There is power in numbers.
And this year's county cross country race once again will be claimed by the teams boasting the largest number of harriers.
Broadneck, Old Mill, Meade and Severna Park got the highest turnout of runners this season and will be vying for the county title Oct.25 at Annapolis High.
Severna Park's girls team is seeking its ninth straight county title, while Broadneck's boys squad is trying to nail down its second consecutive county championship.
Standing in the way of Severna Park's girls is a Meade team that tied the Falconsin the county meet but was reduced to runner-up status by virtue of a tie-breaking rule that awards the title to the team with the highest sixth-place finisher.
Meade will be hard-pressed to take any revenge on the Falcons, however, having lost six of its top runners to graduation. Junior Amy Bell, who finished fifth in both the county andthe region, is the lone veteran coming back.
Vacated spots will be filled by senior Aniesea Gaschler and juniors Denise Murray and Anita Montes.
The Falcons will attempt to "nine-peat" without the help of Megan Ambrose, last year's county champion and the Anne Arundel County Sun Female Runner of the Year. But second-place finisher Fran Mackney is back.
Mackney, who two weekends ago captured second place in her age group at the Annapolis 10-Miler, was voted team captainand will be looked on to provide senior leadership for a squad that has attracted 11 freshmen.
"Fran really sets the tone for the girls with her hard work and good leadership skills," said Severna Park coach Ed Purpura, who has 26 girls on his roster.
"This is the biggest team we've ever had, and whenever you get a lot of people, you'rebound to get a couple of good ones. Our freshmen girls are all youngand talented."
Broadneck, which rode the dark horse all the way to the county and regional boys championships last season, will have to defend its titles without Rich Chambers, Dave Wall and Derek Anderson, who placed third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Region IV competition.
Wall also claimed fourth last November in the statemeet, while Chambers was 12th.
"We'd like nothing better than to repeat," said Broadneck coach Gerald Kiple. "As in any sport, it willdefinitely be hard to repeat.
"Old Mill and Severna Park have a lot of people back from last year, and I know they will be very strong, as usual. But like I said last year, we'll be there."
Tim Collins, who finished 18th in the state last season, heads the list of returning upperclassmen. Other seniors include Sean Conroy and Chris McTamany.
"So far, our seniors are taking charge and leading the way for the team, the same way last year's seniors did," said Kiple.
The Bruin girls, fourth in the team standings in both county and regional competition, will be paced by senior Jeanne Rimar. In her junior campaign, Rimar finished eighth in the county, seventh in the regions,and 18th in the state meet. Kiple is also counting on junior Lynn Kurchock and sophomore Leanne Carnes.
"I expect the entire county tobe respectable. We (the county) will be well-represented," said Kiple. "I see Old Mill's boys as being No. 1, with Severna Park not too far behind. They (the Falcons) still have a great girls team."
Although he doesn't come right out and say it, Old Mill veteran assistantcoach Leon Walters is high on his boys chances of reclaiming the county crown.
The Patriots return a host of male talent, including senior Scott Boetig. Boetig placed third in the county last season, andwith the top two county finishers having graduated, he is being touted as the man to beat this season.
Other Old Mill runners who should provide the team with depth are seniors Shaun Black, John DiBenio and David Santa. Black finished 11th in the county and 20th in the state last season, while DiBenio and Santa are four-year veterans.
Acouple of promising newcomers to the Patriots team include junior Brad Boetig, sophomore Eric Gifford and freshmen Eric Curl and James Tomlinson.
The Patriots have 29 boys on their roster compared to 22 at the same time last season. Walters believes that the numbers game should help make his male squad a contender.
"The more seeds you plant the more likely a flower will come up," he said. "The more quantity you have the better chance you have of getting some quality athletes."
Marisa Sanders returns for Old Mills girls team after finishing fourth in the county last year as a sophomore. Flanking Sanders will be juniors Karen Jacobson and Leann Denton.
With last year's Anne Arundel County Sun Male Runner of the Year Sheridan Snedden at Frostburg State University, senior Cindy Silate will be the lone brightspot at Glen Burnie High.
Silate, third in the county meet, second in the region and seventh in the state last season, should help Glen Burnie get noticed.
Tanya Hecox and Adrienne McCray will do everything in their power to improve North County's standing.