Shreya Nalubola and the Centennial girls cross country team polished off an impressive year with breakthrough victories at the 3A state championships Saturday at McDaniel College.
Nalubola finished first with a time of 18:41.1, beating Urbana’s Maria Carberry (18:58.9) and Reservoir’s Karli Smiraglia (18.59) for the first state title of her career.
Not to be outdone, the Eagles' team put up 56 points to collect its first state title since 1990.
“It feels really amazing,” Nalubola said. “I just trained and worked really hard with my teammates and my coach.”
Normally at Hereford’s intimidating Bull Run course, the 2013 cross country state championships were held on McDaniel College’s campus. Nalubola said the venue change was welcomed in her mind.
Her ability to adapt and master the course did not waiver.
“It’s a really tough course, but it’s also a really fast one,” she said. “I remember hitting the two-mile mark and thinking, ‘Wow, I only have one mile left…it’s time to kick it up a notch.’”
Centennial coach Kevin McCoy said watching Nalubola mature into a perennial race winner has been a pleasure all season long.
“I’m so lucky and so fortunate to have a girl on my team like her,” he said. “Coming into this race, after the last two weeks, I knew she was ready.
“She just works so hard at everything she does. She’s unbelievable.”
Devin McIntyre (7th, 19:37.9), Kara Taylor, (11th, 20:00.7), Ally Driscoll (12th 20:01.4) and Ilana Harris (25th, 20:29.0) also paved the way for the Eagles, who took home a 3A East Regional championship a little more than one week ago as well.
Praising the way his underclassmen competed, McCoy said the senior leadership behind the team’s success came from Taylor.
“Without her, none of this is possible,” he added.
Finishing off a positive season of her own, Reservoir’s Smiraglia — the second place finisher in the Howard County Championships — took home the bronze in a near photo finish.
“My ideal race plan was to stick with the top runners for as long as I could,” she said. “Once I got to that last 1,000 meters, I wanted to kick it into a new gear and surge a little bit. I think I did that a little too late, because I missed second place by just a little bit.”
Howard County’s supremacy on the 3A level was on display Saturday, as six of the top 10 runners hailed from one of its six participating schools.
River Hill’s Allison Krein finished fourth with a time of 19:16.6, leading the Hawks to a No. 2 finish in the team standings with 67 points.
Reservoir (122) finished fourth, while Glenelg (264) and Wilde Lake (270) finished seventh and eighth respectively.
“Howard County is always stacked,” said McCoy, who in high school ran on the state level for River Hill under current coach Earl Lauer. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s the way we want it.”