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4A Boys State Preview
By: Kevin Milsted
Photos by Mike McCary

After this Saturday, another Cross Country season will be complete. The 2007 season consisted of so many surprises that I won't even try to list them all. There has been one constant through it all, and that is the Quince Orchard boys team ranked #1 in the state from August through November. The 7 seniors sought out the toughest competition they could find all season long and remain the team to beat heading into the final showdown. QO's #1 runner Neal Darmody has risen to a truly elite level and should be untouchable in the 4A. Three strong young teams from the 4A West have not come close to dethroning the cougars all year and probably will not have enough to make it happen this week. Those four teams should be joined in the top 5 by C. Milton Wright, who has had a strong team all year long. Expect as many as 4 teams from the 4A East to break into the top ten, pushing back the likes of Magruder and Churchill. Walter Johnson is the big wildcard here. WJ has one of the most talented rosters in the state but has not had the performances to back it up lately. Of course everyone knows that anything can and will happen at Hereford, so for those who are going, throw out all the rankings and enjoy the experience. Continue reading to learn about the Montgomery County boys teams and individuals who qualified to run at the 4A State Championship.

4A Boys

Quince Orchard Boys:
Neal Darmody, David Laratta, Artem Panasenkov, Josh Joson, Mike Migdall, Ryan Privolos, Kris Lasko
Montgomery County Finish: 1st
4A West Finish: 1st
4A State Prediction: 1st

Laratta (left), Darmody (right)
Only the Quince Orchard boys know the pressure of defending a state title and defending a regional ranking all season long, but they have come up relatively unscathed so far. Despite a few bumps in the road against other highly ranked teams from PA and VA, Quince Orchard is undefeated against Maryland teams. After wins at the Montgomery County Championship and the 4A West Regional meet, they look to be the top team heading to Hereford on Saturday. Call it maturity or experience, but for the first time in years, they appear to have a consistent and definitive order of finish. Neal Darmody is the unquestioned #1 on the team and will be the favorite to win the individual title. Laratta has also been of paramount importance, finishing in the top 5 in several major meets. The QO boys return 4 of the 5 runners who placed in the top 20 in the state last year and should put 5 in the top 20 once again to repeat their state title.

Northwest Boys:
Chris Miller, John DiNardo, Nick Gummo, Managi Biggers, John Ingraham, Bobby Sonken, Olivier Poulain
Montgomery County Finish: 4th
4A West Finish: 2nd
4A State Prediction: 2nd

This relatively young team has been very inconsistent this season, but that's not a bad thing in their case! Each of their top five have taken turns leading the team throughout the season with the freshman Chris Miller stepping up to lead the team in the last two championship races. What order they will finish in is anyone's guess, especially with Miller having never raced the state course, but you can expect to see them jump as many as 10 places from last year's 12th place finish. Coach Muehl has told them to be patient and focus on the 2nd mile and hopefully these guys will establish themselves as the team to beat in 2008.
Chris Miller

Whitman Boys:
Andrew Palmer, Brandt Silver-Korn, Dan Miller, Dan Nowakowski, Drew Katz, Justin Krumm, Nathan Lowry
Montgomery County Finish: 3rd
4A West Finish: 3rd
4A State Prediction: 4th

Andrew Palmer
Whitman is led by the two sophomores, Palmer and Silver-Korn, who both have shots at earning all-state medals. If anyone has a shot at taking down Darmody, it's Palmer who has finished runner up to him in the last two races. Says Palmer, "The team is really coming together at the right time. Everything has been going well and we're all ready to go out and give it our all for the last 3 miles of the season." Watch for Whitman to finish 4th for the 4th year in a row.

