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Washington County Cross Country: Class 2A gives Warriors new goal to achieve

September 05, 2013|By ANDREW MASON | andrewm@herald-mail.com
  • Washington County Preps Previews
Washington County Preps Previews

Last year, Boonsboro became the first cross country program in Washington County to win both girls and boys team titles at the Maryland state meet in the same season, accomplishing the feat in Class 1A.

Now, beginning this school year, the Warriors are in 2A.

“Last year the goal was to win states, and that’s still the goal,” Boonsboro coach Becky Walter said. “Obviously we’re in 2A and the competition is a lot better, just more depth all around. But these kids are working hard for it. They want to prove that they didn’t just win in 1A, but that they can win in 2A as well.”

While the Boonsboro girls have lost three of their top-five scorers from last year’s team to graduation, including individual state champion Sarah Zielinski, they have a pair of big-time additions to join top returnees Kortney Cunningham, a senior, and Ella Hawkins, a junior, at the front of the pack.

The newcomers are sophomore Haley Wright, who set Boonsboro’s school record for 1,600 meters (5:16.29) on the track last spring, and junior Meggan Grams, who previously was Williamsport’s top girl. Grams won 2A state silver in the 1,600 last spring and recorded the No. 2 time in county history in the event (5:09.31).

“Right now, they’re 1-2,” said Walter of Wright and Grams. “There’s a lot of competition between the girls at practice.”

Now the Warriors, the two-time defending county champions, need to see who will emerge as their No. 5 girl to complete their scoring.

“That’s where the door is wide open,” Walter said.

The Boonsboro boys have a big three in seniors Sean Snyder, Otto Solberg and Nick Zielinski. And they have plenty of depth (30 boys on their roster) to fill in the spots behind them.

“They’re looking good in practice, just a pretty good pack pushing each other every day,” Walter said. “I think our top seven will change constantly.”

Something unforeseen would have to happen for Snyder not to be their constant No. 1. Last fall, he was the 1A West region champ, the county runner-up and the bronze medalist at states.

After finishing second to Williamsport at the last four county championships, the Boonsboro boys finally seem poised to win their first county title since 1985.

Clear Spring

“If I had to sum up Clear Spring cross country in one word, it would be ‘young,’” Blazers coach Jaime Mason Lego said. “We have one senior (Brittany Yost). I think 50 percent of the team is freshmen, and we have seven girls and seven boys.

“But it’s better than where we finished last year (five girls, five boys). At small schools, you’re going to go through those high highs and valleys, and right now we’re building again. But we have hard-working freshmen that I’m excited about.”

The boys return their top three runners from last year — juniors Timmy Kofoet and Christian Smith and sophomore Wes Vermuelen — with each vying to be the No. 1 man.

“I could easily see the first three meets having three No. 1 guys,” Lego said. “They all have different strengths. It probably will depend on the course and who got more sleep the night before, the little things.”

The top returning girl is sophomore Joelle Barnhart, who finished 15th at last year’s county meet. She’s been leading the way with freshman Hannah Delaney.

“They see value in pushing one another,” Lego said.

Hancock

Dave Flowers, who coached cross country at Hancock two decades ago, is back at the helm, taking over for Brian Mount.

Flowers, who’s been an assistant track coach for the Panthers the last two years, only has a half-dozen runners to work with this fall (five boys and one girl).

Four of the five boys return from last year’s team — sophomores Aaron Cook and Dalton Trail and juniors Danny Keefer and Treavor Ellington. The newcomer is sophomore David Wood.

The lone girl, sophomore Deanna Golden, also is playing soccer.

“Expectations are just to improve every week,” Flowers said. “If the kids come out, get in shape, work hard and improve, you can’t ask for more than that. As long as they try as best they can and get something out of it, then that’s OK.”

North Hagerstown

The North girls return six of their top seven runners from last year’s team that finished third in the county, including their 1-2 punch — seniors Emily Ward and Brittany Appleby.

Ward, the two-time county runner-up to Boonsboro’s Zielinski, won 3A state gold in the 800 in indoor track last winter, before a series of illnesses slowed her outdoors in the spring.

“She’s back in the game, feeling great,” coach Lindsay Zerance said. “Her No. 1 goal this year, basically, is to stay healthy. And it’s her senior year, so she’s been working hard. She has time goals and mileage goals.”

Of the roughly 50 runners on North’s roster, a little more than half are boys, including five of their top seven from last year.

Junior Carson Izer placed eighth at last year’s county meet as North’s top guy. Zerance said junior Brendon Burkholder might challenge him for that top spot this year.

Saint James

The Saints, who only have a boys squad, return five of their top seven runners from last year’s team that finished fourth out of five at the Independent-Parochial School League championships and sixth out of seven at the Mid-Atlantic Conference meet.

Second-year coach Kate Cerruti, who has about 30 boys on her roster, is counting on improvement this season, especially in the IPSL.

Junior Jake Fishkin, the Saints’ top runner last fall, is leading the way again after a breakout spring on the track. He was the IPSL runner-up in the 3,200 in 10:22.7.

