Kevin Hill emerged from last week's Howard County cross country championship as a double winner.
The Centennial star's No. 1 finish clearly established him as the county's best runner. And Hill also mastered Howard Community College's 3-mile course, where his worst showing this season -- fifth -- came in an invitational Sept. 17.
Halfway through the first race, C. Milton Wright's Brian Harris passed Hill and ran to victory. Last week, Hill did the same to Oakland Mills' Greg Curtis, finishing in 16 minutes, 37 seconds.
"In the first race, I lost concentration and I wasn't very controlled," Hill, a senior, said.
"This time, I ran a more relaxed and evenly paced race."
Hill will try to continue padding his nearly immaculate 1993 record in today's Class 3A, East Region meet. He has finished first in five of nine meets, with runner-up finishes in three others. A 16:24 time at the Lancer Invitational in Frederick County is his best so far.
Hill's fifth-place showing in the Sept. 17 invitational was three places behind Curtis, his strongest county rival. But Hill won their other two head-to-head races, a quad meet at Centennial and the county championship. Curtis finished second in both races.
Though they ran in separate heats in the Westminster Invitational, Hill's 16:39 time topped Curtis' 17:10.
"I've been fairly happy with my season," Hill said. "First of all, competition has come from within the team with Bobby [Van Allen] and Steve [Olenick], from county races with Greg Curtis, and then from around the area with Brian Harris and various other people."
Another happy person is Eagles coach Al Dodds, whose third-ranked boys team is paced by a runner who arrived unexpectedly -- Hill.
Hill, a South African native who came to the United States in 1990, transferred from Lower Merion High outside of Philadelphia.
Dodds first learned of Hill's pending arrival through a Centennial guidance counselor last May,but it wasn't until Aug. 23, the first day of practice, that the coach was convinced he had a talent on his hands.
In a 12-minute practice workout, Hill completed nine laps (2 1/4 miles), "which was very good," Dodds said. "At that point, I knew he was a pretty good runner.
"It usually happens the other way around," Dodds added. "This was the exact opposite. I got lucky this summer."
Dodds has taken some friendly jabs from opposing coaches about "recruiting," knowing that it's all in fun.
"I got kidding from other coaches that we had a premier runner transfer in," he said. "Somehow, they had heard about him through the grapevine before I had even said anything. I would give them a little kidding back, telling them I was trying to keep it a secret."
Hill has become the new catalyst of Centennial's cross country program, which placed first in the county and third in the state (Class 3A) last season. Now, the spotlight is not only on Olenick, a senior, and Van Allen, a junior, the county's fourth- and fifth-place finishers last season, respectively.
Hill's surprise entrance hasn't caused any dissension.
"I wasn't expecting someone in the county to be as good as Kevin, but it's making us better as a team and it's making me run better," Van Allen said. "He gives me someone else to train with and he pushes me a lot harder."
Likewise, the 6-foot, 142-pound Hill is grateful to have Van Allen as a motivational tool.
"Oh yeah," said Hill, a National Merit semifinalist with a 3.6 grade-point average. "We've run two workouts this season where Bobby's come late and had to finish on his own, and it was a little harder for me to run."
After the regional meet at Centennial, Hill again will face Harris in the Class 3A state title race Nov. 13. In addition to the Sept. 17 outing, Hill has lost twice to Harris, a two-time Harford County and three-time regional champ.
'He's probably going to be the favorite to win the state," Hill said of Harris. "He and a couple of guys from Walt Whitman [in Montgomery County] will make it tough."