Cross country runners Scott Boetig of Old Mill and Fran Mackney of Severna Park have more in common than either probably realize.
The two seniors each captured first place in the county and region meets before falling short in last week's state meet at Western Maryland College.
Despite their lower finishes at Saturday's running of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association cross country championships, Boetig and Mackney, share a common bond in their selections as this year's Anne Arundel County Sun Male and Female Runners of the Year.
Boetig finished second behind Troy Harry of Quince Orchard, Montgomery County, in the boys state 4A race while Mackney came in third (19 minutes, 14 seconds) behind Dulaney standout Amanda White (17:25) and Westminster's Stephanie Morningstar (18:59).
Boetig's chance at winning the state title fell less than a second short, as he covered the three-mile course in 16:03. His time helped the Patriot boys to a sixth-place team finish but did little to appease him.
"I got a bad start, and it took me a while to catch up," Boetig said. "Itried to catch up with him (Harry) at the end, but I guess he heard me coming behind him."
While Boetig and Mackney nabbed the Anne Arundel County Sun's top honors among the county's growing field of harriers, it was Severna Park coach Ed Purpura who was selected as the Cross Country Coach of the Year.
Purpura led his boys and girls teams to a sweep of the county and Region IV championships. His Falcon girls captured their ninth straight county title, while his boys contingent reclaimed its county and region titles from defending champion Broadneck.
"We've been so successful in the past that some people say, 'Oh well, who does he have to coach, he has everybody,' " said Purpura, whose boys finished fourth and girls a disappointing fifth atthe state meet. "But, what people don't realize is that you still have to motivate them. You still have to make them go out and do the best they can.
"The sport really appeals to the type of kids in the Severna Park area. It's just a good area for cross country, and we'relucky enough to have a lot of good quality runners."
The main cogin Severna Park's machine this year was Mackney. The gutty Falcon improved on a more-than-satisfactory junior year where she placed second in the counties, third in regions and ninth in the state meet.
"Fran's parents are from England and she reminds me of the great English runners such as Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe -- runners who are mentally tough," said Purpura, a physical education teacher at Glen Burnie's Richard Henry Lee Elementary School. "There's a great tradition of running in England, and she fits right into that tradition."
Boetig established a tradition of his own this season when he successfully defended his Region IV title Nov. 1 at Catonsville Community College.
At the county meet the previous week, the 17-year-old Patriot broke away from the pack at the 3.1-mile Annapolis High course andfinished with a personal best time of 16:41.
Boetig's region win did not come as easily, however, as Severna Park's Jarrett Hon pressured him throughout the entire 3.2-mile course. Boetig finished in 17:28 -- three seconds ahead of Hon.
"I was confident, but I didn't want to be too hopeful because I knew there would be some surprises," said Boetig, who last year finished third in the county, first in theregion and seventh in the state meet. "I was weary going into all ofthe big meets."
Boetig said his confidence ironically "peaked" atthe state meet where he fell nine-tenths of a second short of claiming the title. He attributed his postseason self-assurance to hard work in the off-season.
"I felt better than ever going into states this year," said Boetig, an All-Metro performer last year. "In past years, my coaches would tell me that this was my year to win states and I would just say, 'yeah right,' but this year I really thought I could win.
"After the states, a lot of people said to me that they would rather have had the winner way ahead of them than to get beat in arace that close, but I don't see it that way. The way I see it, I was right up there with him."
Being in the thick of things is where Purpura has found himself since his early coaching days at Meade, where he garnered his first region title. He then served three years at Glen Burnie, then moved on to Broadneck, where he led the Bruins boyscontingent to a state title in 1984.
"State titles are pretty elusive," said Purpura, who as a senior was the No. 1 runner on the 1970county champion Severna Park team. "That's why I'm glad I got my oneat Broadneck. That title was really special to me because I was coaching against my old coach, (now his assistant) Jim Patton.
"We used to have quite a rivalry, and any time you beat your old coach, it'spretty special."
As far as coaching philosophies go, Purpura could never be mistaken for a hypocrite, as he follows the same daily routine as his runners.
"I make it a point to run with them in practice," he said. "I try to do all of the tough stuff that they have to do. I find that it helps to motivate them even more."
Even as Purpura looks ahead to attempting to win his 10th straight county girls crown next fall, he maintains he would rather see the members of both his boys and girls teams become good citizens.
"It's nice to have asuccessful team, but what's more important is watching the runners become successful people," said the Arnold native. "I'm not in this todevelop world-record holders. I just get a kick out of watching thembecome good people."