Owls boys leave rest of county hoping for second place Coach's dream team runs for Westminster

September 09, 1992|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Staff Writer

Imagine this scenario for a few moments.

Westminster High wins the state boys 4A cross country championship, then returns nine of the top 10 runners from that team the next season, and has a record 70 boys come out for the team the next season.

It's all a dream, right? The kind of stuff they make movies out of.

Wrong.

This is exactly what has happened at Westminster over the past year, with a wave of cross country-mania hitting the school this season.

A total of 90 boys and girls tried out for the two Owls' cross country teams, catching veteran boys and girls' coach Jim Gilford by so much surprise that he didn't have enough uniforms to go around.

"We usually have 40 to 50 total come out," said Gilford. "But I guess I should have expected something like this since there are more people trying out for almost all our sports than before.

You have to give credit to a good bunch of kids who are getting more and more involved in sports."

All of which has helped create something of a boys' cross country dynasty at Westminster, as the Owls go for their third state 4A title in four years.

"Our seniors want to be the first class ever to win three state championships," said Gilford whose teams have won it all in 1989 and 1991.

"I would hope to repeat. All our runners push each other and they're good friends. We have super chemistry."

The Owls are so loaded this season that the other four county schools talk mostly about fighting for second in the county championship meet.

"It would be a dream to unseat Westminster," said Francis Scott Key coach Jim Bullock, whose team finished second to the Owls last year in the county meet.

But Liberty assistant coach Amy Filsinger put the state of boys' cross country in Carroll County in the proper perspective.

"We hardly even count Westminster," said Filsinger.

"Those numbers [70 trying out] are ridiculous in terms of us [10 boys out] trying to compete with them.

"We have some boys breaking into the 16s [minutes over approximately 3.1 mile course] which is good, but Westminster has guys running phenomenal times."

Westminster's No. 1 runner from last year, senior Jim Holford, is turning in times of 16:20 this season to solidify his top spot.

The other top 10 runners back from the state champs are: No. 2 Chris Zendgraft (senior), No. 3 Dion Stanton (senior), No. 5 Matt Soper (senior), No. 6 Jim Zoulias (senior), No. 7 Jay Merker (senior), No. 8 Joe Reigert (senior), No. 9 Shawn Donovan (junior) and No. 10 Nate Shank (sophomore).

At Francis Scott Key, the 1A Eagles are adjusting to life without state champion Jim Clarius, who is now at Western Maryland.

Clarius was part of a Francis Scott Key team that had to settle for second in the 1A state meet last year after two runners were disqualified for going off course.

Before the disqualifications, the Eagles had apparently won their second straight 1A championship.

"We were gentlemen about it," said Bullock. "But the markings on the course were poor."

Bullock has one senior (likely No. 1 runner Jonathan Hzembo) and 11 underclassmen on his team this season.

"We're stocking for the future," said Bullock, whose team should fare OK in 1A competition again this season.

At South Carroll, second-year coach Rob Pennington hopes to build on last year's surprising second-place finish to Westminster in the Central Maryland Conference championship meet.

"That was the biggest shock of the season," said Pennington, whose team was last in the Carroll County title meet.

"We have our top five runners back from that team. I don't think we'll finish last in the county again, and we may be able to finish second if we stay healthy."

The 3A Cavaliers have seniors Matt Crill, Mike Yokay, Jeff Gray and Aaron Quidort and junior Shawn Collins as their top five runners.

At Liberty, senior Aaron Sweemer and sophomore Joe Ledda will run 1-2 for the 2A Lions under first-year coaches Dan Jones and Filsinger.

Senior Ian Beam and sophomores Justin Combs and Aric Dietrich will battle for the No. 3 spot.

At North Carroll, the top three runners from last season are gone.

Third- year coach Stu Krise will be hard-pressed to duplicate last year's fifth-place finish in the state 3A meet.

Krise said the Panthers are young in terms of experience and will learn a lot this season.

Junior Brian Letnauchyn moves up to No. 1 this season from No. 4; senior Mark Gouge should be No. 2, sophomore Brian Gunning has a good shot at No. 3, and senior Jeremy Myers will most likely be No. 4.

At Western Maryland, coach Doug Renner is counting on Baltimore-area freshmen, Clarius from Francis Scott Key and Tim Collins from Broadneck, to help the Green Terrors move up from last season's 15th-place finish in the Middle Atlantic Conference championship meet.

"Clarius and Collins were exceptional in high school, and now it's a question of learning to pace themselves over a five-mile course in college," said Renner.

Renner has lost four of his top five from last season, leaving juniors Derek Johnston and Dave Radosevich as Nos. 1 and 2 this season.

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