High drama permeated the county cross country championships yesterday at Howard Community College, where no one would have thought less of River Hill's Beth Santilli if she had opted not to run.
Last Saturday, after finishing sixth at the Georgetown Prep Invitational, she suffered an enlarged windpipe, hyperventilated and was taken by ambulance to a hospital where she was revived from a semiconscious state with oxygen.
Santilli not only chose to run yesterday. She won. And the junior did it in impressive fashion, 15 seconds ahead of runner-up Kristin Sunderdick of Oakland Mills.
"I felt good, was happy, ran well and got the time [19 minutes, 55 seconds] I wanted," said Santilli, who finished second in the county last season when she ran for Glenelg. "I put it [what happened last Saturday] out of my mind."
Doctors theorized that a carbon dioxide build-up inside the gym where the runners gathered before the race, a sudden drop in outside temperatures and windy conditions combined to cause her windpipe to enlarge.
Despite Santilli's victory, the Centennial girls team repeated as county champions, defeating runner-up Mount Hebron, 52-61. It was Centennial's fourth county title in five years.
Centennial placed five girls among the top 23 runners, including Sarah Ordaz (4th), Neha Amin (fifth), Melinda Long (eighth), Rebecca Kulak (12th) and Sarah Cooke (23rd).
The drama was nearly as intense on the boys side. Atholton coach Pat Saunderson was a freshman harrier at Atholton in 1983 -- the last time the Raiders won a boys cross country championship.
But the Raiders pulled it together to nip Centennial by four points, and two-time defending county champion Wilde Lake by six in one of the tightest championships ever.
Atholton's Mike Zaron made a scintillating sprint in the final 100 yards to pass three other runners and capture second place behind the favorite, Jeff Olenick of Centennial.
"I had never beaten those guys before, and was just trying to do good for the team," said Zaron, a junior who started the season as Atholton's No. 3 runner.
Olenick, a senior who has lost just one race this season and finished seventh in the county last season, found himself in a tighter than expected competition before winning by 11 seconds in 16: 24.
Zaron, along with two River Hill runners, Mike Prada and Zach Heidepriem, stayed on Olenick's heels for two miles before Olenick pulled away.
"I didn't expect the River Hill guys to be so close for so long, and I was starting to wonder how well I was running," Olenick said. "They gave me a scare."
Pub Date: 10/25/96