The Quince Orchard boys have had a dream season. They have not lost to any team in the country after winning 4 major out-of-state invitationals, the Montgomery County Championship Meet and 4 dual meet match-ups in MCPS Division I. For most of the season, this team has been ranked #1 in Maryland by runningmaryland.com and ranked in the top 10 in the Southeast region by Dyestat.com. The Cougars were led for most of the season by a new addition to the team, Neal Darmody, who recently finished 5th in the county championship. David Laratta and Greg Bove have had excellent seasons, always finishing in the top 5 on their team. As the deepest team in the county, QO often had the luxury of plugging in a number of athletes when another was unable to perform. Reagan Lynch, Artem Panasenkov, Josh Joson, Mike Migdall, Alex Rosenberg, and Ryan Priovolos have all contributed to the undefeated varsity squad. The top 7 that we will see on Thursday is yet to be declared, but expect QO to put on a show as they defend their 4A West title from last season.
The Whitman boys had potential in the preseason, but with only two returning athletes from the top forty at the 2005 county championship, not many people expected to see this team place 2nd at counties. Freshman Andrew Palmer turned some heads in the first race of the season, placing 10th at the Peter Geraghty Invitational in 17:19, just 9 seconds behind teammate Sam Epstein. The freshman continued to drop his time all season until he reached 16:27, earning 9th place at the county championship. Whitman turned some heads as a team at the Brentsville Relays led by senior William Palmer, who split 7:46 for 2.5km. William recently finish 4th at the Montgomery County Championship and is the top returning individual from last year's 4A West Regional on this same course. He will have difficulty fending off the undefeated Chris Moen from WJ. Sam Epstein has been a strong, consistent runner all season, and freshman Brandt Silver-Korn, though maybe not on the level of the younger Palmer, came up big for the Vikings at the county championship placing 24th in 17:12. Dan Miller also came up big, placing 28th at the county championship. Justin Krumm and Dan Nowakowski have also spent time in the top five this season, but perhaps Jon Yarchoan could crack the top five on this day. With 3 athletes ahead of QO's #2 runner and rapidly improving freshmen, Whitman poses the biggest threat to QO.
The Gaithersburg boys have put together a fine team out of some relatively unknown athletes. Quietly, they put together an undefeated season leading up until the county championship. Few noticed when they won the Frank Keyser Invitational and when they won their first several dual meets, but they woke some people up when they won the elite race at the Bull Run Invitational. Although they have no superstars, they have gained a reputation of having the tightest pack in the state with sometimes only 20 seconds separating their top 6. That killer pack is most often lead by Sam Boimov with Mickey Stepek not far behind. Paul Riggio, who was a member of their successful 4x800 last track season, has been a huge factor in their success this year. Sophomore Vikas Bhatia, whose first race as a freshman was at last year's state championship, has had a great first full season as a valuable member of the tightest pack around. Mike Limongelli and Luke Reding, whose injuries nearly kept Gaithersburg out of the state championship last season, will help the Trojans easily qualify for states.
The Walter Johnson boys, aside from undefeated Chris Moen, have been very inconsistent this year. Sophomore Roni Teich, who was one of the top freshmen in the county last year, has had a good season as a consistent member of their top 5, but everyone else is bouncing all over. Expected members of their varsity squad Rafi Moersen, Brian Graves, and Anthony Popiel have not lived up to expectations, although they did experience some injuries. Jared Schneider, who often shows signs of being one of the top athletes around, has done nothing to shed his reputation as the most inconsistent runner around. But like the WJ girls, they somehow pulled together for a nice 5th place finish at the county championship. Senior Bryson Harris came up with a strong 51st place finish and Tyler Boatright closed out their top 5 in 56th. If these guys run well at regionals, they have the potential to individually move ahead of people who beat them at counties. Schneider finished 8th at this meet last year so perhaps he is due for a "breakout" race. Moen finished 4th behind Will Palmer last year and all eyes will be on him to see if he can remain undefeated against county competition heading into the state championship.
