Austin Keech, Poolesville David Wilson, Poolesville
Austin Keech from Poolesville returns to Hereford for the final time. Keech finished 12th in the 1A West regional this year. Earlier this season he placed 19th in the small school race at Bull Run. He will try to improve on last year's 13th place finish at the state championship.
Poolesville teammate David Wilson had a breakout race, qualifying with a 21st place finish in 17:53.
The Poolesville girls slipped into the state championship by 4 points as the 6th team in a 12 team region. Devin Hamberger has been their top runner all season. Her accomplishments include a 58th place finish at the small school race at Bull Run and a 28th place finish in the 1A West Regional.
Ramon Munoz, Clarksburg
William Orndorff, Rockville
Mike Leaman, Clarksburg
Ramon Munoz, formerly of Watkins Mill, has emerged as one of the surprise runners this season for Clarksburg. Munoz dipped well under 17:00 at the 2A West regional meet with an 8th place finish in 16:42. After improving in every race this season, Munoz is a hopeful of a top 15 medal.
Like Munoz, Billy Orndorff dipped under 17 for the first time this season at the 2A West meet. This sub-5 minute miler was 40th at the Montgomery County Championship and beat Munoz in a dual meet earlier in the season.
Mike Leaman, formerly of Damascus, also ran his best race of the season for the Coyotes at the 2A West meet. His 17:06 16th place finish shows great improvement over the beginning of the season.
Sebastian Devlin Foltz, Einstein
Seba was the last man in the 3A West to qualify individually with his 18th place finish. He placed 39th at the Montgomery County Championship with a time of 17:29.
Bethesda Chevy Chase Boys:
The B-CC boys took a huge blow losing their strong #3 runner Dylan Straughan at the end of the season. Even still, they easily qualified for states, placing 2nd in the 3A West. While they don't stand much of a chance to take down Wilde Lake or Urbana, finishing in the top 5 is a good goal for this team with plenty of room to move even higher. Chris Bowie and Elias Tousley have a terrific chance to to take home individual state titles and go 1-2 in this race, but serious competition will be found in Urbana's Dylan Bernard and Nick Stine, and Wilde Lake's JP Allera and Derek Lange.
Seneca Valley Boys:
Congratulations to the Seneca Valley Boys for qualifying for states for the first time since 2001. The Screamin' Eagles have been lead by Brian Marshall all season. He came up for a very strong 4th place finish over Urbana's Nick Stine in the 3A West Regional meet. Earlier this season he placed 14th in the elite race at Bull Run. Watch for him to make a push for top 5 at states if he can hold off those Wilde Lake and Towson boys.
Bethesda Chevy Chase Girls:
Congratulations to B-CC for qualifying for states once more after losing the majority of their varsity roster to graduation. Addie Tousley has stepped up for the Barons this season. She ran a great race at the Montgomery County Championship, placing 25th, and again at the 3A West race, placing 6th. She has come a long way in the past year and is now a hopeful for a top 15 medal. B-CC's depth is also strong relative to the 3A competition and can reasonably shoot for a top 10 finish at states.
Jordan Sawadogo, Springbrook
Sharif Kronemer, Springbrook
Chris Boyd, Wootton
Wil Zahorodny, Damascus
Emilio Galis, Magruder
Michael Gardner, Watkins Mill
Nicolas Escobar, Magruder
The Springbrook duo has flown under the radar since most of their performances came in small divisional meets. Sawadogo was one of the top runners in his division, only losing to Damascus's Zahorodny in dual matchups. He placed 35th at counties and 11th in the 4A North. Kronemer is a year younger than Sawadogo but has been catching up all season. He placed 36th at counties and 17th at regionals. These guys will be running for fun at states, but watch out for them during track season.
A job well done for the 4:27 miler Chris Boyd who battled back from a mid-season injury to qualify for states. He blew past most of the QO roster between Glory Days and regionals. If he continues this trend, he will be a top 15 medal hopeful.
Damascus's Wil Zahorodny knows how to take risks. He took it out hard at the 4A West meet and it paid off as he easily qualified for states with a 10th place finish. As long as he doesn't try to take down Matt Centrowitz, his track record gives him a good chance to earn a medal this year.
Not sure what happened to Michael Gardner at counties, but he was definitely back for regionals where he placed 17th. This marks the 2nd year that Gardner has qualified individually. Last year he placed 28th at the state championship.
The Magruder boys should hold their heads up high. Afterall, not every team gets superstars, but when a team gets the best out of what they have, that is a success. Magruder won't be competing as a team this year, but Emilio Galis will try to continue passing people as he has done all season. His 16th place finish at regionals was the biggest improvement yet.
Who is Nicolas Escobar? Your guess is as good as mine. This freshman has improved all season and now has qualified individually for the state championship. He will be someone to keep track of in the future.
Halsey Sinclair, Blair
Morgane Gay, Whitman
Ashlyn Sinclair, Blair
Veronica Salcido, Wootton
Abby Spitler, Gaithersburg
Taylor Colbert, Damascus
Debbie Isen, Whitman
Tara Weiss, Gaithersburg
Halsey and Ashlyn...3 years ago they raised the bar in Montgomery County. There may have been better athletes in this history of the county, but how many called upon the rest of the county to come and get them for four straight years? Montgomery County has answered the call and has grown greatly in depth. Although indoor and outdoor track still lie ahead, this is the beginning of the end for the Blair duo. Watch for Halsey to put on a performance similar to her 19:25 2nd place finish at Bull Run. Both girls should easily be top 10 in the state and each has a chance to win a state title depending on the day.
Morgane Gay of Whitman was the talk of the town when she won the Montgomery County Championship. She shot up the statewide athlete ranking after her 5k victory in 18:14. Winning the MoCo Championship warrants a great deal of respect and for good reason. Once she's beaten the best in MoCo, she can potentially beat the best in the state. With the way that she is running now, a top 5 finish is feasible, but who knows? She's surprised us once. Maybe she'll do it again. Teammate Debbie Isen certainly deserves to run at the state championship. She nearly broke 20:00 with her 20:04 12th place finish at the county championship.
Veronica Salcido has bounced back from an off-season during outdoor track to re-establish herself as one of the top ten runners in the county. A 2nd place finish in the large race at Bull Run is a very good sign that the Wootton athlete will experience success at states. She placed 11th at counties and 9th at regionals to easily qualify.
Abby Spitler and Tara Weiss of Gaithersburg each qualified for states with 10th and 17th place finishes respectively. Senior Tara Weiss has now qualified two seasons in a row. Abby Spitler has dipped under 20:00 four times this season. They each ran extremely well at Bull Run. Spitler, who grabbed the 22nd fastest time overall at Bull Run, is a hopeful of a top 15 medal.
Taylor Colbert has led Damascus all season long. She went undefeated in divisional matchups and placed 9th at the county championship. She easily qualified for states with a 12th place finish and could also be a top 15 medal hopeful.
Quince Orchard Girls:
Ahn Chi Do
Could it be QO's luck day? Winning the 4A West always gives a team the chance to win the state title. With Eleanor Roosevelt likely missing some top runners, the Cougars should certainly be in the top 5 and have potential to win it all. It will not be easy to overcome the strength of Dulany, C. Milton Wright and Northwest. Cara Harrison has had a great season but suffered a wrist injury at regionals. According to Harrison, there should be no doubt that she has atleast one race left in her: "I bruised the bone really bad and pulled a tendon from my elbow to my wrist so I have to wear a splint for 2 weeks." She continues, "I'll definitely be ready for states though."
The Northwest girls improved so rapidly towards the end of the season that it was surprising to see them falter at the 4A West meet. With their big three of Eckerstrom, Aherne, and Stinner, they certainly have a chance to win it all. Says Eckerstrom, "I think we have a lot of potential for states. We have been continually improving from week one all the way to now. We hope to show that as one of the top 3 teams come Saturday. We have all worked so hard and at States we will put together our best team yet, hopefully beating teams that we have compeated against all season long." Their #4 and 5 will have to run well to take down Dulaney who beat them earlier this season despite putting 3 in the top 5.
The Churchill girls are deep, but somewhat inconsistent. Depending on which team shows up, these girls certainly have potential to take a top 5 spot. Louise Hannallah has been very consistent all year and could perhaps repeat as the top MoCo finisher. Says Hannallah, "I believe that my team will do really well at states. We went through some rough times having one of our top runners become injured but we have worked so hard. All we need now is some confidence." When asked how she felt she would do individually, she responded, "My goal is to just stay with the top pack and stick with them, but at Hereford it is really about who wants it more." Freshman Maryam Fikri had her best race at the 4A West race where she placed 8th. A great deal depends on if Masha Berge can bounce back from her minor injury to perform like she did at the beginning of the season.
Magruder was the only team to mix up the order of the top teams from the county championship. Like the boys, these girls have shown drastic improvement this season. They went from being a team of unknown, mediocre runners, to a pretty nasty team that upset some of the best teams in the state at the 4A West meet. The success of this year's team is due in large part to a strong front runner in Laura McCary and a consistent #2 in Courtney Whalen. The thing that separates this team from the Colonels who finished 12th at Bull Run is the emergence of freshmen Samantha Fritts and Camille Graham. Watch for this team to bounce back from a poor performance at Bull Run and turn some heads on the state level.
