Summer of conditioning has Wright again looking dominant Fallston, Bel Air pose stiffest challenge to title

Harford County cross country

September 08, 1996|By Bill Blewett | Bill Blewett,Special to The Sun

It's an axiom in the sport of cross country that the races of autumn are won in the heat of the summer.

That being true, C. Milton Wright will be tough to beat in the Harford County cross country season, which starts this week.

Wright returns county champions Eric Benjamin and Mary Beth Rollins along with about half its top runners from the squads that swept the Harford County boys and girls titles last year.

And most of the runners returned from summer vacation in top shape.

"They trained a lot over the summer," girls coach Barbara Johnson said about her top two returnees, Rollins and Kelly Coogan. The two, who ran one-two in the county meet last fall, trained separately but logged plenty of mileage on long distance runs.

Benjamin, a two-time county champion, trained and raced with the Harford County Track Club. His summer running culminated in August at the National Junior Olympics meet in New Orleans, where he placed fourth in the 3,000-meter run and fifth in the 1,500.

Benjamin is joined by returnees Brian Harris, Joe Updegrove, Andy Duer, and Brian DeFord. The Wright girls return Betsy Blom, Stephanie Novak, Pam Hipchen and Lee Ann Davis.

Under coach Bob Johnson, the Wright boys have won eight of the last nine county titles. Barbara Johnson's teams have won eight of the last 11 girls crowns.

The Mustangs, however, will face strong challenges this season from Fallston and Bel Air in both the boys and girls races.

The Fallston boys, second last year, have four strong returnees in Nick Sayers, Dave Huber, Jon Nelson, and John Erickson. "Matt Timm is our missing link," said coach Greg Thompson about his fifth man, state 800-meter champ Timm, who is running his first season of cross country.

Amy Datsko, the county 1,600-meter champion as a freshman last spring, is in superb shape and leads the Fallston girls. "We've got a solid five," said Thompson, whose current top five includes Erin Chlumsky, Meredith Fender, Kelly Barrett, and Leanne Haslbeck.

Bel Air has its largest girls team ever, 22 runners, and coach Jim Otte says it has strong potential: "It is a team that could possibly win the county if they all pull together." Megan Openhym and All-County selection Meredith Eyler lead the Bobcats.

The Bel Air boys may challenge Wright and Fallston with a squad led by junior All-County runner Brad Stone and senior Shawn Loper. "It's a young team but real solid," said coach Donnie Mickey.

North Harford, with Megan McNew (third in the county last year) leading the girls, promises to be first division in both boys and girls competition. Senior Ryan Borleis leads the Hawks boys.

The surprise team of the season may be the Harford Tech boys. Coaches Becky Fitzgerald and Bob Ober welcomed freshmen, Joe Dolan and Jermaine Wilson, who join captain Paul Ledebur for a strong top three.

The Aberdeen boys, under new coach Louis Gaffney, return a strong nucleus led by Tim Glaser. Edgewood, with first-year coach Kathy Thornton, has talented veterans in Jason Bulluck, Robert Allen, and Roy Mitchell.

All-County Senior Rodney Bolen returns for Havre de Grace, where Susan and Sara Whatley lead the girls team. At Joppatowne, All-County junior Beth Hadrys paces the girls team, and senior Jeff Businski, the boys. Junior Becky Strobel is the preseason standout at John Carroll, where both the boys and girls are inexperienced.

Pub Date: 9/08/96

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