Both of this year's individual 4A state champions are soccer converts and first year cross country runners.
For Clarksburg's Will Bertrand, it was a difficult decision to walk away from a winning soccer program that claimed a state title during his freshman year.
For B-CC's Caroline Beakes, it was an easy choice to leave the JV soccer team after her freshman year to join the defending state champion Lady Barons XC team. A year removed from sitting on the soccer sidelines, she has now recorded her name in the history books as an individual champion and the leader of the 2012 4A team champions.
It came as no surprise to anyone from B-CC that Beakes took over the top spot today, even after she finished as the runner-up in the last two races behind her teammate, the county and region champion, Nora McUmber.
"It has been so good to have Caroline up there with Nora this year," said Coach Emily Young. "They work so well together."
Coach Chad Young echoed this sentiment: "Having Caroline helped Nora. It's great that they feed off one another. There is no pecking order necessarily."
Beakes described The Dip as "really scary" when she saw it for the first time today. Despite any fear she might have had, she said that the difference between today and her previous two runner-up performances was mental preparedness. She stayed calm in a pack in the first mile and allowed the aggressive starters to come back to her.
"After the first dip, people started slowing down," said Beakes. "Every time we went up a hill, people slowed down."
Through the maze hills of the third mile, Beakes found herself trying to shake a familiar opponent, Richard Montgomery freshman Sophie El-Masry.
"It comes down to knowing the competition," Chad Young later said.
Experience against familiar opponents, he thought, outweighed the team's relative inexperience at Hereford.
"They paced themselves throughout the race and they know their competition."
Returning to the dip for the second time, Beakes had created a lead on El-Masry. Ascending the giant hill for the final time, she did not use the relatively flat last half mile to relax.
"I was trying to build a lead the entire time to the finish," she said. "I was thinking positive thoughts."
Beakes crossed the line in 19:17.4, the fastest time of the day across all classifications. El-Masry was second in 19:23.0 and McUmber was third in 19:28.1.
The B-CC girls scored 67 points to claim the 4A state title for the second consecutive year.
Chad Young said that winning was completely different this year because there was more pressure throughout the season, but the approach to training was no different.
"It's not a formality just to win. We had to come out here and have a great race."
He then added, "It's definitely just as exciting."
After turning in one of the greatest performances ever by a Montgomery County runner at the state championship meet, Will Bertrand said that he had no regrets about his decision to play soccer for three years and then switch over to cross country.
"Indoors," he said, "is going to be a lot different."
The 9:25 3200-meter runner obliterated the field today to win by 25 seconds in a time of 16:02.7. Only the Footlocker National Champion Solomon Haile and U.S. Olympian Matthew Centrowitz Jr. have ever gone faster at the state meet at Hereford since 1995.
Included in today's field was Bertrand's rival from the track, Vincent Ciattei of Perry Hall, who claimed 4A state titles in the 1600 and 3200 over Bertrand last spring.
"I knew he had a lot more speed, but as long as I could create a gap it would be OK."
Bertrand held back in the first mile allowing others to lead until the group approached the dip. Down the dip and up the other side, Bertrand maintained a lead over Ciattei. On the hill at the exit of the soccer field just before the 2 mile mark, Bertrand made his big move.
"I wanted to hold back the first mile," said Bertrand. "The hill after the soccer field takes people by surprise. I made a move there."
One witness felt that Bertrand's move was so decisive that the race was essentially over after two miles. His lead was insurmountable for the remainder of the race.
Bertrand later said that he knew of the mystique of the 16:00 barrier at Hereford and wanted to be just the fourth person to ever break 16:00, but he was not disappointed with his time of 16:02.7.
Disappointment could not be hidden from the faces of the Walter Johnson runners who badly wanted to win a fifth straight 4A state title. With five runners among the top 17 finishers, Severna Park proved to be untouchable, scoring 47 points in the 4A race. Walter Johnson finished second with 93 points.
"I am so proud of how they stayed focused all year and ran this race," said WJ Coach Tom Martin. "I am just sad because they are disappointed."
Six of seven WJ runners fell in the opening stretch of the race, spoiling the race plan essentially from the gun.
"They were too spread out," said assistant coach Ashley St. Denis. "After the fall, they spent a half mile just trying to find each other."
"The fall is absolutely in no way an excuse," said Martin. "Severna Park ran an incredible race. They ran a lot faster than I thought they would...Now we already have guys who didn't make the top seven this year saying they want to win the state title next year. That's what makes this fun."
Walter Johnson has three non-seniors on this year's state roster, the same number as last year.
Out of the boys 3A race, Nick Simpson led Einstein to a fourth place team finish with a time of 16:35.1. It was the second fastest time of the day by a Montgomery County boy, although Coach Eric DaSilva felt that fourth place as a team was the worst case scenario; however, based on times, the team may have finished third behind Walter Johnson had they been in the 4A race.
Montgomery County individual champion Chase Weaverling ran the 2A race with plantar fasciitis in his right foot. The injury flared up a week after the county championship and hindered him at the 2A West Regional Meet. He knew he would be in pain today but raced anyway to a 7th place finish in 17:10.8. The junior says that he is happy with his season.
Poolesville's Claire Beautz chased Brit Lang of Oakland Mills through the first dip, but Lang pulled away over the second half of the race for a dominant win in 19:21.8. Beautz was the 2A state runner up with a time of 19:49.6.