The North Harford cross country team ended a long title drought Oct. 25 on the lush green fields of Fair Hill near Elkton.
It had been a quarter century since the Hawks last won a conference cross-country title, but in last week's UCBAC championship meet, they won three – and almost a fourth – over harriers from 13 other Harford and Cecil high school teams.
On a picturesque course ideal for viewing horse races through binoculars, Megan Tidey won the girls' race and led her North Harford team to victory. Nick Fransham won the boys' race, towing the boys' team to a second-place finish.
These were the first conference wins for North Harford since Kathy Beresh won her fourth Harford County title in 1987, one year after she led the Hawks to their most recent team championship.
Tidey raced down the final, kilometer-long straightaway to finish in front of the grandstand in 18:42, leading Kaylee Haberkam of Perryville by 15 seconds. North Harford's Casey Welsh took third in 19:13, and Annie Scott, sixth in 19:42. Regan Davis was 13th in 20:26 and Ellen Shephard, 19th in 20:48 to give the Hawks a winning low score of 42 points.
C. Milton Wright placed second with four runners in the top nine. Kelly O'Neill was fifth in 19:34; Taylor Walker, seventh in 19:46; Miriam Silton, eighth in 19:49; Abby Fleming, ninth in 19:53; and Lauren Kunkel, 20th in 20:53. The Mustangs scored 49 points.
Bel Air took third with 118. Three Bobcats finished among the top 25. Grayson Slencak was 15th in 20:33; Megan Caudill, 22nd in 21:07; and Anna Puntanen, 24th in 21:12.
Defending champ Jordan Dodson led early in the race before finishing fourth in 19:24. Her Perryville team took fourth with 130 points. Bo Manor, led by 2011 runner-up Diana Curtis in 14th place, took fifth, and North East, led by Erin Palmer in 11th, was sixth.
Fallston placed seventh behind the 21st-place finish of Brooke Hutton, 20:59. Patterson Mill was eighth, with two in the top 20 - Stephanie McCartney, 10th in 19:58, and Samantha Herman, 17th in 20:40.
Fransham wins in 15:25
Nick Fransham built a 17-second lead in the boys' race, removing any uncertainty about just how rapidly he has improved this season. The swift sophomore crossed the finish line in 15:25 to become the first North Harford boy to win a conference meet, UCBAC or Harford, in 26 years.
Ty Franks of Bo Manor finished second in 15:42, and North Harford sophomore Chris Busick was third in 16:03. Ian Fiser placed 12th in 16:44; Calen Dowley, 19th in 17:00; and Patrick O'Leary, 29th in 17:17, to complete the Hawks' scoring with four sophomores and one junior. They finished 3 points shy of Bo Manor, winner of four straight UCBAC titles. The Eagles placed three in the top 11: Franks; Stan Higham, eighth in 16:34; and Chandler Brooks, 11th in 16:42.
C. Milton Wright's Matt Hoerr finished fourth in 16:03. With Dan Fleming 10th in 16:42; Brad Ensor 15th in 16:48; Mike Capozzoli, 18th in 16:56; and Max Anderson, 27th in 17:13, the Mustangs finished third, 10 points behind North Harford.
Perryville, with two top-10 finishers, was fourth with 88 points: Adam Thornton placed fifth in 16:08 and Eric Barton, sixth in 16:22.
Bel Air, led by Jordan Mensh, who placed 24th in 17:03, finished sixth. Fallston was seventh, aided by top-25 finishes by Sam Burgess, 13th in 16:45, and Noah Kudla, 22nd in 17:02.
Sam Verk was Edgewood's top finisher at ninth place in 16:39. Michael Dzambasow was 16th in 16:53, giving Edgewood an eighth-place finish without Lenier Tucker, the runner-up last year, who was not allowed to run because he was tardy to school on the day of the meet.
Sam Caretti finished seventh in 16:27 to lead Patterson Mill to ninth place. Aberdeen's Chris Banko was 14th and the Eagles finished 11th.
The conference titles were the first for North Harford head coach Eric Benjamin, who was a three-time Harford cross country champ as a student at C. Milton Wright, 1994 to 1996.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun