Before she ever took part in her first Oakland Mills cross country practice, there were lofty expectations for Britt Lang.
The freshman had big shoes to fill after older sister Tiffany had already made a name for herself as a standout for the Scorpions.
Tiffany — now a freshman at UNC-Charlotte — was a four-time, first team all-county selection who won a county championship for the first time in Scorpions girls history and earned last fall's Runner of the Year distinction in Howard County.
Britt, however, didn't let the burden of other people's expectations weigh her down.
"I felt a little bit of pressure, but I got over it as the season went on," she said. "I just wanted to do my own thing and see how it would all play out."
By season's end, things had played out better than anyone, including Britt, could have ever imagined.
The 14-year-old Lang finished second at the county championship meet before winning the Class 2A South Region title in her first attempt. Then came the biggest race of the year, the 2A state championship.
Lang admitted to being pretty nervous for the season-ending meet, taking long walks alone to think, clear her head and focus on the task in the week leading up to the race.
That focus paid off at Hereford High School on Nov. 10. Lang ran what could be called the best race of her life, winning the state crown over Poolesville's Claire Beautz by 28 seconds.
"Winning states was amazing. I wasn't expecting it, but I knew that I had a shot," she said. "So I worked as hard as I could and ran the best race that I could. I hope to do just as well over the next three years, but you never know what's going to happen."
After culminating a spectacular rookie season, Lang has been named the Columbia Flier/Howard County Times girls cross country Runner of the Year.
"There was definitely pressure and I think for a while it wasn't fun for her, but once she got on the team and school started she found her way through Oakland Mills and things changed," said coach and father Phil Lang. "It has been stressful but she probably put more pressure on herself now after winning states as a freshman."
It came as no surprise to Tiffany that her little sister had such a standout season. She saw the writing on the wall at an early age.
"It's just been cool to watch her through the years," Tiffany said. "She was (an AAU) national champion twice but that was different because she was so young. When she got second at county's this year and killed my time from last year in the Scorpion Crawl (Invitational), we thought maybe something could happen this year."
Something definitely happened: Britt came into her own.
"She realized that she could be Britt and not Tiff, and everyone was okay with that," coach and mother Vicki Lang said. "People didn't expect her to be Tiffany. … We just hope people see them, for them and not for being a Lang. They are the ones out there accomplishing these things. It's cool that we're a running family but they get the credit for it."
Britt's run to the state final began at the county championship meet. She ran at a 6:27 mile pace, finishing second behind Centennial's Shreya Nalubola in 20 minutes flat.
A week later at the 2A South meet, Britt pulled away from Glenelg's Julia Nardone to earn the individual regional title in 19:08 — good enough for a 31-second victory. Her effort, along with top-10 finishes by teammates Alyssa Hemler and Sarah Brand, helped give the Scorpions a second place finish.
In the 2A state meet, Lang stuck to her strategy and was the first to cross the finish line. The daunting hills of the Bull Run course were no match for Britt, as she cruised to the championship in 19 minutes, 21 seconds.
"I don't even know how to describe what I was feeling," Britt said. "I had run the course a few times before and I knew how hard it was. I was trying to contain myself as much as I could in the beginning so I wouldn't fade at the end."
Like everything else, Britt's triumph at the state meet was a family affair. Phil was encouraging her all the way to the end and Vicki connected with Tiffany via Skype on her cell phone. Big sister was there for a front row seat thanks to today's technology.
"I talked to her on the phone for 15 minutes before the race and was so excited that whole day," Tiffany said. "Me and my roommate Caragh were watching the race on Skype in the gym at school. As she came up the hill the second time I had chills all over my body. I couldn't believe it. As a freshman that's insane. I'm very, very proud of her."
Britt tagged along with her sister to countless Oakland Mills' practices and watched her parents teach their teams strategy for years. She couldn't wait for her chance to don that orange jersey and step into the family business.
"It's great that we all have that one thing that we do together. It's a great way to connect us as a family," Britt said. " My team was such a great support system. Even though she was away at college, my sister would call me after every race to congratulate me. My teammates and my family are always there for me."
Named to the all-county first team:
Cindy Alms, Reservoir
Postseason highlights: Fourth at the county championship meet (20:08). Placed 10th at the 3A East regional meet (20:35) and 10th at the 3A state meet (20:21).
Ally Driscoll, Centennial
Postseason highlights: Placed third at the county championship meet (20:07). Third at the 3A East regional meet (19:53). Finished 12th at the 3A state meet (20:24).
Allison Krein, River Hill
Postseason highlights: Fifth at the county championship (20:18). Won the 3A East regional meet in 19:44 and finished second at 3A states (19:28).
Hannah Mansbach, Glenelg Country
Postseason highlights: Finished second at the IAAM championship meet (18:59) and third at the MD/DC private school championship meet (18:49).
Shreya Nalubola, Centennial
Postseason highlights: Won the county championship meet in 19:46. Placed second at the 3A East regional (19:50) and third at the 3A state meet (19:37).
Karli Smiraglia, Reservoir
Postseason highlights: Sixth at the county championship meet (20:34). Placed fifth at the 3A East regional meet (20:10). Finished 15th at the 3A state meet (20:28).
Rachel Yep, Mount Hebron
Postseason highlights: Finished seventh at the county championship (20:35). Fourth at the 3A East regional meet (20:06) and sixth at the 3A state meet (20:07).