Homecoming awaits Cox, Rager

Westminster boys coach back after year's absence

senior girl set for return

Cross country notebook

High Schools

September 07, 2004|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

When 11 boys and girls cross country programs participate in the Westminster Invitational tomorrow at McDaniel College, perhaps no other team will be as anxious - or hopeful - as the host school, Westminster.

That's because the meet will mark a homecoming of sorts for Owls boys coach Dave Cox and senior Maggie Rager.

It has been nearly two years since Cox last coached Westminster. When he stepped down after the fall season in 2002 to focus on a growing family and a Christmas tree farm, Cox had guided the Owls to three straight Class 4A state championships and five Carroll County titles in six years.

Although Westminster grabbed its 19th county crown in the past 20 years last fall, the Owls fared poorly at the East region and state meets. And when former coach Ross Baer took a teaching position in Virginia, that opening paved the way for Cox's return.

"I missed it," Cox said. "I missed some of the guys on the team last year. I considered them to be friends, and I missed seeing them at meets."

Cox said the toughest part of the transition has been reacquainting himself with the runners. Only seven of the 31 boys on the team had been coached by Cox.

Tommy Lueking, a senior who ran for Cox during his freshman and sophomore years, said Cox's presence has already had an effect.

"I've noticed that the team acts as a whole," Lueking said. "We're trying to run together instead of as individuals. Coach Cox motivates us to run a lot harder and faster."

The Westminster Invitational has a different type of significance for Rager, who exacerbated a right knee injury at last year's meet and missed the rest of the season.

Rager, an All-Carroll County runner in cross country as a sophomore and outdoor track as a freshman and sophomore, said she is primed to compete.

"I've been looking forward to it," she said. "I'm not going to get down on myself if I don't do well. As long as the team does well, I'm fine."

The girls team could use Rager. Junior Trisha Repsher, the county's Runner of the Year last fall, is overcoming a strained ligament in her right knee, and sophomore Carly Gavigan is trying to run despite being outfitted with a cast to protect a left arm fractured during a weekend soccer game.

Ron Waranowski, who co-coaches the squad with Bob Repsher, said he has given Rager and Trisha Repsher the same advice.

"If you get the slightest amount of pain, you stop. No matter what you're doing, stop," Waranowski said. "We're just trying to get them to come back slowly."

C.M. Wright riding high

Not only is C. Milton Wright sitting atop The Sun's girls poll, but the Mustangs are also ranked No. 3 in the Southeast region of the Nike Team Nationals.

"It's an honor, but I think the team deserves it," said sophomore Allison Barnes, the reigning Class 3A state champion. "We have a lot of girls that have worked really hard over the summer. I think [the ranking is] great."

The top two teams in each of eight regions automatically qualify for the Nike Team Nationals in Portland, Ore., on Dec. 4. Third- and fourth-place teams in each region are considered for four national at-large selections.

Holy Trinity, the defending state champion in Florida, and Pope John Paul, also of Florida, are ranked ahead of C. Milton Wright. However, what matters most is something a little closer to the heart - a Class 3A state title.

"We were so close last year," senior Kelli Buck said of the team's runner-up finish at last year's state meet. "It evaded us last year. ... That's what we're focusing on right now. Everything else is just icing on the cake."

Zubko breaks record

Junior Sergiy Zubko not only led the No. 1 River Hill boys to a win in the large schools division of the Interstate Classic last Saturday, but he also broke a 13-year-old course record at Clear Spring High School.

Zubko's time of 15 minutes, 57.7 seconds shattered the previous record set by Ted Mason of Clear Spring by four seconds.

"I would have to say I felt pretty good," Zubko said of his race. "That was my goal - to go sub-16 - and I achieved that."

Throw in top-20 finishes from senior Nicholas Keane (fourth, 16:34.8), junior Andrew Bank (sixth, 16:49.8), senior Andrew Seelaus (11th, 17:14.0) and junior Kevin McCoy (18th, 17:35.6), and the Hawks compiled 40 points to defeat reigning West Virginia champion Preston (63 points).

The River Hills girls placed fifth with 162 points. Junior Bess Seelaus was fourth (20:25.9), senior Lindsay Sullivan 34th (22:46.3), freshman Meghan Yi 39th (23:22.9), sophomore Emily Woodhouse 42nd (23:39.7) and freshman Laura Triscoli 43rd (23:46.0).

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