Like the Gaithersburg boys, the Richard Montgomery boys grabbed some attention on the state level by winning the Large section at the Bull Run Invitational. They again made a statement by crushing their competition at the Meade Autumn Classic. Senior Brian Sickles has had a great final season, with his most notable performance being a 16th place finish at the county championship. Ben Hoyt began the season as perhaps the #1 on the team but has since cooled off and joined the rest of the RM pack a ways behind Sickles. Nathan Terhaar, Travis Kroeker, and Tom Hoyt close out a pack that should be good enough for a ticket to the state championship or even pass up WJ for 4th.
Northwest is the 6th top finishing 4A West school from the Montgomery County Championship. Northwest has fought and clawed their way into contention and now find themselves on the edge of qualifying for the state championship, but no one needs to remind them of what happened last year. After losing three seniors to graduation, the NW boys were hurting at the beginning of the season. Senior David D'Alessio has lead the team consistently for most of the season while the others have improved to a competitive level. With the breakthrough race of John DiNardo at the county championship and the emergence of John Ingraham onto their varsity squad, this unlikely squad seems to have just enough to succeed where last year's team failed.
Damascus has a #1 runner in Wil Zahorodny that many teams would love to have. Damascus, however, lacks the supporting cast that is needed to be truly competitive within Montgomery County. They easily rolled over their competition in divisional match-ups, but never went up against other county teams in big meets. Mike Yanus, Bryan Baude, Greg Domico and Jon Constantinides help to round out a top 5 that have potential break up the RM and NW teams, but will really have to focus if they want to qualify for the state championship.
The biggest blow to Montgomery County competition this season was the loss of Magruder's Alec Triantos to injuries. In the 2005 4A West meet, Triantos placed 5th, just three seconds behind WJ's Chris Moen. As a team, Magruder has felt the loss of their front-runner, but individually, the Colonels have to consider their season a success. On a team that keeps growin in size, Emilio Galis has taken on the lead roll and improved on his times from last season. Ian Chasler has had several good races this season including a 16:38 10th place finish at the Harford Invitational, finishing among some of the top dogs on the state level. Daniel Miller, Nicolas Escobar, and Rodrigo Tranamil form a nice supporting cast. All but Miller will return next year.
Churchill is a good team…not a great team, but a good team. When they compete in other areas of the state, they always do well. Only in Montgomery County would they place 11th at the county championship meet. Robby Linnoila and Sean King have formed a nice top 2 all season long. The rest of the varisty squad has shuffled around with some familiar faces in Evan Whetsell, Jamie Hard and Ben Simon and some new faces in Harvey Schwartz and Steven Hwang. These guys did take down Northwest at the Paul Short Invitational and Magruder in a dual meet so there is certainly potential for upset from these guys.
The bright spot of the season for the Wootton boys has been some nice performances out of their top runner Chris Boyd. Boyd performed well in some small early season meets. After suffering an injury, he bounced back to finish in 16:52 at Glory Days and 25th at the county championship. One can only assume that he will continue to grow stronger and give it all he's got to qualify individually for states in his final season. Kenneth Siu has also put up some nice times this season and will be someone to watch for during the upcoming track season.
Blair has struggled this season without their former top runner Josh Uzzell who finished 10th at last year's 4a West meet. Emanuel Waktola has done everything in his power to lead his team this season. After a 17:23, 34th place finish at the county championship, a huge race could possibly qualify him individually for the state championship.
Watkins Mill overall has not had a horrible season. In fact, with a 5-1 record in Division III dual meets, that can't be considered too bad at all. WM's top runner Michael Gardner placed 14th at last year's 4A West meet, qualifying individually for the state championship. He finished 54th at the county championship so perhaps it was a bad day and he's saving it for his home course. Adam and David Gaynor should also mix it up with the other teams and it would not be surprising to see Watkins Mill dig themselves out of last place on their home course.