The top-ranked and undefeated Glenelg boys cross country team this week hopes to give 17-year-coach Roger Volrath his first county championship.
Volrath, one of the premier track and cross country coaches in the Baltimore area, coached the 1983 team to the state Class 2A title, but lost county and regional titles to Atholton that year. Three other Glenelg boys teams have made it to the state finals in the past 10 years.
But Volrath's teams have never won the county championship.
OnThursday, however, Glenelg is favored to win the county title at Howard Community College.
"This will be our first shot at winning allthree titles -- county, region and state," Volrath said. "This is a new feeling, because we've never been the team to beat before."
Just last week, after a victory over several much larger schools at theBaltimore Metro Invitational, Glenelg catapulted into the No. 1 spotin The Sun's Top 10 Poll.
Glenelg wasn't considered No. 1 material before, partly because county rival Oakland Mills has dominated thelocal cross country scene recently, winning seven straight county titles and six state titles in seven years.
But this year the Gladiators seem to have a team that's superior to Oakland Mills' young squad. At least, Glenelg has already beaten Oakland Mills three times this season -- twice in invitationals and once in a dual meet.
"Afterfinishing second in the state Class 2A last year, I felt we had a good team coming back," Volrath said. "But I first realized just how good the kids were at the Howard County Invitational when we beat Oakland Mills. Until then there was still some question, even though Oakland Mills had lost their top seven runners."
Volrath knew he had the county's top runner, Gerard Hogan. But he didn't realize he also had the county's second-best runner, Gerard's younger brother, Edward.
"Edward has been a pleasant surprise," Volrath said. "I didn't think he'd be so close to Gerard."
Gerard has won three of five invitationals and finished second in two others, in addition to going undefeated in four other races against county teams. So in nine starts, he's won seven races and twice finished second.
Edward has finishedsecond, third, fourth, fifth and eighth in the five invitationals, and in those races has run an average of only 27 seconds slower than Gerard. At the Westminster Invitational, Edward finished just one second behind his brother.
But two runners can't win team titles. It takes five to score victories. And Glenelg has three other runners whohave placed well every time out this season.
Senior Joe Rankin has finished as high as sixth and no lower than 20th in the five invitationals. Rankin was Glenelg's No. 3 finisher in three of those races.His best time is 17 minutes, 5 seconds, when he was sixth at Brunswick.
Pushing Rankin for No. 3 is Mike Goldberg, a junior who has finished as high as seventh, but no lower than 29th in the invitationals. Goldberg's best time is 17:21 at Brunswick.
And sophomore Kris Edwards has been another pleasant surprise for Volrath. Edwards has ably filled the No. 5 spot with finishes that range from 10th at Brunswick to 35th at Baltimore Metro. His best time is 17:31 at Brunswick.
And pushing those top five are four other runners: Jason Botterill, Brandon Fersch, Jean-Marc Henriette and Jim Bielski, who won the second team "B" race at the Westminster Invitational. Bielski also wasseventh at the highly competitive Baltimore Metro Invitational B race.
Much of what Glenelg has accomplished can be attributed to old-fashioned hard work. The varsity squad members, except for Joe Rankinwho was busy working on a farm, faithfully ran 35 to 40 miles per week during 7 a.m. workouts all summer. Building that kind of distance base has given the team a decided edge over other teams.
"That summer running was largely due to Gerard's leadership," Volrath said. "He's a real motivator. I've never had an entire group that was so serious about getting their workouts in."
Three team members -- EdwardHogan, Botterill and Fersch -- also attended a running camp in Vermont last summer.
The team's success thus far hasn't made Glenelg cocky about the upcoming county meet, however.
"We're cautious aboutOakland Mills and Atholton," Gerard Hogan said. Glenelg beat OkalandMills by 11 points and Atholton by nine points in dual meets. The Gladiators beat Oakland Mills by 16 points and Atholton by 28 in the Howard County Invitational.
Glenelg has won indoor and outdoor county track championships in both boys and girls divisions. And the girlscross country team won county and state titles last year and finished the season ranked No. 1 by The Sun.
The Glenelg boys are hoping to duplicate the girls' accomplishments of last year, which of courseincludes bringing the school the coveted boys county cross country title, Volrath's first in 17 years of coaching the Gladiators.