For the first time in years the boys county cross country championship is not a one-horse race.
Oakland Mills, which has won seven straight county titles, graduated its entire starting seven, and opposing coaches hope that the Scorpions are vulnerable. Glenelg and Atholton appear to be Oakland Mills' top challengers.
Atholton, Mount Hebron and Glenelg are the early front-runners among girls teams, and Centennial's Amanda Cox is a returning state Class 3A champion. Glenelg is the defending state Class 2A champion and Centennial the defending Class 3A state champ.
Oakland Mills boys coach Steve Carnahan is still reeling from last year's unexpected three-point loss to Richard Montgomery High School in the state championship, but he has reason to feel happy after Tuesday's opening tri-meet against Centennial and Mount Hebron.
The Scorpions dominated that meet by taking 15 of the first 19 places, including the top four. They outscored Centennial, 17-44, and Mount Hebron, 16-47.
"I really didn't know what to expect but couldn't have asked for a better performance," Carnahan said.
"We have a young group of no-names but are hoping to maintain our winning tradition."
Oakland Mills seniorMike Vanghel won Tuesday's race and promises to become a familiar name before the year ends. His winning time was 17 minutes, 55 seconds,just 15 seconds ahead of teammate Tim Brenza, also a senior.
Those two finished a whopping 36 seconds ahead of third-place Scorpions senior Aaron Bice, so they figure to be Oakland Mills' top two this season. Junior Jay Herdson finished fourth, at 18:48.
Senior John Michael MacDonald was eighth, junior Josh Tripp ninth, junior Phil Casell 10th and freshman Bryan Drake 11th.
Even though Oakland Mills again appears loaded with quality and depth, Glenelg has the talent tomount a strong challenge for county honors.
Glenelg senior GerardHogan, a state Class 2A runner-up last year, looks like the top county runner this year now that Centennial three-time state champion PatRodrigues has graduated.
Hogan's younger brother, Ed, should pushGerard and be among the top three county runners.
Those two have already finished first and second respectively in the Smithsburg Invitational earlier this month, leading Glenelg to a first-place team finish.
There are more Gladiators behind those two. Junior Mike Goldberg, senior Joe Rankin, senior Jean-Marc Henriette and sophomore Kris Edwards will help create a strong starting six.
Senior Jason Botterill, junior Brandon Fersch, junior Alan Kramer and senior Jim Bielski will battle for the seventh spot.
"We finished second at the state meet and return our whole team, so we should have a good year," Coach Roger Volrath said.
Glenelg beat Atholton in a meet Tuesday,23-32, with the Hogan brothers again finishing one-two.
Atholton coach Earl Lauer had expected to do better against Glenelg and still says his team could win the county.
"Tuesday's loss was a minor setback," Lauer said. "This is one of my better boys teams."
Junior Bryan Townsend, seventh in the state Class 2A meet last year, leads the Raiders and is closely followed by first-year senior Norman Flecker.
Seniors Scott Woods, Alex Flecker (Norman's twin brother), Rob Reese and Mark Stahl round out Atholton's top six.
Oakland Mills, Glenelg and Atholton are the class of the county.
Centennial was expected to be strong, but three returning runners are missing due to a combination of injuries and failing grades.
Centennial junior Mark James is a strong returnee who was fifth against Oakland Mills on Tuesday. Sophomore teammate Bob Van Allen is right behind him.
Sophomores Dan Murphy and Steve Olenick and senior David Bucks give the Eagles a squad that should battle for fourth place.
Junior Jason Knight, who figures to be Centennial's third-best runner, is still on the mend from a broken ankle suffered last summer but is expected to rejoin the team soon.
Centennial finished fourth in the Class 3A state race last year.
Mount Hebron will battle Centennial for fourth place. Sophomore Jesse Barnes leads the Vikings, with senior Mike Cookson as the No. 2 runner.
Sophomores Steve Darling, Andrew Farell and Mike Stump, and junior Tim Cookson round out Mount Hebron's topsix.
"We're young but have a good nucleus," first-year coach Frank Horstman said.
Howard and Hammond also have young teams that hope to challenge for fourth place.
Junior Chris O'Gwin leads the Lions. He won Tuesday's tri-meet at Hammond, a race that included Wilde Lake.
Sophomore David Krantz, senior Al Heppner, sophomore Tyrone Sharp and junior Brad Subat are other top Howard runners.
Junior Bob Greiner, who finished second Tuesday, leads Hammond.
Junior John Bussiere, senior John Ferguson, freshman Adam Keats, senior Kevin Wenchel, senior Jeremy Clavert and freshman Brian Law round out Hammond's starting squad.
"We had a good turnout this year," Bears coachLarry Roberts said.
Wilde Lake should finish last in the county. Senior Josh Miller is the top Wildecat runner.