In spite of freezing winds, rain showers and a mud-trampled course, Howard County schools captured two team titles, two individual titles and several top 10 performances at the state cross country championships Saturday at Hereford High in Baltimore County.
"Cross swamp" or "cross wetland" championships more aptly described the scene.
"It was terrible. Just ridiculous!" said Mandy Walburn, a Centennial High senior. "Everywhere you ran, you stepped in inches and inches of mud."
Teammate Amanda Cox's first-place finish (21 minutes, 46 seconds), Walburn's sixth-place time (23:23) and Meg Gralia's eighth-place clocking (23:33), helped the Centennial girls squad win the class 3A team title.
This was Cox's second consecutive individual victory at the state meet.
Centennial edged Liberty High of Carroll County by three points, 65-68.
In cross country, the team with the lowest score wins. Also scoring points were Mary Augustin and Michele Sticha.
By the time the Class 3A races were run in the afternoon, the rain had stopped, but the cold winds persisted. Officials considered postponing the afternoon session after several athletes in the morning races were treated for hypothermia.
"Conditions were less than ideal, but every team was competing under the same circumstances," said Centennial coach Al Dodds. "We figured we had a good chance of winning if we could avoid any injuries."
Centennial's Pat Rodrigues claimed his third state title in the boys class 3A race in a time of 16:53. His winning time last year was 16:18. The Centennial boys, which also included point scorers Andrew Younkin, Mark James, Nate Bucks and Chris Bosley, finished fourth overall.
Perhaps the biggest shock of the day was the fact that prerace favorite Oakland Mills was denied its seventh straight boys title in class 3-A.
Although seniors Joe Drissell, Paul Schoeny and William Dye took the third, fourth and fifth spots, the Columbia squad lost to Richard Montgomery High, 72-75.
"It's been a bad week for incumbents," said Coach Steve Carnahan. "Look at all the upsets in last Tuesday's election. Any time you're expected to win, it takes a while to absorb the loss.
"The sport of cross country prides itself for toughing it out through the elements," Carnahan added. "I'm every bit as proud of this year's team as with the past six teams who have won state titles."
Carnahan says that his team defeated Richard Montgomery by more than 100 points in an invitational meet last month. The other Oakland Mills boys who competed were seniors Matt Bond, Brandon Hart, Ken Plasse and Brian Lopez.
Glenelg High fared exceptionally well in Class 2A, with its girls team claiming top honors and the boys team earning the runner-up spot. The girls scored 49 points to beat second-place Middletown of Frederick County with 90 points and third-place Atholton with 96.
Kristina Adams placed second behind Jenny Howard of Fallston High in Harford County in 20:24. Her sister Alicia Adams was fourth (21:01), and Kate Terry was sixth (21:08). Rounding out the top five Glenelg runners were Tina Rankin (14th) and Kelly Pelovitz (25th).
Glenelg's Gerard Hogan crossed the finish line 13 seconds after Loch Raven's Brian Horn in a time of 17:24 for second place. Loch Raven took the boys 2A team title with 50 points, followed by Glenelg with 82. Atholton was fourth with 128; Mount Hebron, fifth, 151; and Wilde Lake, sixth, 166.
"Our team runs well in the rain," said Hogan. "It was pretty rough but also kind of fun. That's what you call real cross country weather."
Hogan wore -inch spikes on the bottom of his running shoes but said that he didn't have much traction.
"I didn't fall down, but I ended up skiing down one particular hill in the maze section of the woods."
Gerard's younger brother, Edward Hogan, took 16th place; Rob Fersch, 21st; Joe Rankin, 22nd; and Jean-Marc Henriette, 39th.
Bryan Townsend of Atholton finished seventh in the 2A race in 18:14. His teammate Mark Stahl, usually Atholton's number three runner, slipped and fell on the first hill at the quarter-mile mark. His hand was run over by an opponent's spikes and he was forced to pull out of the race.
The mood of the meet was probably best summed up by Dennis Igoe, whose son Shane competes for Mount Hebron: "Only a parent would come out in this crazy weather!"