Gaithersburg Boys:
Antonio Palmer, Vikas Bhatia, Mike Limongelli, Sahil Rahman, Brendan Stepek, Luke Reding, Ian McIntyre
Montgomery County Finish: 5th
4A West Finish: 4th
4A State Prediction: 3rd

Gaithersburg has had a good season with a divisional title to their credit, but they have not all brought their best performances in the past two races. Expect them all to step up with Coach Tolbert's advice to, "have a good attitude all week and understand that you have an opportunity to do something that you can cherish for the remainder of your life." Leading their team all season has been Antonio Palmer, the track runner who tried out cross country for the first time this year. Palmer will run with the leaders in any race. Junior Vikas Bhatia will be competing in his 3rd state meet and pushing for all-state honors.
Antonio Palmer

Magruder Boys:
Nicolas Escobar, Chris Gregorski, Emilio Galis, Mark Mechak, Colin Sommers, Rodrigo Tranamil, Joey Schaeffer
Montgomery County Finish: 9th
4A West Finish: 5th
4A State Prediction: 11th

Gregorski (left), Escobar (right)
Magruder has come a long way since missing the state meet last year. Even from the beginning of this season, the team has made great strides to place 5th at the 4A West Region meet. Chris Gregorski was certainly the surprise runner of the meet by placing 11th, and lead runner Nicolas Escobar has been on fire. They are the only team qualifying out of the 4A West who ran at the Bull Run Invitational and they feel that gives them an edge. Coach Timm says that you must prepare your body for a course like Hereford by doing challenging workouts that simulate the course all season long.

Churchill Boys:
Sean King, Mark Hannallah, William Draffin, Matt Bernstein, Sei Masouka, Harvey Schwartz, Ryan Shorer
Montgomery County Finish: 10th
4A West Finish: 6th
4A State Prediction: 12th

The Churchill boys have been on a mission all season to return to the state meet after missing the past two years. A tight group comprised mostly of juniors and no seniors accomplished that mission with a 6th place finish at the 4A West Region Meet. The coaching staff preaches operating on the same page in all aspects of the sport, which they have shown by squeezing their 2nd through 5th runners into a tight pack all season long while Sean King leads the way at the #1 spot. A top ten finish at the state meet is within reach for this team that returns everyone next year.
Sean King

Walter Johnson Boys:
Chris Moen, Brian Graves, Roni Teich, Sean O'Leary, Ishan Dey, Tyler Boatright, Phil Shriver
Montgomery County Finish: 6th
4A West Finish: 7th
4A State Prediction: 8th

Chris Moen
The Walter Johnson boys ran part of the season like a highly talented group with a good shot of being the 2nd best team in the state. At other times this season, they ran like they wanted the season to end weeks ago. Coach Dunston, who has maintained a long tradition of excellence in Maryland, was not thrilled to see his team barely slip into the state meet and hopes they can rebound on Saturday. He has asked his runners to stop analyzing and thinking so much and just run hard and have fun like they do in practice. Moen and Graves will try to return to the form they were in earlier in the season and make a push for all-state honors.

Russell Speiden
Russell Speiden, Kyle Balderson, Sherwood

It will be strange not seeing a full Sherwood team at the state championship after appearing in the top 2 in 3 of the last 4 state meets including a state title, but nonetheless, this was not their year and it is no surprise seeing their top two runners make it individually. Speiden and Balderson have swapped the lead role all season and who will come out on top at the state meet is anyone's guess. Expect both runners to make a push for all-state honors on Saturday.

Sharif Kronemer, Springbrook

Kronemer qualified for the state meet in the 4A North last year and was a bit worrited about qualifying in the 4A West this year. He accomplished his goal by getting out fast and hanging on. He hopes to do the same at the state meet where he will try to improve on last year's time and place.

Sharif Kronemer

Siu (left), Pandya (right)
Rutvij Pandya, Blair

Pandya is the first Blair boy to qualify for the state meet since the team qualified in 2001. After a strong sophomore season on the track, this first year cross country runner has led his team all season.

Kenny Siu, Wootton

Siu just missed qualifying individually last year, but put in a solid summer of work to make the cut this year. Earlier this year, he ran 18:02 at the Bull Run Invitational with an untied shoe, so this time around he hopes to go under 18 with a fast start and an all-out last mile.


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