Winters Mill's Hannah Oneda won the girls elite race in… (Kim Hairston, Baltimore…)
The No. 2 Severna Park girls have a senior-laden lineup that's been part of one of the area's top cross country teams in recent years.
But the Falcons felt they needed to send a bit of a message at Saturday's Bull Run Invitational at Hereford.
The Falcons won the Elite division race for the third straight year. They placed two runners in the top 10 to finish with 94 points and capture the team title for the fifth time in six tries.
Coach Ed Purpura said his runners have heard people wondering about them this season for various reasons, and that this should prove they're for real. Severna Park beat runner-up Chantilly (Va.) by 13 points and Bethesda-Chevy Chase by 16.
"There's been a lot of questions about the team this year," Purpura said. "Questions because of injuries; questions because of personnel. It's a great test, and we came through it well."
Four seniors anchored the Falcons' effort. Michelle Nelson (20 minutes, 23 seconds) finished second behind Hannah Oneda of Winters Mill, who won easily in 19:03.
Ashley Hayes added a seventh-place finish, and fellow Severna Park seniors Jodie Clouser (16th) and Maddie Clouser (23rd) also finished in the top 25 for the Falcons. Sophomore Tracy Vanderkolk (46th) completed their scoring. (Senior Olivia Snow has been sick and missed the race.)
Oneda took the individual title with a late burst of speed. She also sent a message with her impressive victory, while conquering a few demons and learning a lesson or two.
Oneda was an All-Metro pick last fall who has developed into one of the state's top distance runners. But she's still frustrated by what happened at last year's state title meet — also at Hereford — when Oneda went out fast and faded late in Class 2A race, finishing second to longtime rival Maura Linde of Century (now at Syracuse).
This time, a little patience went a long way. Oneda held back and stayed behind leader Hannah Grossman of Strath Haven (Pa.) until there was about a quarter-mile left. The senior then made her move, bursting past Grossman and pulling away from everyone.
"Today, I held it and held it and held it," Oneda said. "I was going to wait this time. I learned a huge lesson in my senior year — be patient and just wait."
Grossman slipped back to fourth place as she got sick at the end of the race and struggled just to finish.
Oneda also learned a lesson about being prepared. She didn't bring any spikes to run on the soggy, muddy course. But Winters Mill's Weston Carvalho told Oneda she needed them after he ran in the boys race, and he loaned her his shoes.
"I think it made a huge difference," she said.
No. 4 Spalding (133) took fourth in the girls' elite race, beating out No. 1 Hereford (156), which finished fifth.
The No. 1 Hereford boys fared better than the girls, finishing second in a tight three-team battle in their Elite division race.
Chantilly's Sean McGorty won that race in 15:53 — the third-best time ever run on the difficult Hereford course — and his school had enough to finish first with 94 points, edging Hereford (96) and No. 3 Severna Park (97).
Loyola's Kevin Corbusier was the top local runner in the race, finishing third.
Julian Rivera (seventh) and Jon Luckin (10th) gave Hereford top-10 efforts, and the Bulls were happy to get a strong early-season test.
"It gives us a [look] to see where we are and to see where we stack up," Rivera said. "Our team ran well."
In the Large schools division, Perry Hall's Vince Ciattei finished second. Annapolis ended up third as a team. No. 8 Wilde Lake took second in Medium division with 78 points, five behind Einstein.
The No. 7 Gilman boys won the Small division with 91 points, edging out Williamsport by four. Will Meadows led the Greyhounds with his fourth-place effort.
For the girls, Broadneck (116) just missed in the Large division, finishing three points behind Freedom (Va.). No. 10 C.M. Wright finished second in Medium race with 86 points, five behind Walkersville.
Emily Ruppel of Loch Raven won the Small schools race in 20:23. No. 8 Liberty took the team title with 118 points, beating Carroll County rival South Carroll (133). Sarah Rinehart (fourth) and Casey Sullivan (seventh) led the way for the Lions.
"We're under the radar a little bit," Liberty coach Dan Jones said. "Now, they're on the map."
FOR A LIST OF TOP FINISHERS, CLICK HERE