The 35th annual Richard Barnhart Memorial Invitational cross-country race may be at a new venue, but the same familiar feet should be near the leaders of the pack as the Dulaney boys return all seven runners from the team that won the 2016 Class 4A state championship.
The host Lions opened last season by winning the Barnhart Invitational at Dulaney High.
The race will be held this year on Sept. 16, beginning at 10 a.m., at the Baltimore County Agricultural Center near Oregon Ridge for the first time.
“We were anticipating that Baltimore County was going to do all these renovations at Dulaney [High], so we sought out a different venue and their staff has been very accommodating,” said Dulaney High coach and meet director Chad Boyle.“We designed a new course, so that should be something exciting for the sport. The county championship and 3A and 4A North regional meets will be there.”
One of the teams that will be there is Severna Park, who lost by one point in the Class 4A state championship to Dulaney last fall.
“Severna Park always looks very good this time of year, so it will be tough,” Boyle said. “We need to be all hands on deck.”
Loyola Blakefield, Mount Saint Joseph, Sherwood, Albert Einstein and Mountain View, Va., are some other quality teams coming to the meet, which includes 36 schools.
“Anyone who is bored by the sport of cross country should go to that race because it is really fun to watch good teams go head to head,” Boyle said.
One of those quality programs is the Dulaney boys, who have won the past two Class 4A state cross country championships.
Seniors Matt Owens, Brian McCullough, Connor Martin and Brendan O’Brien, juniors Drew Dailey and Sam Merng and sophomore Ethan Samels all return from that squad.
Owens finished seventh in the Barnhart last year and was the second fastest Baltimore County runner behind Towson High senior Jon Ellis, who was fifth.
Ellis went on to win the individual Baltimore County championship.
McCullough (12th) and Martin (18th) also finished in the top 20 for the Lions last year at the Barnhart.
The group of seven runners recently finished within five seconds of each other in a pre-season time trial.
In addition to winning the Barnhart last year as a team, the Lions won at the Spiked Shoe Invitational, Glory Days Invitational, Baltimore County and Class 4A North Region meets.
Dalton Hengst won the 2016 Barnhart individual race (15:44.30) and he will return with McDonogh School as a senior, along with second-place finisher Kieran McDermott, of Bel Air.
“That’s going to be a great race,” Boyle said. “It’s obviously going to be a course record because it’s a new course.”
The new venue adds some challenges for Boyle, who is running the meet for the 20th straight year.
“When you manage something like this, especially when you are doing something new, you get pretty nervous, not about the race, but you are managing a lot of things, parking, concessions, trainers, hoping no one gets hurt,” Boyle said. “That’s what you worry about. It’s good too, which is exciting, that’s a positive.”
Boyle is looking forward to joining forces with the Agricultural Council.
“I’m really excited to partner with the Agricultural Council,” he said. “I know they are going to be on hand and they are really excited because they can promote some of their agricultural partnerships that they do in schools.”
That’s not the only change.
“The other big thing that we are excited about is Under Armour has partnered with us to sponsor the race, so it’s going to look really cool,” Boyle said.
But the coach won’t forget the true meaning of the invitational that began in 1983, under the guidance of former Dulaney coach Bob Dean.
“It all goes back to what the meet is about, which is a memorial for Richard Barnhart,” Boyle said. “The meet is for him and to honor his family.”
Barnhart was a runner for Dean who passed away after graduating from Dulaney.
“That’s what really motivates me to try to put together a first-class event and do a good job of remembering him, because I know Bob [Dean] and that was important to him,” Boyle said.
In the girls’ race, last year’s winner, Haley Jackson, of Patuxent, and runner-up, Kelly Wesolowski, of Hereford, graduated, so the title could be up for grabs.
Paint Branch’s Yasmine Kass, fifth last year, could be one of the favorites.
“She had a phenomenal year last year,” Boyle said. “I expect her to definitely be up there for sure.”
The coach is also high on Dulaney runners Dorrie Gaeng and Brooke Ruffin.
Gaeng, a senior, was seventh at the Barnhart last year and Ruffin, a junior, finished 28th.
Ruffin also finished fifth in the county championship meet behind Gaeng, for the Lions, winners of the county team title.
During the outdoor track season, Ruffin set personal bests in the mile (5:20) and two-mile (11:28).
“I know Brook will be up there for sure and Dorrie will be very strong,” Boyle said.
Seniors Meghan Robinson and Destiny Clinton and junior Emilie Bowerman are also threats for Dulaney.
The Hereford girls won the Barnhart team title last year and they were led by top 25 finishes from Wesolowski (2nd), junior Kelly Shearer (8th), sophomore Emily Konkus (10th) and junior Nicole Burkoski (23rd).
The meet begins with the girls varsity race at 10 a.m., followed by the boys varsity race at approximately 10:35 a.m.