“He’s looking good, so is (senior Carl Thomas),” Cerruti said. “Hopefully both of them are going to put in some good times this season and be very competitive.

“After the top two kids, they’re running in a pack and they’re not far behind. Last year, we were just sort of checking things out, but this year I think we’ll be competitive.”

St. Maria Goretti

The Goretti boys return four of their top eight runners from last year’s team that repeated as champions at both the IPSL and Hagerstown City championships. Top returnee Patrick Jones, a senior, placed third and fourth, respectively, at those meets, before really shining in outdoor track.

“Patrick had a nice breakthrough last spring,” coach Mike Spinnler said. “He won the 3,200 at the IPSL championships in 10:09.6 and then had a great summer — 500-plus miles from June 1 to the end of August.”

Spinnler said sophomore Patrick Sacchet also logged more than 500 miles over the summer and is raring to go.

“Our primary focus team-wise is going to try to be at our best for the IPSL and city championships,” he said. “Every year is different. It’s nice to have some trophies in the trophy case, but the main goal is the development of these kids and getting them to the next level in college.”

As for the Goretti girls, who finished third in the IPSL and second in the city last year, Spinnler said, “They are going to be fun to watch. We didn’t graduate any of our top scorers.”

Seniors Keeley Scott and Anne Marie Sullivan were their top two runners last fall. But this year, they might be led by a trio of newcomers — sophomore twins Madeline and Lily Foland and freshman Taylor Blenckstone — who also play soccer.

Smithsburg

The Leopards are shooting for the stars this fall.

“I think the girls have a legitimate chance at a state title (in 1A), with Boonsboro and Mountain Ridge moving up (to 2A),” coach Ray Shriver said. “That’s the exciting part — setting a goal and trying to reach it. The girls have set a goal to win a state title, and they’re diligently working toward achieving it. The effort they’re giving is state-championship quality, that’s for sure. There’s always a surprise in 1A, and I’m hoping we’re that team this year.”

They have 37 girls on their roster, including four of their top seven from last year’s team that finished fifth in the West region and didn’t qualify for states.

Chelsea Massie, their lone individual state qualifier last year, is back for her senior season. This year she has newcomer Emma Gerhold, also a senior, to help lead the way. Gerhold, who also will play soccer this fall, is a state-champion pole vaulter and standout hurdler on the track team.

The Smithsburg boys return four of their top seven runners from last year’s team that finished ninth at states.

Senior Dan Pastwa is coming off a huge summer of training, Shriver said, and has been joined at the front of workouts by sophomore newcomer Micah Daigneault, who played football last fall. Daigneault is the younger brother of former Smithsburg and St. Maria Goretti standout Luke Daigneault.

Shriver said the goal for the boys team is a return to states.

South Hagerstown

The South boys have never finished higher than third at the county meet. But there’s reason to believe that could change this fall.

Six of the top seven runners return from last year’s third-place county team, led by seniors Hunter Hartman and Isaiah Merrill and sophomore Darren Harmen, who was the county runner-up in the 3,200 last spring.

“We certainly want to improve,” coach Tammy Marriner said. “But until you see the first couple of races, you really don’t know how you stack up.

“Keeping these guys injury-free and healthy will be the key because we won’t have depth. But they are super motivated. They really want to get back to states this year.”

Hartman is the only remaining Rebel who competed in the 3A state race two autumns ago, when the South boys qualified as a team for the first time in ages. And Marriner said Hartman is determined to help lead the team back to states.

“He put in major mileage over the summer,” she said.

The girls team also seems primed for a breakout season. The Rebels have 22 girls on their roster, including their top 10 from last year, led by junior Sage Brewer and sophomore newcomer Jessica Miller. Five of the girls also will play soccer this fall.

The South girls never have had a top-three finish at the county meet. They finished fifth last year.

Their No. 1 goal, though, is to qualify for states as a team for the first time.

“It all depends on how regional playoffs for soccer fall,” Marriner said. “All those soccer girls are very good runners. But we should have all those girls for the county meet.”

Williamsport

Although the Williamsport boys begin the season as the five-time defending county champs, six of their top seven runners from last year have graduated.

Their only remaining varsity runner from last fall is senior Clayton Smith, who finished ninth at the county meet as the Wildcats’ sixth man. He and sophomore Brandon Racine are now ready to lead the team.

Williamsport also has a new coach as Matt Shriver has taken over for Randy Buchman.

“I’m pretty excited,” Shriver said. “I have about 50 people on the team — about 25 boys and 25 girls — so that really tells me they’re serious about running in Williamsport.

“We lost a lot of talent, especially on the guys’ side, but we have a lot of young runners and hopefully we can rebuild. We’ll see where they are at the end of the season. I think we could be pretty good, but it’s hard to tell at this point.”

The Williamsport girls have five of their top seven runners back from last year’s county runner-up team, led by sophomore Morgan Tosten and senior Kimberly Cunningham, who were 13th and 14th at counties.

“It’s really nice to get some of that core group back,” Shriver said. “They know what to do and what to expect. They know the tradition at Williamsport.”

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