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4A West Girls Preview
By: Kevin Milsted

Rematch anyone?

The top 24 individual finishers and top 10 teams at the Montgomery County Championship are in the 4A west. So will the 4A West meet be a repeat of the county championship? Not a chance. Sixteen of the top thirty girls at the county championship were from the top 4 teams. While Northwest had a cushion of 23 points over 2nd place Quince Orchard, only 6 points separated QO, Richard Montgomery, and Churchill. Only 1:06 separated 11th place from 30th place. Expect all of these ladies to fight and claw for every single point and expect to see some serious shuffling in the 10th-30th places.

Northwest started the season very slow. Not only were they suffering from the loss of key seniors from the 2005 season, their top athletes were losing to people that they had always beaten before. As the season progressed, juniors Emma Eckerstrom, Kathy Aherne, and Becca Stinner began to dominate their competition, but their depth was still lacking, as was apparent by their loss to Churchill at the Paul Short Invitational and their third place finish at the Lancer Invitational despite having 3 runners in the top 5. Things began to click for Northwest at the Glory Days Grill Invitational where freshman Alyssa Henshaw stepped into the #4 spot, narrowing the gap. By the time the Montgomery County Championship rolled around, Teresa Ingraham's 38th place finish made her the third strongest #5 in the county, allowing Northwest to easily win the title. Expect Northwest to continue to improve right up to the state championship. In a small regional race with 11 teams, a lack of depth does not hurt as much. Northwest's top 3 make them almost unbeatable.

Cara Harrison has had a phenomenal season and has as good of a chance as anyone to win this race. It is up to the remainder of their varsity squad as to whether they can upset Northwest or if they will fall behind the other teams that are right on their heels. Their #2 Aimee Moores has the potential to improve on her 13th place finish at the county championship and will need to stay ahead of the RM and Churchill girls to keep her team in it. The key to Quince Orchard's second place finish at counties was Vi Duncan whose 16th place finish was above expectations, and freshman Stephanie Joson, who is one of the fastest improving athlete in the county. Like Northwest, the QO girls should also continue their trend of improvement and place very well at this meet.

The Richard Montgomery girls have the best pack of all the MCPS teams. Exactly 1 minute separated their top 5 at counties, and 36 seconds separated their top 4. That pack has shown that they can win in small meets (taking down QO and Whitman in a dual meet) and in large races (winning the Large race at the Bull Run Invitational). Sarah Britton, one of the better track runners in the county, has emerged as their #1 runner in the later races this season. Not far behind are Luyang Liu, Alana Moore, and Monica Delizo. While Delizo is the consistent one, Liu and Moore are particularly dangerous. Liu has shown in track and in several races this season that she can beat top athletes in the county. It was this race last year on this same course where Alana Moore broke out, placing 12th and later placing 15th at states (6th moco finisher) as a freshman. Eva Rodezno was the top finishing #5 at the county championship. Falling to QO by 3 points at the county championship, they will be looking to strike back and get some momentum going into states.

Churchill looked like the sharpest team at the beginning of the season. Louise Hannallah aggressively ran against and beat many of the best athletes in the state. Masha Berge and Erin McManus also began the season very well, forming a strong top three that could compete with any team they went up against. With a seemingly endless supply of freshmen and sophomores to plug into their varsity roster, Churchill looked to have the best combination of strength and depth in the county. Maryam Fikri emerged as the best of those freshmen and in fact looked to be one of the best athletes in the county after a 19:48 38th place finish at Paul Short. Maryana Heilman has established herself as a helpful varsity runner. Not much has changed from the beginning of the season. After a few off-races by Berge and McManus, the other teams seem to have passed them up, but not by much. Only 6 points behind 2nd place QO and with the most potential to improve (in my opinion), they could pass a few teams on their road to states.

