Boys Runner of the Year
* Joe Ledda, Liberty, Jr.-- Quiet but intense, Ledda lived out his dream in the Carroll County championship race. Ledda said his goal was to win the county championship because he never had won a big race. He took the top spot by 10 seconds over Westminster's Tim Meerschaert, who had run just three seconds behind Ledda in the Central Maryland Conference championships. It was the third time Ledda had beaten Meerschaert in four confrontations this season, and was just enough to push him past Meerschaert for the Runner of the Year honors. Liberty coach Dan Jones said it is rare to see a high school runner prepare himself so thoroughly for a race. Ledda also wanted to break into the 16-minute-plus club, and he did it in grand style in the 2A regionals at Middletown, finishing in 16 minutes, 16 seconds for fourth place. Ledda thought he had a 16:59 at the county meet but it was an inadvertent call and the official time had him at 17:01.
Boys Coach of the Year
* Jim Gilford, Westminster -- Gilford lost all his top runners from last year, except Shawn Donovan, yet guided the Owls to a second consecutive second-place finish in the state 4A championships. Along the way, Gilford and Westminster won their 10th straight county title and seventh straight Central Maryland Conference championship. Gilford just keeps defying the odds. In the state meet, everyone had conceded the title to Quince Orchard and the fight was on for second place. "All the Arundel and Perry Hall people figured one of them would be second," said Gilford. "They never counted us in the running, but we did it. Maybe someday we'll get our due respect if we keep going back there and doing well." The Owls have won two state 4A titles in the past five years and have three seconds.
Boys First Team
* Damon Battaglia, Francis Scott Key, Jr. -- Two things that made Damon the top runner for the Eagles -- he was always prepared and always bounced back from disappointing finishes. He ran as low as sixth last season but became No. 1 at the start of this season. Highlights for Battaglia were an exciting comeback to win a dual meet against Middletown, a fifth-place finish in the county championship, third in the 1A regional meet that led the Eagles to a first-place finish, and 14th in the 1A state finals that helped Key take third overall.
* Justin Combs, Liberty, Jr. -- This intense runner spent an entire season pushing teammate Joe Ledda to greater heights. Ledda became the county's Runner of the Year, and Combs was not too far behind him to give Liberty a superb 1-2 punch. Lions coach Dan Jones said Combs is even more intense than Ledda, which says a lot. Combs made the second All-Central Maryland Conference team with a ninth-place finish at Linganore, and he was fourth in the county meet.
* Shawn Donovan, Westminster, Sr. -- A four-year runner for the Owls, Donovan would have been in the limelight at most schools. At Westminster, he was behind such outstanding runners at Jim Holford, Chris Zendgraft and Tim Meerschaert. However, Donovan took pride in the fact he was the No. 1 alternate on the team that won the state 4A title in 1991 and was a major part of two second-place 4A state teams the past two years. Westminster coach Jim Gilford praised Donovan for his "tremendous leadership" and a 17th-place finish in the states.
* Bryan Gunning, North Carroll, Jr. -- This hard-working runner has given North Carroll cross country hope for the future with some outstanding championship races in the Central Maryland Conference (seventh), Carroll County (sixth), 2A regionals (10th) and the 2A states (23rd). "Let's hope we can build on what Bryan has done for us this season," said first-year coach Tom Davidson. Gunning, a quiet person by nature, asks a lot of questions about running and keeps improving. His fluid stride is what makes him such a consistent runner, said Davidson.
* Tim Meerschaert, Westminster, Sr. -- Coming from Michigan, Meerschaert made a big splash and came close to being Runner of the Year. Meerschaert was brilliant in the 4A states, turning in a 16:47 time at Hereford for a fourth-place finish. In four head-to-head duels with Runner of the Year Joe Ledda, Meerschaert won the first one in the Westminster Invitational, was four seconds behind in a tri-meet at Westminster, finished second by 10 seconds in the county championships and was three seconds behind in the Central Maryland Conference championships. Ledda took second and Meerschaert was third in the CMCs. Meerschaert started out seventh on the team this season, was No. 2 after the first race and soon became No. 1.