The girls 4A race had only just begun when officials heard thunder in the distance and decided to halt the race. Britt Eckerstrom of Northwest already had a large lead of about 30 meters after running the first 1/3 mile of the course. Officials directed runners off the course and indoors for their safety.
The rain and wind picked up for about ten minutes while the athletes waited. The rain was brief and officials decided to resume competition after thirty minutes. A light breeze and lowered temperatures remained after the brief storm. The 4A girls were rescheduled to run last while the 3A girls would run first.
The individual race was at first a fight between Clarksburg's freshman Abbey Daley and Quince Orchard Senior Stephanie Joson. The freshman boldly led the senior for most of the first mile of the course, but with a smooth stride, Joson had a lead after the first major uphill. Daley was laboring as a composed Bridget Nolan of Linganore worked her way up into second place.
Joson won the race in 20:06. It was her first major championship victory, although she also won the large schools race at the Bull Run Invitational at Hereford this year. When asked if she had her eye on the individual state title, she responded that she was going to try. Her time was over thirty seconds faster than Addie Tousley won the 3A West race in last year, and Tousley went on to win the state title. It should be noted that Tousley did make a wrong turn which cost her some time in running 20:40 at Watkins Mill last year. Joson's toughest opponent next week may be Becky Yep of Mount Hebron.
Nolan placed second in 20:21 followed by Daley in 20:40. Daley was the top placing non-senior in the region.
Following Daley, the hornets began swarming in. Damascus put 6 girls in the top 15 starting with Alex Carroll in fourth place in 20:59. Damascus squeaked out the team win over Quince Orchard 42-44.
Coach Youngblood did not think his girls were the favorites to win the state title next week, citing that River Hill and Mount Hebron are strong teams and Hereford always puts together a good race on their home course. He noted that they only graduate one of their top 7 varsity girls.
Youngblood was exactly correct. He didn't know at the time, but River Hill and Mount Hebron took first and second in the 3A east region while Hereford won the north. They also have to worry about keeping Quince Orchard at bay, but for now they are 3A west region champs.
Andrew Palmer of Whitman moved to the front from the start and broke away from the pack in the first quarter mile on the upper fields. He would run the entire race out front by himself and win in a time of 16:04, just eight seconds off the course record set by Solomon Haile last year. Pascal Dobert, a former Whitman runner and US Olympic Steeplechaser, won the 1991 county championship at Watkins Mill in 16:03.
The race looked like a statement race from Palmer, but he maintains that he was relaxed and did not put out a 100% effort. Only when he saw the clock at the finish line was still under 16:00 did he kick hard to try to break 16:00, but it was too late. Perhaps he will be the third athlete to ever break 16:00 at Hereford. Graham Bazell of Atholton was the first to do it when he ran 15:50 at Bull Run last year. Haile set the course record at 15:43 at the state championship last year.
Jackson Reams of Sherwood regained his position as the second best runner and top non-senior in Montgomery County, taking second place in 16:42.
Walter Johnson's Alex Willett became sick after the county championship, and then sprained his ankle earlier his week. He wanted to run regionals anyways although it turned out that it was not necessary. WJ proved that they can dominate without Willett as he fell to sixth on the team while Scott Sheehan finished 22nd overall as the team's fifth man. WJ put their top 4 runners in the top 11 and won with 47 points, 23 points ahead of Churchill (70).
Linganore sophomore Braden Bruning led the boys 3A race from start to finish while Quince Orchard's star sophomore Evan Laratta tried to stick with him. Damascus's Thomas Arias hung back in the first mile.
Bruning broke away from Laratta on the back hills of the course while Arias worked his way up to Laratta. Arias, who is one of the top returning middle distance runners in the state this year, ran the final loop around the field like an 800 on the track, putting distance between himself and Laratta.
Bruning ran 17:00, Arias was second in 17:19, and Laratta was third in 17:22.
The Damascus boys were heavy favorites to defend their 3A West title this year. They did not graduate any runners from the team that scored 35 points to win the region last year.
This year, Damascus was dealing with Quince Orchard who moved down from the 4A classification, while they were missing one of their best runners Cecil Jonas who was out sick. Still they won 55-72 over QO by putting 5 runners in the top 19 and 7 runners in the top 23.
Damascus is definitely thinking about a state title with their strong class of seniors, but Youngblood knows it will not be easy. The way he sees it, River Hill is tired of finishing second at states while Mount Hebron will not want to lose to Damascus again (Damascus beat Mount Hebron at the Interstate Classic and beat River Hill and Mount Hebron at the Howard County Invitational early this season). Mount Hebron defeated River Hill across the state at the 3A East region meet, and like with the girls, Hereford won the 3A north.
There is a lot of buzz about Einstein's top two runners. The two freshmen, Ben Withbroe and Nick Simpson, ran together the entire race and hawked down Damascus's #2 runner Charlie Ramirez at the line to finish 6th and 8th in 17:32. Ramirez, who was a bit of a surprise as well, finished 7th in 17:32. If the freshmen peak perfectly for the state meet, it seems likely that one or both will medal.
At the end of the day as the sun was setting, Britt Eckerstrom employed the same strategy the second time around as she did in the first start of the girls 4A race. She got out hard, way out in front of Jessie Rubin of Wootton, Anna Bosse of WJ and the rest of the 4A pack.
Rubin and Bosse seemed to ignore Eckerstrom at first as they ran side by side at the front of the chase pack and let Eckerstrom go.
After the first major uphill after the mile mark, Rubin and Bosse had caught Eckerstrom, but Eckerstrom did not immediately surrender the lead and never faded away. The three departed from the spectator-friendly center of the course towards the two mile mark as a pack.
Rubin put her competition behind her over the final mile, winning all alone in 19:21. Eckerstrom held on for second with strong finishing kick in 19:42 while Bosse was third in 19:52.
The Walter Johnson girls, coming off a victory at the county championship, put three girls in the top eight, a fourth at fourteenth place, and a fifth at 28th place, but they reportedly were upset after the race. They thought they ran poorly and assumed they had lost to Northwest.
Northwest was without two of their top five runners, Alyssa Henshaw and Sarah Sekscienski, so Walter Johnson actually won with 60 points. Northwest's fill-ins performed very well. Sula Ndousse-Fetter, who won the freshman-sophomore race at the county championship, finished 20th, while Robyn Gaudon, who only competes for the team on weekdays due to religious reasons, finished 21st.
Northwest defeated Wootton for second place on a sixth runner tie breaker with 72 points.
With Northwest and Walter Johnson healthy (fingers crossed), the two teams should again battle at the state championship for the coveted 4A state crown. They will have fierce competition in Thomas Johnson who won the 4A north region with a perfect score.
Both the Walter Johnson girls and boys teams along with the Churchill boys team are planning to attend the Nike Cross Country Nationals Regional Meet in Cary, North Carolina over Thanksgiving weekend.
In the 2A West, only the Poolesville boys team moved on to the state meet along with three individual qualifiers from Rockville. Four boys teams and four girls teams qualified for the state meet out of the 3A West along with three individuals. Seven boys teams and seven girls teams qualified out of the 4A West along with 4 individuals. In total, 23 teams (boys and girls) from 16 schools and ten individuals from five schools qualified for the state championship meet.
|MoCo State Championship Qualifiers|