All-Harford County cross country teams

High Schools

November 30, 2003|By Jeff Zrebiec

BOYS RUNNER OF THE YEAR

Bryan Thom

Bel Air, senior

A stress fracture that hampered Thom last fall had healed, a couple of the county's front-runners had moved on and the torch was passed to Thom to lead a talented Bobcats team.

Thom did just that, winning two major races and placing in the top five in three others while helping Bel Air to one of its best boys seasons in years. Thom's only county loss came in a regular-season meet when he was beaten by teammate Brett Kelly, but only after taking a wrong turn on C. Milton Wright's course.

After finishing third in the Westminster Invitational, Thom out-kicked two Dulaney runners to win the Barnhardt Memorial Invitational in 16 minutes, 50.80 seconds. Another third-place finish - at the Harford Invitational - was followed by another first, as Thom cruised to the county championship title with a career-best time of 16:08.06.

Thom, who would like to attend the Coast Guard Academy, completed a stellar season with a fourth at the Class 3A North regionals (16:25.78) and 12th at the state meet at Hereford.

"He runs out hard the first mile and then tries to hold on," said Bobcats coach Shawn Loper. "He runs with a lot of guts."

BOYS COACH OF THE YEAR

Shawn Loper

Bel Air

This was the season Loper, 25, had his sights on for three years, and he was hardly disappointed.

With a veteran cast, paced by five seniors and two juniors, the Bobcats served early notice with a dominating performance in winning the Westminster Invitational by 27 points.

The Bobcats also took firsts in the Harford Invitational, the county championships and the Class 3A North regionals. They were second in the Barnhardt Memorial Invitational and fourth at the Class 3A state meet.

Bel Air's county title was its first since 1985 as the Bobcats wrestled it away from C. Milton Wright, winner of 15 of the previous 16 county crowns.

Loper, an accomplished runner in his own right, had instant credibility with the Bobcats when he returned to his alma mater to coach four years ago.

Loper, a 1997 graduate, pushed his team and set a pace for the Bobcats.

"I guarantee I have harder-working kids than anybody else," said Loper.

"If you look at them, they don't really look like runners, but they pushed so hard and tried so hard. I just tried to take in everything I could because a team like this doesn't come along all the time."

GIRLS RUNNER OF THE YEAR

Allison Barnes

C. Milton Wright, freshman

It's pretty scary that Barnes is only a freshman and that cross country isn't even her No. 1 sport.

In her first year of organized running, Barnes, who ran to keep in shape for swimming, had a banner season.

She started with a third-place finish at the Spiked Shoe Invitational and a second-place finish at the Harford Invitational, but those were tuneups for what Barnes did next.

After sitting out the Harford County championships with a muscle strain, she broke through to win the Class 3A North regional title in 18:42.71 and then a Class 3A state championship in 19:47 at Hereford.

Barnes' emergence didn't surprise Mustangs coach Donnie Mickey, who watched her work hard at practice all season and then go to swim practice with the North Baltimore Aquatic Club and log three to four miles in the pool.

"Even though she's a freshman, she has a lot more experience competitive-wise because of swimming," Mickey said. "After the first invitational, we kept expecting more and more."

GIRLS COACHES OF THE YEAR

Donnie Mickey and Eric Clark

C. Milton Wright

In one sense, Mickey and Clark, who have coached together the past four years, had the ideal situation, guiding a team with so much talent and depth.

But it is the way that Mickey and Clark managed the talent that made the Mustangs so successful.

Able to get their top runners to strive for individual honors but to always buy into the ultimate goal of team championships, the pair led the Mustangs to another stellar season.

Though the end result wasn't a Class 3A title as C. Milton Wright had hoped, the Mustangs did win everything else, taking home team titles in the Spiked Shoe Invitational, the Harford Invitational, the Harford County championships and the Class 3A North region championships, to go along with a second-place finish at the Class 3A state meet.

The county title was the Mustangs' 13th in the past 14 years, and the Mustangs have finished no lower than second in the state meet in the past six years. C. Milton Wright did crown an individual champion in all five of its major meets.

THE BOYS TEAM

Runner of the Year: Bryan Thom, Bel Air, senior Coach of the Year: Shawn Loper, Bel Air

Name School Yr. Comment

Ryan DiMauro Fallston Sr. Team's No. 1 had four top 10s in big meets and 3rd at counties

Johnoliver Gosier N. Harford Sr. Scored 5th places at 2A East regions and counties

Brett Kelly Bel Air Jr. Emerged this season with 2nd at counties, 5th at regions

Josh Knight C.M. Wright Jr. Ran a 16:56.61 for 8th at regions; 14th in counties

Sean McCormack C.M. Wright Sr. The Mustangs' No. 1 placed 8th at counties, 12th at regions

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