Greg Fisher helped lead Westminster to the Class 4A state championship last fall. The Sun's Carroll County Runner of the Year won the county and Central Maryland Conference championships and gave the Owls an anchor for this season.
Three of the top five Owls were returning overall, and the team looked to be strong once more. But then Westminster got even stronger.
Jason Santucci transferred into Westminster this fall, moving from Virginia. Santucci eventually worked his way past Fisher as the team's top runner, which gives the second-ranked Owls one of strongest 1-2 punches around.
Santucci, a junior, lived in the area when younger and missed a good part of last season with a hip injury. But he was ready to go when moving back and combined with Fisher to make a tough pair.
For example, in the recent Westminster Invitational, Santucci took third and Fisher fifth while the Owls blitzed a tough 17-team field. At the Linganore Invitational a few days before that, Santucci finished fifth, and senior Fisher was eighth.
"They have very different personalities, but both are a tremendous help to the team," said Westminster coach Dave Cox. "Both are very positive."
That positive outlook has helped both. The pair work well together and often push each other in practice. Both said they love to run with each other because of how it helps.
"It makes me push a lot harder," said Fisher. "During practices, we are supportive of each other. We talk to each other and help each other."
That good relationship has helped them handle a potentially awkward situation with style.
After Fisher led the way last year, Santucci quickly moving past him is the type of thing that could bruise egos and cause trouble, even dissension. But they've worked well together, and the situation caused barely a ripple.
Fisher said his concern is the team winning again. He and Santucci have become good friends on and off the course -- and if he's No. 2, he'll just keep working.
"Most guys wouldn't like it [that situation] very well," said Santucci. "He's had no problem with it. He's been great."
Fisher is enthusiastic about the Owls' shot at winning a second straight state title. That's one reason he enjoys Santucci coming so much -- it makes the team better, especially because the Owls have several other strong runners.
"It's definitely an edge for our team to have two runners up front," he said. "We push each other. I am 15 to 30 seconds better than I was last year."
JTC Both want the Owls to repeat their success of last year. To that end, they began working together even before the school year began.
The two got together during the summer and did a 45-minute run around the high school area and saw right away that they'd make a strong pair.
"I had no idea about him," said Fisher. "But I knew [after that run] that he'd be in the top three."
Sophomore Josh Davis, improving rapidly, could be right there with Santucci and Fisher by season's end -- another reason the Owls should have a decent shot at repeating.
But Fisher experienced the joy of winning a state title -- and Santucci hasn't, but wants to badly.
Santucci said he sees the pride his teammates take in their state title, the jackets they wear, the times they discuss.
Now he wants his turn.
"I really want team-wise to win the state championship We can all say Westminster won the state championship last year, but I wasn't there," said Santucci. "That makes me a little bit hungrier. I've got so much to run for right now."
Pub Date: 9/25/97