Westminster remains a step ahead Owls boys, girls again are the teams to beat

Cross country preview

September 07, 1997|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Westminster has dominated the Carroll County boys cross country scene for many years, capturing a long string of county and Central Maryland Conference championships.

The Owls look strong again this year, with three of the top five runners -- including Runner of the Year Greg Fisher -- back from the team that captured the Class 4A state title last fall.

But the other teams have improved greatly and, while Westminster still is the team to beat, there could be more of a wide-open race this fall.

Dave Cox takes over at Westminster, as longtime boys coach Jim Gilford stepped down after last year's state championship. Cox worked with last year's team, a group that rebounded from a shaky third-place finish in the region to surprise and win the state crown.

"I think we still have a strong team," said Cox. "Two of the things we have on our side are depth and tradition. Once you develop a good running program, it feeds on itself."

Fisher, a senior, and Josh Davis, a sophomore, lead the way this season. The county and CMC champion, Fisher finished in the top five in the state and came on strong late last year. Davis took eighth in the state and impressed many as a freshman.

Senior Ross Bair came back stronger, and junior transfer Jason Santucci will greatly help the Owls. Sophomore Jesse O'Connell looked good early last year but injuries sidelined him. Cox, however, said O'Connell is back and looks good.

South Carroll, Liberty and Francis Scott Key all have added a year's experience to last year's young teams and could push the Owls this season.

Seniors Steve McClearn and Adam McCready are two of the top runners in the county and will lead South Carroll. McClearn transferred to South Carroll last year, had a strong year in cross country and track and field, and should pace the Cavaliers.

Freshman Matt Adami has been a pleasant surprise to coach Rob Pennington, and juniors Dan Tompkins and Steve Hammel appear fit as six of the team's top seven runners return.

The Cavaliers took second in the county, third in the CMC, fifth in the region and seventh in the state last year. This could be a breakthrough season for them.

Liberty also boasts a solid group of runners. Five seniors, led by Bobby Ward, will carry the Lions' hopes. Ward is trying to rebound from an injury-filled 1996 season, and coach Dan Jones said he should again be one of the county's top runners.

Jim Kafchinski, Kevin Rose, Mike Veise and Shawn Hanley will form a solid pack running right behind Ward that should make some noise.

"We gear ourselves to those four big races at the end of the year [county, CMC, region and state]," said Jones. "Now, we might gear up a little earlier knowing we might have a shot at Westminster."

Key also brings a solid group to the course for new coach Chris Conklin, who took over for longtime coach Rich Salkin.

Sophomore Colin Russell improved greatly and will take over the 1 spot, ahead of seniors Mike Pizza, David Higgs, Josh Hollman and junior Mike Replogle. Four of the top five return from last year, and the Eagles have plenty of depth.

North Carroll also had a big season last year, finishing sixth in the region and fifth in the state, but the Panthers lost four of their top five to graduation and are inexperienced.

Top runner Jeremy Cuno had another strong season last year, finishing sixth in the county and eighth in the region. But the team has little depth, with just seven runners as of last week, and they're all young. Sophomores Justin Prajzner, Justus Getty and Adam Cullison plus junior Andy Haines will help the Panthers.

For the girls, there won't be as much of a challenge. Westminster won the county and CMC titles last year and took fourth in the state, but Liberty is the lone team that could make the Owls sweat.

Juniors Sarah Brumfitt and Angie Baer, who finished 1-2 in the county meet, will combine with senior Jessie Detrow and Katie Henshaw to give the Owls and coach Jim Shank a solid top four.

Juniors Beth Vigliotti, Holly Thompson and Sarah Backhaus also will pitch in for a very deep team. Shank has the luxury of picking his top five or seven from a good pool of 10 runners.

L "As a team, I think we're stronger than last year," he said.

But so is Liberty. Returning for Jones and the Lions are their top two runners from a year ago, junior Gwen Gilmore and sophomore Diane Pandolfini. Gilmore finished third in the county, and Pandolfini came out of the blue to take fourth.

Helping the Lions even more will be sophomore Pam Maldeis, who has been running right with Gimore and Pandolfini in the preseason. Seniors Katie Skierski, Andrea DiPietro and Noelle Chandler give Liberty a solid top six.

"They're going to compete with a lot of good teams," said Jones.

South Carroll, Key and North Carroll all have the same problems -- too much youth. Jill Krebs leads South Carroll and could be the top runner in the county, but the Cavaliers are thin after her.

Sophomore Allison Bierly, seniors Maria Markovic and Kellyn Mitchell plus junior Jody Sharpe round out the top five.

Conklin has senior Dawn Harner, one of the county's best runners the last few years, to lead a young team. Classmate Heather Vigevino has improved over last year and will be second.

Sophomore Colleen Nicholson, junior Liz Kurrie and sophomore Krissy Jorda round out the top five.

North Carroll is the same way, much like last year. Senior Sarah Foor-Hogue was number two last year and should step into the top spot this season.

Senior Jessica Bowen, freshman Julie Mays and juniors Angela Smith and Jenny Bundra round out the top five North Carroll and coach Dana Gyory, who said the team has more experience and should improve throughout the season.

Pub Date: 9/07/97

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