Not to be harsh, but the Walter Johnson girls have been a very inconsistent team this year. Senior Stephanie Alberico missed several meets and was not always running up to her full potential. Jennie Wyderko also missed a few races. Elizabeth Howcroft did not begin the season running like she did at the end of last year. The wildcats depended heavily on freshman Jennifer Spencer to lead their team all season. Despite all of this, things came together for them at counties. Any pressure felt by Jennifer Spencer did not affect her as she took a top 10 spot in the county. Alberico had a killer race at Manhattan and again performed very well at counties. Howcroft and Pamela Moriarty are both running like they should and sophomore Bierna Garcia-Reige has come out of nowhere to greatly improve their top 5. The WJ girls finished a surprising 5th in the county without Wyderko. Things are clicking at the right time for these girls. Watch for them to run very hard at regionals to hang onto a top 6 spot.

How about that Morgane Gay? All eyes will be on her as she tries to prove that her victory at the county championship was no fluke. The individual battle among the front-runners will be exciting, but will not have a heavy impact on the team scores. The burden does not entirely fall on Debbie Isen, either. Isen has been very consistent all season and another performance around 12th place puts Whitman in good position to earn a ticket to the state championship. The Vikings will need better performances out of their 3rd, 4th, and 5th runners to fight off Magruder and others. If they again finish in the 30's or 40's, they are walking on thin ice, but if one or two of them can move into the 20's, they should have no problem qualifying for states.

Although Magruder finished 7th at the county championship, their performance as a team was actually impressive. Without their top runner Laura McCary, everyone on the team stepped up. Courtney Whalen has had a good season in the shadow of McCary and lead the team with a 22nd place finish at counties. Freshman Samantha Fritts also earned a top 30 finish and Camille Graham went from running 25's in the beginning of the seasons to nearly breaking 21:00 with her 35th place finish at counties. Svati Narula was only a step behind Graham. If McCary runs at regionals, Magruder's score should drop at least 50 points from their county score, putting them right in the mix with the top 6 teams.

Blair has been led by the Sinclair sisters for four seasons now. Individually, the sisters have had very accomplished high school careers. Halsey in particular has been running very well this season. Not many people in the state had beaten her leading up to the county championship. Despite a 4th place finish at counties, she could beat any athlete in the county on the right day. All-American Ashlyn has yet to beat her sister this season and is probably counting down the days until track season. She has had a great season even still and placed third at this particular meet last year, so maybe this will be her break out race. Johanna Gretschel and Anna Coughlan have been as good of support as any other team has, but they lack a competitive 5th runner. Their lack of a #5 will not hurt as much in the smaller regional race but qualifying for states as a team is a long shot.

Although Damascus's 9th place finish at counties was not a big surprise, their season as a whole has been a bit surprising. The hornets appeared to have very little talent prior to the first race of the season. Even after Taylor Colbert's victory and a team 2nd place finish in their first race, the Spiked Shoe Invitational, they received little attention due to the fact that aside from Colbert, their pack was all running in the 23's. Quietly they won their division with a 5-0 record. Each runner continued to drop time until they had a respectable team. While they may or may not qualify for states, they will continue to improve and should be a team to watch for next season.

Wootton has a very different team this year after losing several seniors. Veronica Salcido is having a good season, with notable performances being 2nd place at Bull Run and 11th place at the county championship. She is the defending 4A West individual champion and will be looking to get back into the lead pack in the race where she had so much success last year. Returning runner Iona Machado is also having a good, consistent season and Karen Gaske has been running well recently.

Gaithersburg fell to a disappointing 13th at the county championship behind Sherwood and B-CC. Freshman Abby Spitler has led the way for the Trojans all season, but was unable to complete the race at the county championship. Tara Weiss has had a good senior season with third place finishes at Boonsboro and Glory Days, a 7th place finish at Bull Run, and a 15th place finish at counties. Madeline Montgomery, Lauren Rose and Jane Klinger will back up the strong 1-2 of Spitler and Weiss. With Spitler finishing the regional race, watch for Gaithersburg's score to drop as much as 100 points, but qualifying as a team for states is a long shot.

Watkins Mill has had another down year and has failed to field a full team this season.


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