Richard Montgomery Girls:
The RM girls still have probably the best pack of the MCPS teams. An off race by Monica Delizo lead to a minor upset by Magruder, but watch for them to pack it in again at states. RM runner Sarah Britton explains, "RM does really well at Hereford so I'm excited for my team to crush states! Hopefully we'll run together as a strong pack and do really well." The girls had a 40 second 5 person spread at Bull Run.
Walter Johnson Girls:
The WJ girls held onto a 6th spot in the 4A west largely thanks to their #3 Berna Garcia Reige, who nearly beat Stephanie Alberico, and their #4 runner Liz Howcroft, who was not far behind Garcia-Reige. Jennifer Spencer and Stephanie Alberico were again #1 and #2 for the team, but were not as far up in the pack as they were at counties. Optimistically, if Spencer and Alberico run like they did at counties and Howcroft and Garcia-Reige run like they did at regionals, WJ has an excellent shot at placing in the top 10 in the state.
Although the Sherwood girls got pushed around by MoCo teams all year long, they managed to qualify for the state championship against the 4A North competition. Meghan Dunn has consistently lead the Warriors this season, with her best race being a 32nd place 21:09 finish at the county championship.
Quince Orchard Boys:
Is this the year for Quince Orchard? Dyestat.com says they are the team to beat in Maryland. Runningmaryland.com says they are the team to beat in Maryland. Mocorunning.com says...we knew them before they were famous. Junior runner Artem Panasenkov simply states, "We want to win. That's our goal and that's what were working for." The Cougars have not been beaten by any team in the country this year. Perhaps their most impressive race this season was their most recent race at the 4A West meet where they put 5 runners in the top 12. It is feasible that they put 4 or 5 guys in the top 20 at states. Neal Darmody is hands down the rookie of the year for Moco (if you want to call him a rookie). He has led his team in many meets this season including counties and regionals. He is perhaps one of the most unknown, underrated athletes in the state. Laratta and Bove have been very consistent this year and the remainder of the roster can step up on any given day. Laratta describes his strategy for the race, "All of us are going to stick as a pack throughout the race to help each other in order to win the state title. If we hold our pack throughout the race, we will come out on top and Neal, Greg, and I should finish in the top 15."
Some people will say that Whitman has a shot at pulling an upset over QO at states. Whitman was much closer to QO than most people thought at the Montgomery County Championship when they put 3 in front of QO's #2 and 2 more in the top 30. QO bounced back and walloped them at regionals, but if Whitman can fight off Laratta and company, they may come home with the coveted state championship trophy. Says team captain Will Palmer, "I think if everyone has the perfect race and things fall together then we have a very legitimate shot at beating Quince Orchard. I really just think this state championship has the potential to be as exciting and close as Broadneck vs. Sherwood last year."
Two year's ago, Gaithersburg was the favorite to win the state title despite being beaten by Broadneck at Bull Run. Broadneck used the confidence that they gained from Bull Run to upset Gaithersburg at the state championship. This year, Gaithersburg surprised the state by winning the elite race at Bull Run with a top 6 spread of 24 seconds. Junior runner Paul Riggio explains, "I expect every team to bring their 'A' game. Our team has practiced very hard for this race so I know we are pumped. I'm very excited and I'm ready to lay it all on the line. In order to win we must all run our best time and beat runners that are seconds ahead of us." Gaithersburg will try to use their success from Bull Run and many other races this season to take down the two-time state champs Broadneck as well as all of the other teams that stand in their way.
Walter Johnson Boys:
Walter Johnson again fended off the RM boys for a 4th place finish at regionals. These guys have definitely shaken out the mid-season cobwebs and are beginning to roll just in time for Hereford. Jared Schneider ran more competitively than he has all season long and finished 8th in the region. The rest of the guys also did what they needed to do to bring their team to the next level, but the question is will they be content with that or do they have aspirations of making top 5? Regardless of the team standing, most of MoCo will be cheering on Chris Moen as he takes another crack at Broadneck's Matt Centrowitz and the rest of the 4A competition. Says Moen, "Regionals, being very hilly, was a good tune-up for the states course. For states, it's going to be ridiculously competitive and MoCo has the potential to do some serious damage as a whole." The only athlete that Moen has lost to this season was Centrowitz and most people believe that he has the potential to place 2nd behind the two-time cross country state champ.
