Allison Krein

River Hill sophomore Allison Krein approaches the finish line on her way to winning the girls race at the Howard County Invitational Friday. (Brian Krista, Patuxent Publishing / September 6, 2012)

Surviving a tumble down the stretch, River Hill’s Allison Krein picked up the first victory of her cross country career Friday.

The sophomore, who didn’t run last fall for the Hawks, crossed the finish line in 20 minutes, 36.96 seconds at the Howard County Invitational to hold off Centennial’s Shreya Nalubola (20:39.79).

“I was sort of nervous about the course because I’ve never ran here before,” said Krein, who was coming off a second-place finish at last week’s Interstate Classic. “(Coach Earl Lauer) had told me about the hills and that I should just kind of hang with the pack and see what happens.”

The strategy of hanging close to the leaders paid off, as Krein finally made her move to break away from the pack over the final half mile and established herself a cushion that was big enough to withstand a stumble down the hill entering the final straightaway.

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“I have more speed from running the half mile (during track), so I tried to use that to my advantage,” she said. “I had to get through the tough second mile and then hang on until the end. Luckily I was ahead by enough that falling didn’t hurt me.”

Krein’s first-place effort helped spearhead River Hill to the girls team title as well. The Hawks finished with 69 points, edging second-place Reservoir (73) by four. Centennial was third with 111 points.

“Reservoir’s tough, we knew they were going to be right there, and so is Centennial … but it was a good meet for us,” River Hill coach Earl Lauer said. “We’re still figuring some things out, having lost Leanne (Young). The good news is we’ve been fortunate to pick up a couple strong runners like Allison from indoor/outdoor track and freshman Eileen Ying who was third for us today.”

Reservoir’s run to second was keyed by placing each of the team’s top four runners in the top 15 overall, including Cindy Alms in fifth (21:20.77). Other strong individual finishes were turned in by Glenelg’s Julia Nardone (third in 20:49.45) and Mt. Hebron’s Rachel Yep (fourth in 20:53.59).

In the boys race, Wilde Lake’s Tim Virostek appeared on his way to an individual title before he suffered a fall of his own entering the stadium for the final 400 meters. But, unlike Krein, Virostek was unable to get back up to his feet and, after being attended to by medical personnel, was eventually carted off the course.

The fall opened the door for Annapolis’ Hale Bullen, who had led for much of the first half of the race, to come back and grab the title in 17:01.60.

“The last half mile was just unbelievable,” Bullen said. “(Tim) was looking really good coming up that last hill and then right around 400 meters it was like he all of a sudden hit a wall. I couldn’t figure out what was going on, but I started pushing … and I just took off toward the finish line.”

Howard’s Danny Rau ended up finishing second with a time of 17:24.68. As the leaders went out, he did a good job sticking to his race plan and it paid off with one of the highest finishes of his career to date.

“I just had to sit behind them being the first race of the season and run my race,” Rau said. “I let them go out and had faith that all my summer training would pay off in the end and it did.”

In the team competition, Centennial’s boys narrowly defeated River Hill, 85-88.

Alec Font (fifth in 17:50.96) led the Eagles charge, but the real key was the team’s ability to group its third (Griffin Riddler in 21st), fourth (Eric Segev in 23rd) and fifth runners (Hutson Baumann in 26th) within 13 seconds of one another.

“The guys in that group were getting together this summer pretty regularly and putting in some good training runs,” Centennial coach Al Dodds said. “(Pack running) is something we’ve talked about not just this year, but in other years too, we just happen to have some guys that have really improved. Guys that were first-year runners as juniors are now really stepping it up as seniors.”

River Hill’s run to second place as a team was led by Chris Heydrick finishing fourth overall in 17:34.68.

Meet results:

Boys A team results: 1. Centennial, 85 points; 2. River Hill, 88; 3. Mt. Hebron, 89; 4. Reservoir, 99; 5. Atholton, 125; 6. Annapolis, 177; 7. Marriotts Ridge, 181; 8. Howard, 218; 9. Wilde Lake, 252; 10. North Harford, 256; 11. Oakland Mills, 267; 12. South Carroll, 280; 13. Glenelg, 332; 14. Long Reach, 363; 15. Hammond, 419.

Boys individual results: 1. Harry Bullen, An, 17:01.60; 2. Daniel Rau, Ho, 17:24.68; 3. Nick Fransham, NH, 17:30.11; 4. Christopher Heydrick, RH, 17:34.68; 5. Alec Font, C, 17:50.96; 6. Gary Smolyak, A, 17:55.06; 7. Terry Tossman, RH, 17:58.58; 8. Adam Gartrell, Re, 18:03.69; 9. Karl Schmidt, MH, 18:08.86; 10. Adam Sachs, C, 18:11.33.