The Peter Geraghty Invitational at Mount St. Mary’s opens up the season for many schools in Maryland, DC, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and even a school from New Jersey and a school from Illinois. There are many unknowns heading into the first meet, but it is safe to say that the Gonzaga boys will be a dominating force and should have no problem repeating their victory from last year at this same meet. The girls varsity race will be loaded with stud runners aiming for the individual crown, while the team battle may be up for grabs among a few strong teams.
Individually, the boys race should come down to Gonzaga’s Billy Ledder and conference rival Cory Puffett. Puffett defeated Ledder at the WCAC cross country championships last year and ran 9:19 for two miles last spring, but when it came to facing off with Ledder on the track, Puffett pulled his hamstring and ended his season on his back in pain. Ledder in the mean time won the 800, 1600, 3200 and 4x800 at the WCAC championship and made it look easy. He went on to place fourth at nationals in the 800 in 1:51.44. Ledder also won the indoor national 800 meter title, has a mile PR of 4:14.95, and 3200 best of 9:34.72. If both are healthy and ready to go on Saturday, they will wait no longer for a rematch over 5000 meters.
Stay on your feet, Billy! – Last year in a torrential downpour at Mount St. Mary’s, Ledder slipped and fell and lost the race to DeMatha’s Robert Patterson as a result. He also fell at the WCAC Championship where he lost the title to Puffett. Let’s have a good clean race with no falls this time.
Loyola’s Matt Jablonski will be looking to stick with the top two if he shows up. The MIAA star during track season historically only runs a few cross country races each year since it is not his primary sport. Nevertheless, he ran times of 4:18 and 9:47 as a sophomore last spring.
While Ledder is the star at Gonzaga, any of their other runners could be stars for other teams. On paper, they may very well put six runners into the top 15 in this race. Just taking a look at their top weapons from last year, they have Ledder, Collin Leibold (9:50 16:08 as a sophomore), Will Fleury (4:30 9:56), Mike Crozier (4:45 and 10:06.76 as a freshman), Ben Zeiss (4:30), and Connor Ryan (4:45 10:11).
It’s not a question of whether Gonzaga will win or not, it’s a question of who else can break them up. Conference rival Good Counsel will see how they measure up. While Good Counsel doesn’t have the depth of Gonzaga, Jack Riely and Kyle Graves will be looking to break them up with top ten spots.
Red Lion High School has a senior named Ed Holland who has run a 4:26 1600.
Gilman school has Will Meadows who ran 10:11 as a freshman last year.
Delone Catholic has Chris Sauvageau who ran 10:10 and 4:33 as a sophomore last year.
Montgomery County runners seeking out a top ten spot will be Chris Miller and Bobby Sonken of Northwest, Jatin Narang of Clarksburg, Conor Spaulding of Quince Orchard, and Shane and Brendan Stepek of Gaithersburg.
The girls championship team is a little bit tougher to nail down. Northwest enters the season voted the top team in Montgomery County by fans on mocorunning.com. The Century girls are the early preseason pick by runningmaryland.com to win the 2A state title. Anyone would agree that the Bishop O’Connell girls are the favorite to win the WCAC title this year.
Bishop O’Connell has already raced one time at the Great Meadow Invitational. Glancing at the results, it’s about what you would expect after they graduated several key runners from last year’s team, but looking deeper, two of their three fastest runners were in the freshman/sophomore junior varsity race. O’Connell reloaded again! With seven girls already under 22 minutes in the first race of the season, I give them the edge to repeat their title from last year at this meet, but it won’t be a blowout.
Northwest is probably a little bit stronger than O’Connell up front with Britt Eckerstrom and Alyssa Henshaw, but by nature of this being the first race, it would be impressive if all of their top seven are already ready to dominate. With that said, they have experience and they may not need a warm up meet to get their racing legs under them.
Century has a great top three with Maura Linde, Allie Dearie, and Kristen McGovern. Combine that with any new or improved runners and they could easily grab the title. We won’t know how deep they are until we see them.
The individual battle should be great fun to watch. Abby Spitler of Gaithersburg pulled off the win here in the hurricane last year and she is looking sharp again this preseason. Equally as strong should be the aforementioned Eckerstrom, Henshaw, and Linde. Linde is a former state champ at 1600 and 3200 meters and can’t be beaten when she is at her best. Hilary Lee of South River, who ran 5:15 and 11:31 last year, lost two of her strongest teammates to graduation, but should contend for the individual title here.
Perhaps leading all runners will be the two ladies from the IAAM Elizabeth Tauber of John Carroll and Madeline Dulac of McDonogh. Tauber was the IAAM and DC/MD Private Schools Cross Country Champion from a year ago. Dulac dominated the track winning IAAM titles in the 1600 and 3200 with times of 5:15 and 11:16.
Other girls from Montgomery County who should be in contention include Sarah Sekscienski, Christine DiNardo, and Kai Santangelo of Northwest, Stephanie Joson of Quince Orchard, and Katie Koenig of Good Counsel.