Lions talk good run with Owls CROSS COUNTRY PREVIEW

September 16, 1994|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Sun Staff Writer

When the 1993 Carroll County Runner of the Year speaks, people are bound to listen.

Liberty High's Joe Ledda has created quite a stir around the county by predicting the Lions will beat powerful and 10-time defending champion Westminster in the county boys cross country championship meet at Western Maryland Oct. 28.

Liberty coach Dan Jones would not go quite as far as Ledda but Jones has supported his senior standout's bold statement.

"Someone needs to say it," said Jones. "Joe's taking pressure from the team and putting it on himself by making that prediction. We need to believe it. I don't want to predict that we'll beat Westminster, but I will say we can compete with them. No one on our team is intimidated by them. Our runners used to feel they didn't have a chance against Westminster. Now they're saying things like 'Let's go out and beat them.' They're going crazy with confidence."

Westminster coach Jim Gilford, the architect of the Owls' dynasty, does not agree with Ledda and Jones.

"We won't take Liberty lightly, but they're not in our class," said Gilford. "I heard they won a little dual meet [against Francis Scott Key] and they were talking about us instead of the meet they had won."

Also, Gilford doesn't believe Ledda will repeat as the county individual champion. Ledda finished 10 seconds ahead of second-place Westminster senior Tim Meerschaert last season.

Owls junior Mike Recek will replace Ledda as the Carroll individual champion this season, Gilford said.

"Mike is the class of our team, the class of the county and one of the top runners in the state," said Gilford. "Mike is as good a runner as I've ever had. He can run with Ledda. I don't think it will be that close when they meet in the county championships. Mike should win easily."

If Liberty doesn't upset Westminster, the Lions virtually are assured of a second-place finish.

The North Carroll and South Carroll boys figure to fight it out for third, with Francis Scott Key close behind them.

In the race for the Carroll girls cross country championship, Westminster is seeking a seventh straight title, but should get strong challenges from Francis Scott Key and South Carroll.

Key has four of its top seven runners back and gained a lot of talent when senior Jen Moorman gave up field hockey for cross country and has taken over the No. 1 position.

Liberty has more girls (12) out for cross country than ever and could make a run for a finish in the top three teams.

This is the second straight season that the Key girls have been given a good shot at surpassing the always-deep Westminster team. Last year, the Eagles ran into some injury problems at the county championship race and dropped to third place.

That opened the way for a cinderella South Carroll team to surge into second place and finish only 12 points behind the Owls. The Cavaliers made the run behind two freshmen -- Carrie Braun and Annie Mullins -- who return as sophomores.

The Westminster girls will be trying to make it seven straight. They will have to do it without coach Dale Fogelsanger, who has left the school to coach cross country and teach at Messiah (Pa.) College near Harrisburg.

Fogelsanger has been replaced by Jim Shank, who coached the Westminster boys track team last spring.

OC Here is a closer look at the five Carroll boys and girls teams:

Francis Scott Key

Boys -- Three freshmen are among the top seven runners for the Eagles, making the season "a project" for coach Rich Salkin. But All-Carroll first-team choice Damon Battaglia, a senior, returns and is No. 1 on the team again.

The freshmen are No. 2 runner Sean Deal, No. 3 David Higgs and No. 7 Brett Ebersole. Completing the squad are senior twins Jeffery Wright (No. 5) and Jerry Wright (No. 6) and No. 4 Ryan Meadows (a senior).

Girls -- The big story here is Moorman, who fell in love with running last spring while competing on the track team that upset Westminster for the county title and finished second in the state 1A meet.

Moorman joins four outstanding returnees from last year among the top seven. They are No. 2 Christine Harner (senior), No. 3 Kim Hugg (junior), No. 4 Ali Jones (junior) and No. 7 Mary Winters (senior). Jones was the Carroll Runner of the Year in 1992.

Two freshmen have gained top seven spots, with Kristen Engel No. 5 and Dawn Harner No. 6.

Liberty

Boys -- Seniors Ledda and Justin Combs are returning All-Carroll first-teamers and are running 1-2 for the Lions. When a death in his family forced Ledda to miss a quadrangular meet at South Carroll Monday, Combs stepped forward to finish first and lead the Lions to a first-place finish ahead of North Carroll, South Carroll and Francis Scott Key.

Junior Kenny Fischer is No. 3 for the Lions, senior Vince Novak is No. 4, senior Nolan Johnson is No. 5, sophomore Jimmy Jett is next at No. 6, and senior Aric Dietrich completes the top seven. Johnson returns to the squad after a year's absence due to academic ineligibility.

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