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

The 4A girls race is shaping up to be the best race at the state championship on Saturday. Leading the way will be several Montgomery County girls and Montgomery County teams, but they will be up against many others from all around the state who will be looking to steal the glory for themselves. Churchill, Whitman, Northwest, Wootton, Dulaney, C. Milton Wright, Leonardtown, and Severna Park will all be going after the defending champs Eleanor Roosevelt in what should be the tightest and deepest field of young ladies assembled at a Maryland state meet...perhaps...ever! Only Churchill and Roosevelt are undefeated against all other Maryland teams this year, throwing out Roosevelt's forfeited finish over Churchill at Maymont. These two teams look to be neck and neck with at least 3 runners under 20:00 in every major race this year, but all the other previously mentioned teams will be nipping at their heels.

Individually, this race looks to be just as close. Morgane Gay of Whitman appeared to be invincible against local competition up until the freshman from Northwest, Britt Eckerstrom, took her down on a hilly 4A West Regional course. Will it be between those two again, or will it go to Dominique Lockhart of Eleanor Roosevelt, a star since she was a freshman who missed the state meet last year. Lockhart is the only runner undefeated against all other Maryland runners this year, with victories over Louise Hannallah and Kristen Malloy so far. Whoever the winner is will surely put on an incredible performance, and perhaps fans will even see a very rare sprint finish for the win.

If you can't get excited for this race, then you are visiting the wrong website. I wrote this preview last because I wanted to save the best for last. I'll see everyone bright and early Saturday morning. Best of luck to everyone!

4A Girls

Churchill Girls: Louise Hannallah, Erin McManus, Alex Geidd, Maryam Fikri, Owoade Ayorinde, Sophie Jacobson, Maryana Heilman
Montgomery County Finish: 1st
4A West Finish: 1st
4A State Prediction: 1st

Louise Hannallah
The Churchill girls have run like champions all season long and finally their moment has come to shine on the grandest stage in Maryland. While they are aware of their competition, they try not to worry about other teams and simply run for one another. The strategy has worked so well that they earned themselves an NTN regional ranking and the #1 ranking in Maryland.

According to Hannallah, the team recently ran a workout at Hereford. For the first time of the season, everyone was silent. Each runner reflected on the looming race that would be the culmination of everything they trained for for nearly six months. This has the makings of one of the most hotly contested team battles in years, and each girl knows it will take a complete team effort to walk away with the title. They also know their training is complete. The hardest part is over. All that is left to do is go out and give it 110% for each other.

Whitman Girls: Morgane Gay, Debbie Isen, Liza Schlach, Shayna Barbash, Melanie Stern, Andi Sunshine, Sarah Shannahan
Montgomery County Finish: 2nd
4A West Finish: 2nd
4A State Prediction: 5th

Morgane Gay is the star of this team, but you can't try to make Whitman out to be a one-girl team. The team that Whitman has put together this year has been remarkable. After their first 5k race where they fell to Northwest, the only team in the state they have lost to has been Churchill. That stretch includes 3 victories over Northwest. The kicker is that this is a team that did not qualify for the state meet last year and now appears to be a good bet for top 5 in the state. Gay says that their ultimate goal was to qualify for the state meet, but lets not sell them short. Gay will be shooting for the individual title with fierce competition from Dominique Lockhart among others, while Debbie Isen will try to improve on last year's 12th place finish.
Morgane Gay

Northwest Girls: Britt Eckerstrom, Kathy Aherne, Becca Stinner, Sarah Sekscienski, Kate Allaway, Hillary Siegall, Emma Eckerstrom
Montgomery County Finish: 3rd
4A West Finish: 3rd
4A State Prediction: 6th

Britt Eckerstrom
It has been a rough season for the injury-plagued Northwest girls. Considering all that they have been through this year, it is amazing that they still look pretty good for a top 5 spot at the state championship meet. Most teams would be happy to land a freshman like Sarah Sekscienski, but Northwest landed the jackpot of all freshmen with Britt Eckerstrom. Eckerstrom's improvement throughout the course of the season has been remarkable. It is almost as if she keeps a list of everyone who has beaten her and crosses names off the list one by one in subsequent races. Most recently, she shocked the region by upsetting Morgane Gay, leaving everyone to wonder just how good she can get. Expect the team to be rejoined by Emma Eckerstrom for one final heroic run at Hereford.

