Westminster head coach Mary Rivera, right, embraces player… (Staff Photo by Brian Krista )
Defending a championship is the greatest challenge in sports. But last weekend, three county squads achieved that goal.
The Westminster field hockey team made it two straight state championships, when senior Megan Macera scored in the second overtime to give the Owls a 1-0 victory over Mt. Hebron in the Class 3A title game.
The Century girls and Winters Mill boys made it a clean sweep at the Class 2A level of the cross country championships, as each school captured its third consecutive state crown.
For Westminster, coach Mary Rivera's team went undefeated a year ago, ending the season with an overtime victory against Dulaney to take the Class 4A title.
The Owls, who were hit hard by graduation, weren't expected to reach the final again. Westminster didn't even defend its county title, losing to a Century team that advanced to the Class 2A state semifinals. But Westminster won the regional title with triumphs over Tuscarora, Linganore and Urbana.
The Owls edged North Harford, 2-1, in a state semifinal to advance to their second consecutive title game. And when Macera took a pass from teammate Maddy Walsh and struck the winning shot, Westminster clinched its eighth state field hockey championship.
Running to glory
The Century girls claimed their third consecutive Class 2A state cross country championship in an event dominated by Carroll teams. Century led the way, edging South Carroll by one point for the title. Winters Mill, paced by individual winner Hannah Oneda, finished fourth and Liberty took fifth.
The Knights were led by Katie Todd, who finished ninth overall. The Century senior edged South Carroll's Samantha Bingaman by one second, a big factor in the Knights' third straight title. Todd was excited to see the Knights make it three in a row, especially after losing two-time state champ Maura Linde to graduation.
"We definitely wanted to prove to people that we could achieve another state championship," said Todd, one of three Century runners in the top 20 along with senior Beth Lang and junior Morgan Fagnant. "We knew that it wouldn't be easy, but believed we could pull it off.
"Being able to bounce back is something that was stressed by my coaches (Chris Mead and Brent Dawson)," Todd said.
Oneda had a runaway victory in the 2A race. The senior, who beat her nearest competitor by almost a minute and a half, set a state meet record of 18 minutes, 28 seconds.
Her teammate, Nicole Rutherford, finished sixth. Sarah Rinehart of Liberty placed seventh and South Carroll's Bingaman and Olivia Lowman finished tenth and 11th, giving the county an astounding six runners in the top 11 spots.
There was no drama in the boys' Class 2A competition, as Winters Mill outdistanced second-place Williamsport for the school's third straight state title. The Falcons won with strength in numbers, placing three runners in the top nine. Junior Weston Carvalho took third, while seniors Zach Hopkins (fifth) and Reilly Cox (ninth) picked up valuable points.
"Most of our team was coming back, so we anticipated a successful season," said Dan Replogle, who completed his fifth year as the Falcons' head coach. "The big difference was that we were expecting to win (the title), and that puts more pressure on you."
Century, paced by senior Patrick Anske, finished fourth in the team standings. Anske (seventh) ran just behind Liberty's Greg Rinehart, ensuring that five county runners placed among the top nine.
More titles coming?
Carroll squads had a chance to win three more championships before Thanksgiving. The Century volleyball team won its first regional crown and was headed to the Class 2A state semifinals.
In just its third year, Manchester Valley had two chances to win the school's first state title as the boys' and girls' soccer teams advanced to championship weekend at UMBC Stadium, in Catonsville.
Owls need a change?
For the second consecutive year, the county placed just one of its eight football teams in the state playoffs. South Carroll made it three appearances in a row and six in the past nine years, but was eliminated by Walkersville in the Class 2A West Region semifinals.
But the big story was the exclusion of Westminster. The Owls won nine of 10 games, but lost out on a playoff berth when it was ruled that the team used an ineligible player for three plays in a 57-7 rout of Manchester Valley.
The team's final record of 8-2 wasn't good enough to beat out Perry Hall, which captured the final playoff spot despite losing to Hereford in its regular-season finale.
Westminster lost just one game on the field, falling to Urbana in the second week. Even if the forfeit had not occurred, the Owls were on the borderline for the playoffs.
The problem for Westminster was that it didn't play a single Class 4A school all season and was hard-pressed to pick up enough points against county opponents in the classes 2A and 1A to qualify for the playoffs.
Westminster would likely need to alter its schedule to prevent this scenario. For years, the Owls have played three non-league games against Frederick County schools. That made sense when those schools played in Westminster's region, but Urbana, Linganore and Thomas Johnson are now in Class 3A West while the Owls are in Class 4A North.
Westminster should keep one Frederick team on its slate. But since they can pick up more playoff points with a win over schools in Class 4A, they need to schedule teams in their own region and classification to better control their destiny. They should make every effort to get powers in 4A North, such as Poly, Perry Hall and Catonsville, on their future schedules.