Westminster's 4A title sends coach off in style Dramatic win gives Gilford 5th state crown in 17 years

Cross country

November 10, 1996|By Bill Blewett | Bill Blewett,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Westminster boys cross country team delivered a farewell gift to their coach, Jim Gilford, yesterday on a hilltop in Hereford: another state championship trophy.

Over a three-mile course dotted with patches of mud, the Owls ran away with the Class 4A team title. They outscored favored Walt Whitman, 56-80, reversing the order of finish in last year's meet.

It is the fifth state cross country championship for Westminster in Gilford's 17 years as coach. His squads have also won the runner-up trophy five times. Yesterday's performance ranks as one of his teams' most remarkable.

A week earlier, the Owls finished only third in the Class 4A West regional, far behind Whitman.

"On paper, it seemed there was no way we were going to win this," said a hoarse but happy Gilford after the results became official. "These guys are all over-achievers."

The regional loss, the Owls' first defeat of the season, shook the team's confidence.

"Earlier in the week, we outlined what we had to do. I said: 'Guys, the first mile has to be more reasonable. You have to work the second mile hard. And in the third mile, move up, move up, move up,' " explained Gilford. "They did it. They ran it absolutely to perfection today."

"We came here to win, to send him out with a championship," said Dave Barnes, who ran 17: 28 for fourth place in the 133-runner field. "We knew we could win if every person on the team had their best race, and they did."

Teammate Greg Fisher finished fifth, just one second behind Barnes. Then came freshman Josh Davis in eighth, Danny Carter in 16th and Tom Park in 34th. Ross Bair was 40th and Ryan Elwell was 83rd.

"Any time you win, it feels good -- this one because it's my last year," said Gilford, who is leaving coaching to spend more time with his family. "I love coaching and nothing short of my family could drag me away."

In the 4A girls race, Westminster finished fourth with 132 points behind Dulaney, the winner with 64. Angie Baer (19th in 21: 51) and county champ Sarah Brumfitt (26th in 22: 09) paced the girls team.

Among 3A girls, Gwen Gilmore ran 21: 17 to finish 10th and lead Liberty to ninth place. Teammate Diane Pandolfini was 20th in 21: 47.

In the 3A boys race, North Carroll took fourth place, and South Carroll was fifth. Jeremy Cuno (8th in 17: 38) and Neil Lagatare (25th in 18: 23) were the fastest for the Panthers. Steve McClearn (19th in 18: 12) and Sean Rayford (30th in 18: 33) led the Cavaliers.

Francis Scott Key placed fifth among Class 1A boys teams as Josh Hollman (18th in 18: 48), Colin Russell (20th in 18: 51), and Mike Replogle (21st in 19: 01) finished in a tight pack.

The Eagles' Dawn Harner ran fifth in the 1A girls race in 21: 27, two minutes ahead of teammate Colleen Nicholson, who was 27th.

Elizabeth Kurrle (42nd in 24: 07) was the only other Key runner in the 1A girls race, because the Eagle girls team narrowly missed qualifying as a team for the 1A West regional meet.

A total of 890 runners from Maryland high schools competed among four classes in the meet. Jennifer Ford of Thomas Johnson turned in the fastest girls time of the day over the hilly three-mile route, at 19: 54.

Justin Taylor of Allegany clocked 16: 48 in the 2A race, the fastest boys time. Edward Tufaro of Walt Whitman, winner of the 4A race, ran 16: 49.

Pub Date: 11/10/96

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