Mike Recek made it official yesterday.
He is the top boys cross country runner in Carroll County, and Joe Ledda is No. 2.
Westminster's Recek (16 minutes, 48 seconds) outran Liberty's Ledda (17:10) in a much-anticipated showdown in the Carroll County championships on a day the Jen Moorman-led Francis Scott Key girls cross country team won its first county title.
The Westminster boys captured their 11th straight Carroll County title with 31 points to 41 for second-place Liberty in the meet at Western Maryland College.
Ledda, the 1993 Carroll County individual champion, predicted before the season that Liberty would end Westminster's 10-year reign.
That prediction didn't sit too well with Westminster but it did lead to one of the most exciting cross country seasons in Carroll County history.
It also seemed to inspire Liberty to its best team finish ever in the county meet.
The first-place finish by the Eagles girls completed a rebuilding project began six years ago by former Key coach Jim Bullock who had only two runners at that time on the team.
"I can't stand here as the lone coach responsible for winning this title without mentioning Jim Bullock," said current Key girls coach Rich Salkin. "He worked hard to get this whole thing started and I learned a lot from him."
Francis Scott Key had five of the top eight girls finishers to easily top second-place Westminster, 23-63, ending a five-year reign by the Owls.
Moorman (21:12) continued a successful first season of cross country competition for Key by outrunning South Carroll's Carrie Braun (21:18) down the stretch for first place.
It was the first county individual championship ever for Moorman, a senior, who gave up field hockey this season to run cross country.
"This is unbelievable," said Moorman who passed Braun as they went around the final turn and headed down the stretch. "I wanted to stay two steps behind Carrie and Emily Jones [Westminster's top runner who wound up 10th] most of the way so I wouldn't wear myself out. I was running with Christine Harner [Key runner who took third] and I told her we have to keep our pace and not try to go in front."
The strategy worked perfectly for Moorman who had more than enough to stay ahead of Braun at the end.
Braun said: "I just wanted to beat Emily Jones. I'd rather lose to Jen than lose to Emily. It seemed like Jen wanted it more than I did."
Two Key freshmen, Dawn Harner and Kristen Engel, had big days in the first-place effort. Harner took fourth and Engel was seventh. The other Eagles runner in the top eight was junior Ali Jones, the 1992 county individual champion.
For Recek, it was another workmanlike performance.
The ever-improving junior pulled away from Ledda on a hill on the third mile and easily took first. His long strides proved to be too much for Ledda.
"Mike has improved more in the past year than I have," said Ledda. "The reason I predicted we would finish first was to draw more attention to cross country this season and to try to make Westminster think about us more."
Westminster coach Jim Gilford said Recek has come on so much this season that "he is the second best runner I've ever coached behind Steve Kartalia [Westminster's state champion in 1981 and 1982 and Olympic qualifier in the 10,000-meter run]."