Owls, Cavaliers double threat Boys teams have potential to repeat '97 success

Westminster girls strong

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September 06, 1998|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Westminster and South Carroll boys teams' both capturing state titles last fall was an unusual feat, given that Carroll County has just five schools.

More unusual would be doing it again -- something that's a possibility.

Westminster dominated opponents last year en route to its second straight Class 4A state championship. But South Carroll surprised many when it won regions and the school's first Class 3A state title. Even though both schools need to replace top runners on those title teams, both also may be just as strong this year.

School-by-school:

Westminster: All-Metro pick and county Runner of the Year Jason Santucci is back for his senior year. Santucci, who struggled with injuries throughout the winter and spring, appears back and ready to win some more.

Winning was what Santucci did most of last season. He heated up midway through the season and won the county, Central Maryland Conference, region and state championships while leading Westminster to the title.

Junior Josh Davis will be this season's No. 2 runner for the Owls boys and has impressed Westminster coaches since his first day. He keeps drawing closer to Santucci.

Junior Jesse O'Connell is at No. 3. O'Connell's speed has improved since running 800 meters in the spring. Sophomore Kevin Pool, classmate Dominique Cook and junior Kyle Bates lead the battle for the fourth and fifth spots -- one that goes all the way through the top eight runners. Depth also won't be a problem for coach Dave Cox, because the Owls have about 35 runners this season.

"I think we have a little bit of extra depth," said Cox. "They're confident, and we want to aim for the top this year. We have a plan, and we'll just stick to it and hope nothing gets in our way between now and the end."

On the girls side, Westminster leads the way in the county. The Owls won the county and the CMC titles before finishing second in the region and fifth in the state last year, and coach Jim Shank's squad has most everyone returning.

Senior Holly Thompson burst on the scene last year in style, winning the region championship and taking second in the county. The Owls have three talented runners battling for No. 2. Sophomore Kate Henshaw and seniors Beth Vigliotti and Angie Baer all had strong seasons a year ago and give Shank a solid nucleus.

Shank said he hopes to find a solid No. 5. He might have one already as senior Sarah Brumfitt is returning. A hip injury kept her out all last season after she won the county championship in 1996.

Brumfitt would give the Owls an extremely solid top five. If she can't make it back to her previous form, Shank has several good underclassmen that could fill the void.

"I'm pretty optimistic so far," said Shank. "We've looked good in the preseason work. They're working hard, and their attitude has been tremendous."

South Carroll: This boys squad is probably deeper and better balanced than last year's titlist.

Sophomore Matt Adami and senior Steve Hammel are fighting it out for the No. 1 spot on coach Rob Pennington's squad, with classmate Dan Tompkins and sophomore Bobby Mead battling for No. 3.

Pennington said several runners are battling for the No. 5 spot, giving him depth that gives him confidence.

"Now the pressure's on us," said Pennington. "Last year, we sneaked up on people. Now we're what everybody wants to shoot for. There are no off-days any more."

The Cavaliers are balanced in a number of ways. Adami finished 11th in the state. Hammel was 21st, Tompkins 19th and Mead took 16th.

McClearn took third in the state, and the other four runners gave South Carroll the tough scoring it needed.

Pennington's girls also could have a strong year. The Cavaliers have a very young team that could surprise some people.

Freshman Lindsey Schwartz, senior Allison Bierly and sophomore Lauren Boone will be the team's top three although not necessarily in that order.

Pennington said the team has the most depth he's had in a while.

Francis Scott Key: The Eagles were strong last season, and, despite some late-season troubles that wiped out its chances of taking the Class 2A crown, they had a good year. They won the Monocacy Valley Athletic League championship and were third in the region before taking fifth in the state.

Coach Chris Conklin's team has some talent, but the Eagles will need help from last year's strong JV. Top runner Colin Russell returns along with senior Mike Replogle. Sophomore Ron Shriver will be at No. 3 while junior Matt Gibbes is next and a number of runners are trying for the No. 5 spot.

"I think people are going to expect us to rebuild," said Conklin. "But I think we've got a shot at defending our conference title."

Russell may be the key to that. The junior ran well much of the season last year, and Conklin is hoping for even more from Russell this year.

Replogle also has been dependable, and the Eagles also can use his help.

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