WESTMINSTER — Liberty gave the Westminster girls cross country team a wake-up callat Friday afternoon's county championships.
The Owls, the top-rated team in The Sun's Top 10 poll all year, barely held off a surprising Liberty squad to win their fourth consecutive county title over the 3.1-mile course at Western Maryland College.
Westminster's boys also won, capturing their ninth straight titleand 11th in the past 12 years.
"They (Liberty) ran very well and we ran very poorly," said Westminster coach Jim Gilford. "You can't beat a team like Frederick by 10 points one week (as the Owls did in the Oct. 19 Central Maryland Conference meet) and then beat Liberty byjust five the next week."
You could, perhaps, if the top Liberty runners shaved a combined 5 minutes, 30 seconds off their times on the same course earlier this season.
And that's exactly what happened, said Lions coach Brad Hill.
Compared with their showing on the same course in similar conditions about a month ago, Rachael Adams improved by 1:30, Curry Snelson by 2 minutes, and Debbie Ward and KatieSweemer by a minute each.
"You can't predict a kid bringing down her time by a minute," Hill said after comparing his runners' performances in the two meets. "Rachael hasn't run this well since her freshman year."
As expected, Stephanie Morningstar easily dominated thefield in her first year of cross country (although she has several years of track experience under her belt), finishing in 19:39.9.
Liberty's Jen Meyers was second, in 20:52.9, despite suffering from a sore throat.
"It made breathing a little difficult," Meyers said later.
Meyers added that she started the race hoping for second, given Morningstar's reputation as one of the best in the area.
"I kind of figured I'd come in second," Meyers said.
And as if on cue, Morningstar's father, John, walked by, tapped Meyers on the arm and, and congratulated her.
Liberty made the girls race close by packingthree runners in the seventh through ninth positions, and the Lions'fifth runner -- Snelson -- actually finished ahead of Westminster's fifth-place finisher, Liz VanDerslice.
South Carroll was a distantthird in the team race, while North Carroll nipped Francis Scott Keyfor fourth.
Key coach Jim Bullock, though, especially was encouraged by the showing of his top runner, Shannon Hugg, who placed fifth.He says he hopes she can anchor a solid showing in this week's regional meet.
"I was real pleased with Shannon," said Bullock, whose daughters, Bonnie and Joy, helped the Westminster team.
He added that he told Hugg to stay with his daughter Bonnie, who placed third inthe meet, as long as possible.
"I didn't tell my (daughters) anything about Shannon (Hugg)," Bullock said. "But I told Shannon about my girls."
The Owls boys took four of the top five spots to breeze to their title. Jim Holford finished first for Westminster, while North Carroll's Matt Davis was 11 second off the pace.
Key's Jim Clarius was expected to battle for second or third, but he got passed in the second half of the race by the Westminster pack of Chris Zendgraft, Dion Stanton and Brandon Duvall and wound up in sixth.
Still, the Eagles finished 26 points ahead of North Carroll. The Eagles packed their five scoring runners in sixth through 17th, and Bullock said the showing was a good start for this week's regional meet in Baltimore County and the Eagles' Nov. 9 state title defense, also at WMC.
"My big concern was to finish second and run a good race heading into the regionals," Bullock said, especially noting the performances ofhis fourth and fifth runners.
No. 4 Bryan Cherneski was 13th, andNo. 5 Ken Oldham finished 17th for the Eagles.
Liberty slipped inahead of South Carroll for fourth in the meet.
Here are the results from Friday's meet at Western Maryland College:cf,gereg
Boys team scores: 1.
Westminster 23, 2. Francis Scott Key 53, 3. North Carroll 77, 4. Liberty 94, 5. South Carroll 102
Individual results: 1.
Jim Holford (W) 16:44.3;
2. Matt Davis (N) 16:55.3;
3. Chris Zendgraft (W) 17:00.0;
4. Dion Stanton (W) 17:09.3;
5. Brandon Duvall (W) 17:15.2;
6. Jim Clarius (F) 17:33.7;
7. Aaron Sweemer (L) 17:49.3;
8. Jon Hjembo (F) 17:52.1; 9.
Mitch Jones (F) 17:53.7;
10. Matt Soper (W) 17:58.0;
11. Matt Crill (S) 17:59.9;
12. Jeff Gray (S) 18:00.5;
13. Bryan Cherneski (F) 18:01.7;
14. Joe Riegert (W) 18:02.5;
15. James Heffner (N) 18:03.7.
Girls team scores: 1.
2. Liberty 37,
3. South Carroll 75,
4. North Carroll 104,
5. Francis Scott Key 110.
Individual results: 1.
Stephanie Morningstar (W) 19:39.8;
2.Jen Meters (L) 20:52.9;
3. Bonnie Bullock (W) 21:02.1;
4. Kerri Murphy (S) 21:15.1;
5. Shannon Hugg (F) 21:22.7;
6. Joy Bullock (W) 21:46.0;
7. Rachael Adams (L) 22:22.5;
8. Katie Sweemer (L) 22:29.9;
9. Debbie Ward (L) 22:30.1;
10. Amy Elwell (W) 22:42.6;
11. Curry Snelson (L) 22:48.2;
12. Liz VanDerslice (W) 22:55.2;
13. Emily Aaron (W) 22:58.6;
14. Jen Binford (W) 23:06.0;
15. Heather Young (S) 23:09.8.