Richard Montgomery Boys:
A veteran Richard Montgomery team will return to Hereford to see if they can end their season on a high note. RM won the large race at Bull Run earlier this season just a few points ahead of Leonardtown but only sits at 6th in MoCo. Says senior runner Brian Sickles "If every runner on our team runs their heart out, we can easily place 5th. We have four seniors in our top five of the squad who will be racing for the last time in cross country. We ran well at Bull Run Invational earlier in the season. We are confident we can run even better to turn some heads and prove once and for all, we are the mighty, mighty Rockets!!!" RM will try to fight off top 4A East teams Leonardtown and Broadneck and see if they can move past teams like WJ and Sherwood.
Similar to the B-CC girls, the Northwest boys lost many of their best athletes to graduation and were not expected to do anything this season. Their efforts in qualifying for states for the first time as a 4A team is commendable. The question is did they put all of their efforts into qualifying, or have they saved the best for last? The one obvious trend is that John DiNardo is going to keep getting better.
There are two questions surrounding the Sherwood team and I don't have the answers. 1.) Where the heck was this Kyle Balderson at the county championship? His 17:17 5k probably would have been enough to move his team past Gaithersburg. 2.) Where was Yared Tarekgn? With him, Sherwood surely would have beaten Dulaney and could be considered just as dangerous as Whitman or Gaithersburg. Without him, they are a borderline top 5 team. Regardless of the answers to these questions, Sherwood has strung together some fine races and can be expected to perform very well at states.
Cody Giles Tucker
Congratulations to the Blake boys for qualifying for the state championship for the first time ever! This team has been lead by Kyle Gaffney all season who won several races and was considered the biggest threat to Chris Moen at the county championship. A mild injury has been holding him back, but he is now ready to go. "I think that I have gotten over what caused me to suck at counties, and my time from Bull Run [16:39] is giving me the confidence that I can do as well if not better than last year," says Gaffney. The audience should expect to see the dominant Gaffney that they expected to see at counties.
Now some bold predictions by Ron Burgundy
Milsted: Can Matt Centrowitz be beat?
Burgundy: At this point it looks like Matt Centrowitz will run away with a third state title. The battles have only gotten easier for him ever since his upset over Andrew Jesien two years ago. It can be assured, however, that Chris Moen is going to stay with him as long as he can. If anyone can take Matt it's Chris!
Milsted: Will any Montgomery County athlete come home with a state title?
Burgundy: I definitely think Montgomery County runners will bring home a state title or two! On the guys side, Moen is the best shot in 4A and is definitely the top MoCo runner. His shots at a state title aren't nearly as promising as Chris Bowie and Elias Tousley. I would have to go with Chris Bowie at Hereford and say he wins the 3A state title just because of his finish there last year and he did beat Elias at regionals. Elias will be a close second though.
On the girls side I think Halsey, Morgane and Cara all have very legitimate shots at the 4A state title. Halsey had a fantastic race at Bull Run and this is her senior year. If the ER rumors are true, that only gives those three girls an even more promising shot!
Milsted: Will any Montgomery County teams come home with a state title?
Burgundy: Absolutely! Not only will MoCo take home some team state titles, they will pack many teams in the top 10. On the guys 4A side, Quince Orchard or Whitman will walk away with the title. If they don't, I'll quit my job. The only competition for Quince Orchard will be Whitman, and that's if Whitman can put on a show like counties. Gaithersburg and Sherwood will both garner top 5 finishes as well to make it 4 MoCo teams in the top 5...WOW!!!
On the girls 4A side Quince Orchard and Northwest both have underdog shots at the state title with the new ER controversy. It won't be easy because ER is very deep, but upsets happen.
Milsted: Who is going to shock the world at states?
Burgundy: There will be many shocks at states. I have to say that the Gaithersburg boys will probably be the biggest shock as a team based on how well they ran there at Bull Run. They have proven to themselves that they're capable of many things on that course but people still seem to underestimate them. If their spread is in the 20's like it has been before, they will be dangerous! I also think the Quince Orchard girls could put up a big surprise. If they run like they run the race of their lives and the other teams such as Northwest are not on top of everything, Seann Pelkey may walk away from Hereford as one of the happiest coaches on the face of the earth.
In terms of individual surprises, Andrew Palmer is the best freshmen in the state, but many people still think that freshmen are freshmen, and they're not going to finish in the top 10. They are wrong! Palmer is walking away from Hereford with a top 10 medal. On the girls side, I think Halsey Sinclair will be a surprise to the rest of the state. I said before she wants to win and it's her senior year. She has been somewhat inconsistent as of late, finishing 3rd at the MoCo championships, but this is her course and this is her last race.