More than 20 Westminster High track athletes and relay teams set personal records at last weekend's prestigious Battle Ground Relays in Virginia, something that should cause concern for other Central Maryland Conference track teams.
The seven schools will gather for the annual conference track and field championships at 3 p.m. Thursday on the Linganore High oval in Frederick County. Westminster will be defending both boys and girls titles.
The boys are prohibitive favorites, but the girls meet could be afour-team affair with Linganore, Frederick and Liberty challenging.
"The girls meet will be more of a challenge," said Westminster coach Bill Hill.
Frederick came within two points of the Owls at the Westminster Invitational earlier this year, but Westminster was without one of its premier athletes -- jumper/hurdler Kenya Warfield. Linganore is a deep team that won the state Class 3A indoor title in March, and Liberty has sprinter/hurdler Julie Cox and a solid corps of distance runners to balance lack of depth in the field events.
"I think the top four teams are going to be very good," said Liberty coachBrad Hill (no relation to the Westminster coach).
Westminster's top runner is Stephanie Morningstar, who followed up her outstanding showing in the 1,500-meters at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia Thursday with a season-best performance in the 1,600 at the Battleground event. She can appear in up to four individual and relay events, and Hill wasn't saying before the meet exactly what she'd compete in.
Shehas the best time in the county this year at 400, 800 and 1,600 meters and probably would have the top time in the county at 3,200 if shehad run it this year.
Competing in those four events is a possibility, though she could take part in one or both of the long relays.
Other top performers from the county should include Cox in a coupleof sprints, the high hurdles and a relay; North Carroll's Ashlee Douglass in both hurdles; South Carroll's Denine Henderson in the jumping events; and Westminster's Jessica Farinholt in the throwing events.
The boys meet shouldn't be nearly as close, since Westminster haspotential scorers in just about every event.
Only the high jump looks weak for the Owls, and maybe Jeff LiBerge could plug that gap ifhe had the time.
As it is, he'll be the favorite in the pole vault and will be among the favorites in the high hurdles, shot put and discus -- depending on which events he enters. Other top Westminster athletes who figure to score well include distance runner Matt Avery, jumper Jamahl Hogan, thrower Brett Black, hurdler Jay Merker and sprinter Kris Brown, along with all four relay teams.
Other top countyperformers should be South Carroll's Jim Clarius and Dave Hammel in distance races, Liberty's Jeff Brown in the hurdles and Scott Lingle (coming off an injury) in the and North Carroll's Matt Davis in distance races.
Also in track, several Western Maryland athletes are slated to compete in the Middle Atlantic Conference championships at Gettysburg College Friday and Saturday.
For the women, freshman Heather Hunter qualified for the meet in four events, classmate Sherry Albright qualified in all three throwing events and sophomore Kendra Weible is eligible in three distance races.
The men's outlook is much less rosy, especially since football standout Rob Johnson, a North Carroll High graduate, left the team midway through the season. The 400-meter relay team he anchored had qualified but likely won't compete without him.
Derek Johnston has qualified in two distance races,and James Martin, a member of the relay team, has qualified in the 100.
In other sports this week:
* South Carroll will try to retain its grip on the county girls tennis team title when the Cavs visitLiberty for a 4 p.m. match tomorrow. It's the final regular-season match for the Cavs, who would have a 6-0 county record with a win overthe Lions. That would put them just ahead of Westminster, which mustplay three county matches on consec utive days next week.
And four members of the Western Maryland men's tennis team will take part inthe MAC individual championships Friday and Saturday at Gettysburg College. Scott Aquila (5-6 at No. 5 singles) and Paul Timmons (3-9 at No. 4) will compete in the singles competition, while the Terrors No.1 doubles team of Adam Scott and Doug Raihall (4-5) will compete in doubles.
* Francis Scott Key could help shake up the Monocacy Valley Athletic League softball standings tomorrow when the Eagles entertain Walkersville at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. The Eagles started the week tied for third in the MVAL and Walkersville was second, just a game behind first-place Catoctin.
Key rebounded from a tough season last year and was 7-4 overall and in the league as the week started.
* The CMC baseball leaders square off tomorrow when South Carroll visits Liberty in a 4 p.m. match. South Carroll was 5-1 in the conference as the week started, and Liberty was 5-3 as the surprising Carroll squads held four of the league's top five spots.