For Atholton's Smith, jitters translate to win

Severna Park, River Hill take Meade team crowns

Cross country

October 09, 2004|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Even defending Howard County cross country champion and double invitational winner Alison Smith can get nervous before a race.

What separates the Atholton sophomore from some of her peers, however, is her ability to channel that anxiety into her running performances.

That's how Smith raced past other successful runners, including Arundel junior Marissa McPhail and Bryn Mawr sophomore Lauren Childs, to take the individual title at the Meade Autumn Classic at Blob's Park in Jessup yesterday.

The girls team crown went to No. 3 Severna Park, and the boys championship was claimed by No. 1 River Hill for the third consecutive year.

Walter Johnson's Andrew Jesien captured the boys individual title.

Smith's victory was her third of the season after wins in the medium schools division at the Bull Run and at the Howard County Striders Invitational.

But Smith acknowledged that the field at the Meade Autumn Classic was somewhat more formidable.

"I was `wigging out' a bit," said Smith, who crossed the finish line in 18 minutes, 28.90 seconds. "I get very jittery about the competition, but it's also very exciting because it's not something you see at a quad-meet. ... It definitely gets your blood moving."

Smith set the pace in the beginning, but eventually relinquished the lead to Winston Churchill's Allison King before the 1-mile mark of the 3-mile course.

But Smith and Childs overtook King and traded the lead until the 2.5-mile mark. That's when Smith recalled what occurred at last week's Harford Invitational.

"I took what I didn't do there and used it here," said Smith, who placed second to C. Milton Wright sophomore Allison Barnes at the Harford Invitational. "I said to myself, `You don't want to get second place again when you're this close. When you're this close, you might as well win.'"

Childs' runner-up finish in 18:34.84 paced No. 5 Bryn Mawr to 106 points, but it wasn't enough to catch Severna Park.

The Falcons - who lost to the Mawrtians by a single point at last year's invitational - used efforts from freshman Liya Kasimova (fourth place in 19:28.68), sophomore Bryn Pittinger (11th, 20:02.52), junior Jennine Strange (13th, 20:08.46), junior Kara Siegert (17th, 20:30.11) and junior Christine Brus (18th, 20:31.46) to compile 63 points for the win.

Kasimova said because coach Ed Purpura can pick any one of the team's top 14 runners to run in the varsity's top seven spots, the members have every motivation to run well during practice and in meets.

"If you've done bad in a race, it gives you that push to do better," Kasimova said. "We push each other a lot, but we care for each other, too."

No. 4 Broadneck placed third with 145 points. McPhail, the invitational's defending champion, was pained by cramps and slipped to sixth place (19:45.11).

The River Hill boys team continued to roll through the area competition.

The Hawks relied on junior Sergiy Zubko (fourth, 16:06.11), senior Nicholas Keane (ninth, 16:23.90), junior Andrew Bank (14th, 16:47.14), junior Kevin McCoy (22nd, 17:08.93) and junior Andrew Sasser (23rd, 17:10.87) to post 72 points.

River Hill ran without senior and usual No. 4 runner Andrew Seelaus (hip), but Zubko said the Hawks have no qualms about promoting runners from the junior-varsity squad.

"They're good enough to run varsity," he said. "They could be the No. 1 runner on some teams. ... These guys are ready to go at any time."

No. 4 Wilde Lake placed second with 101 points, Archbishop Spalding third with 122, No. 6 Centennial fourth with 137 and No. 2 Broadneck fifth with 183.

McDonogh senior Tristram Thomas and Broadneck sophomore Matthew Centrowitz exchanged leads for most of the race before Jesien overtook both runners in the last half-mile to win in 15:37.43.

Centrowitz finished second in 15:44.37, and Thomas was third in 15:48.99.

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