For Old Mill cross country coach Gary Bater, watching his team do well at the Anne Arundel County Invitational was old hat.
Watching his team win a top-level race, however, was something altogether new.
With five Patriot harriers finishing in the top 24, Old Mill won the boys A1 race at Saturday's 18th edition of the meet at Annapolis High School. The girls team, minus star runner Pam Williams, placed five runners in the top 30 to take fourth.
"In the past we've been real strong and competitive, but I can't remember us ever winning," said Bater, Old Mill's second-year coach who has served as an assistant for the last nine years. "This was one of the best performances we've ever had."
Junior Scott Boetig and sophomore Marisa Sanders raced to second- and third-place finishes respectively, as Old Mill won the 11-team boys' A1 division and took fourth in the eight-team girls' race.
On the boys' side, the Patriots finished with 71 points (the sum of their top five runners' finishes) to C. Milton Wright's 75. Severna Park, Perry Hall and Calvert Hall rounded out the top five. Host Annapolis took seventh with 178 and Chesapeake took 10th with 206.
Jeff Hankins of C. Milton Wright won the race in 16 minutes, 50 seconds.
Boetig finished in 17:05. The next highest county finisher was Old Mill's Dan Cavanaugh, in ninth place with 17:49.
Old Mill's 96 points in the girls A1 division was behind Frederick's 42, Eleanor Roosevelt's 78, and Severna Park's 90. Chesapeake took seventh with 145. Frederick's Jennifer Novak won, in 20:21, with Severna Park's Megan Ambrose the runner-up in 20:34, and Sanders third, in 21:12.
"We had an excellent performance . . . working together," said Bater.
"Scott Boetig made a great, determined effort to get second. The lead boy wasn't in the county so we weren't familiar with him or how he would run."
Boetig, who finished fifth in last year's race, started near the front of the pack of 73 runners and eventually nestled into fifth. He gradually moved to third, and was second after emerging from his first trip through the woods. He couldn't, however, catch Hankins, who carried a sizable lead throughout the 3.1-mile course.
"I saw him in front of me and tried to keep up with his pace," said Boetig. "When he got in the woods, though, he really increased his margin.
"It doesn't really bother me that he beat me. I was concentrating on getting first in the county."
Sanders also stayed near the top from the outset.
"I started in the top 10 but moved up in the woods," said the sophomore.
"I ran the hills fairly easily and was able to pick up speed there as well.
"I'm really happy with where I finished. I improved from sixth place at last year's meet."
The rain-dampened course, slick and muddy in spots, wreaked havoc with shoe spikes, causing several competitors to slip or run cautiously.
"The hills were really slippery," said Old Mill's Karen Jacobson, 14th overall in 23:11. "The mud got caught in your spikes."
But, said Chesapeake coach John Maguire, the strong showings of area teams, even in the mud, demonstrates the high level of competition in Anne Arundel County.
"We're probably the strongest in cross country of any Maryland county," he said. "Anne Arundel is becoming a hotbed in the sport."
Said Bater: "We've just tried to show the kids that if they worked hard they'd improve from week to week.