WESTMINSTER — Back in 1987, the Francis Scott Key boys cross country team was primed for a state title, coming off a second-place finish in the previous year's state meet and with several important runners returning.
But the state cross country committee dealt a fatal blow to those hopes, combining the Class A and B meets (known as 1A and 2A) into one event. Key finished back in the pack that year, and the squad didn't even have enough members for a full team for several years.
Jim Bullock brought the Eagles back with a vengeance, though, andthe squad earned the Class 1A boys title last year. Key came into this season's state championship meet at Western Maryland College looking for all the world like a sure bet to repeat.
The Eagles had performed well during the regular season, finished a strong second in the county meet and were running the state event on a familiar course.
So you could excuse the Eagles for getting a bad sense of deja vu when two of their runners were disqualified and the team wound up finishing second to Joppatowne in the Class 1A boys meet Saturday.
The runners were flagged when an official on the course -- Carroll resident and longtime Franklin High (Baltimore County) coach Stan Ziolkowski -- saw the infraction. In all, eight runners from several schoolswere disqualified for running several inches inside one of the orange cones marking the last turn on the course.
The cones were not onthe course during a morning walk-through for runners, and poor crowdcontrol had caused some confusion at that corner, Bullock said.
But, he said, all the runners were well within two feet of the course markings, which Bullock said is the rule on cross country boundaries.
Bullock filed two protests -- to no avail.
The loss dimmed what otherwise should have been a good day for the Key coach. Key's Jim Clarius upset Mike Mamo of Milford Mill (Baltimore County) for the individual title. The first Key girls team to qualify for the state title finished fourth. And Bullock's daughters, Bonnie and Joy, were running for a Westminster team with state title hopes of its own.
"I didn't get to see my girls team run or watch my daughters run," he said.
Clarius' win over Mamo came as a surprise because the Milford runner had won at the regional meet the week before.
"This time I knew I was capable of hanging with (Mamo)," Clarius said after receiving his first-place trophy.
"I hung with him until the final 300 meters."
Clarius said his track background in the 400- and 800-yardrunning events, the cold weather and his familiarity with the courseall played a role in his win.
"I was real proud of Jim," Bullock said of his ace, who transferred to Key from South Carroll before thestart of the year. "He ran a very smart race."
But the coach still was smarting from the course ruling.
"It still hurt a lot," he said. "We should have been state champs."
Westminster's boys, meanwhile, were state champs, winning the Class 4A title by an easier-than-expected margin. The Owls' five scoring runners finished in the top 22.
Junior Jim Holford led the way with a fifth-place finish, but just as important was the pack running of junior Chris Zendgraft (11th), junior Dion Stanton (13th) and senior Brandon Duvall (16th).
The girls figured to be in the running for a state title, too. But a couple of surprises from Montgomery County and a big gap between the Owls' first and second runners left Westminster in sixth -- a close sixth.
Just 32 points separated the top six teams, as Winston Churchill, which finished second to Quince Orchard in the all-Montgomery County Region I meet, came back to win the state crown.
Stephanie Morningstar concluded her first cross country season by finishing second in the state to her old track and field foe, Amanda White of Dulaney in Baltimore County. Westminster's next five runners were bunched close together, but too far down the standings to boost the Owls to the team title.
Bonnie Bullock was 32nd and sister Joy came in 33rd,while Amy Elwell finished 38th and Liz VanDerslice 39th.
Liberty's girls, considered a dark horse in the Class 2A girls meet, finishedfourth, though only 14 points from second-place Loch Raven of Baltimore County. Jenn Meyers was sixth for the Lions.
Matt Davis placedfifth in the Class 2A boys race to help the Panthers to a fifth-place finish.
South Carroll's boys managed a sixth-place finish, one spot ahead of the Howard team that had finished just ahead of the Cavaliers in the Class 3A Region III meet.
Here is the complete list of Carroll performances in the state cross country meet:
Team results: 1. Westminster, 57
Individual results: 5. Jim Holford, Westminster, 16:20; 11. Chris Zendgraft, Westminster, 16:31; 13. Dion Stanton, Westminster, 16:38; 16. Brandon Duvall, Westminster, 16:50; 63. Jim Zoulias, Westminster, 17:49; 72. Joe Keigert, Westminster, 17:54
Team results: 6. Westminster, 126