Wootton Girls: Jessie Rubin, Veronica Salcido, Iona Machado, Kerry Nisson, Amy Levine, Brianna Rotello, Abby Pellar
Montgomery County Finish: 4th
4A West Finish: 4th
4A State Prediction: 9th

Wootton might be considered the most improved 4A team in the state after finishing dead last in the 4A West last year and improving to a strong 4th place team at this year's regional meet. They got some good practice at Hereford earlier this year with a 2nd place performance behind C. Milton Wright at the Bull Run Invitational Large Race. They found pure gold in sophomore Jessie Rubin, who followed Salcido all year before jumping out in front and racing with Hannallah and Eckerstrom at counties. Iona Machado has been a different runner this year and Kerry Nisson is among the best #4 runners in the state. A team as strong as they are will not be content just qualifying for the state meet. Expect them to establish their presence early and shoot for as close to a top 5 spot as they can get.
Jessie Rubin

Richard Montgomery Girls: Luyang Liu, Alana Moore, Sarah Britton, Julia Mertz, Amanda Pinzon, Fatima Resendez, Eva Rodezno,
Montgomery County Finish: 6th
4A West Finish: 5th
4A State Prediction: 13th

Luyang Liu
Richard Montgomery has been pretty consistent this year with a strong front three and a number of girls who could fill out the top 5 with quality performances. Luyang Liu and Sarah Britton have done a good job leading the team this year while Alana Moore has been coming on strong lately as she always seems to do. It may be Julia Mertz that fans should watch out for as she inches closer to the front three. Coach Spear says that there is no pressure on his girls. He hopes some of them run more aggressively and don't sit back and let the race get away from them.

Quince Orchard Girls: Aimee Moores, Stephanie Joson, Dawn Rainbolt, Melissa Goleb, Laura Gomez, Victoria Rainbolt, Jacelyn Lee
Montgomery County Finish: 5th
4A West Finish: 6th
4A State Prediction: 14th

The Quince Orchard girls have placed in the top 5 in the state in each of the last 12 years, but they picked a bad year to head to the state championship limping. Injury and sickness set in on this team that was already "rebuilding" by their standards. A lack of depth made the midseason loss of Kelsey Dorset devastating for the cougars, but the remaining girls will do the best they can to push for a top 10 spot, despite the incredibly strong field they will be up against. Aimee Moores and Stephanie Joson have been counted on all season to lead the team and should each make pushes for all-state honors.
Aimee Moores

Sherwood Girls: Meghan Dunn, Teresa Cronin, Alexa Becker, Grace Corbett, Abby Iacangelo, Lindsay Blank, Stephanie Wight,
Montgomery County Finish: 13th
4A West Finish: 7th
4A State Prediction: 16th

Meghan Dunn
With the smallest 1-5 spread in the 4A West region, the Sherwood girls barely squeaked into the state championship meet, a big surprise after finishing as the 11th 4A team in the Montgomery County Championship meet just two weeks earlier. These girls have evolved from a pack in the 24's, to a pack in the 23's, to a pack in the 22's in a matter of two months. Having tied Gaithersburg in points for the final spot to states, but beating them at every spot except for first, these girls proved they deserve to be at the state meet and would improve on last year's 16th place finish if the rest of the field wasn't so strong.

Abby Spitler, Gaithersburg

The sophomore gave it everything she had to help her team get to states. They missed by a tie-breaker. So for the second year in a row, Spitler heads to the state championship without her team, ready to improve greatly on her 26th place finish from last year. Spitler has had a great season which includes a breakout sub-19:00 victory at Glory Days and a 6th place finish at the county championship.

Abby Spitler

Gretschel (left), Whalen (right)
Courtney Whalen, Magruder

Magruder came up short this year, but Whalen was not leaving her trip to states as a gamble. After a slow start to the season, she slowly got in shape and had her best race of the season at regionals with a 13th place performance. It's a good sign as she heads to her final state cross country meet.

Johanna Gretschel, Blair

Gretschel followed up a breakout year on the track with a breakout year in cross country. She has run at the Bull Run Invitational three times but has never run at the state meet. She is excited to run and says that she is going to try not to get caught up in the excitement in he first mile and pick it up in the second half just as she did at regionals.

Anna Bosse, Walter Johnson

Walter Johnson's Anna Bosse has led her team since the first meet of the season. Unfortunately, the team did not qualify this year, but this freshman will head to the state championship for what should be the first of many trips to Hereford.

Anna Bosse


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