver said juniors Kailey Stracka and Chelsea Massie and senior Emma Zahm are the “big three.” And behind them are 15 more girls.

“It’s looking good,” Shriver said. “We had more girls put in more miles this summer than we’ve had in past years. There’s still a ways to go, but we’re improving and getting more commitment. The girls want to show they can be competitive, and there’s that fire. ... The ultimate goal is to qualify again for states.”

The Smithsburg boys return four varsity runners from last year’s team that finished fourth in the county and seventh at states in 1A, including junior Brian Garcia, who missed a state medal by two places. He was 27th.

“It’s a good group to build off of,” Shriver said. “The big goal is to qualify for states, and that’s going to be a challenge. It’s going to depend on who steps up and claims that No. 5 spot and makes it his own.”

Clear Spring

The Blazers are small in size (six boys and eight girls), but not in desire.

Their inspiration comes from Quinn Hoover, who was killed in a car accident as a senior at Clear Spring last March.

“Quinn Hoover inspired a lot of kids here, and they kept him in mind while training this summer,” coach Jaime Mason said. “They’ve returned with a sense of wanting to give their best and wanting to give it their all. I’m excited to see their hard work pay off.”

Of the eight girls, five were varsity runners on last year’s fifth-place county team, which was led by Carly Yost, who’s now a senior.

Mason said she has very high hopes for freshman Joelle Barnhart.

“She ran a ton this summer, and she’s coming in the most physically fit of everyone, boys and girls,” Mason said. “It’s too early to put any pressure or expectations on her, but it’s not too early to be excited about her.”

Sophomore Christian Smith is the lone varsity returnee from last year’s sixth-place county boys team. Mason said she expects Chase Ammons, the lone senior boy, and sophomore Glendon Mills, who also plays football, to challenge Smith for the team’s top spot.

“I’m calling it a growing year, for sure,” Mason said. “There’s a lot to be excited about, but we know that we’re small.”

Saint James

The Saints have a new coach in Kate Cerruti and four of their top seven runners back from last year’s boys team that finished sixth out of seven schools in the Mid-Atlantic Conference.

“We’re hoping to change things,” said Cerruti, who replaced Warner James. “Most of my top kids trained all summer, went to some camps and seem like they’re ready to go. We’ll see what happens, but hopefully they’ll be contenders.”

Among the returnees are junior Carl Thomas and sophomore Jake Fishkin, who were the Saints’ top two runners last year, and Adam Hamrick, the only senior.

“We have a really young team, but everybody’s healthy and looking good,” said Cerruti, who has 21 boys on her roster. “I’m feeling pretty confident with the top four or five right now. ... We have lots of natural talent. I just don’t think they’ve developed yet, but we’re working on that.”

Saint James does not have a girls team.

Hancock

Brian Mount took over for Jeff Spielman as the Panthers’ coach, and he didn’t start with much to work with — two girls and two boys.

“These kids are going to get better, that’s all I know,” Mount said. “I’m trying to train them.”

His two girls, senior Lexi Foreman and junior Sarah Mann, also are both playing soccer for Hancock this fall. His two boys are senior Liam Faith, a standout jumper in track, and freshman Dalton Trail.

Foreman nearly qualified for states individually last fall, finishing 19th at the 1A West meet.

“We’re just the little train that could,” Mount said. “We don’t have enough cars to be a scoring team, but we’ll see.”

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