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.”
Due to a nagging leg injury that has hampered her for much of the 2013 season, Oakland Mills sophomore Brit Lang was unsuccessful in defending her 2A state title Saturday.
“I’m hurt a lot, but I didn’t have any expectations because this injury is a day-to-day thing,” she said. “I’m happy with my race, because I think I put everything I had into it.”
Lang — Howard County’s top 2A finisher — placed 19th overall with a time of 20:10.9.
Though the Scorpions finished 12th overall with 338 points, coach Phil Lang said he was happy his girls were able to compete.
Marriotts Ridge (321) finished 11th. Hammond fielded two girls runners who competed as individuals. Julia Reed (20:22.9) finished 24th overall, while Rachel Sandler (21:48.8) placed 62nd.
Hereford took home the team title with 73 points, while Boonsboro’s Meggan Grams finished first with a time of 18:54.6.
In their first 4A state championship race, Howard girls coach Matthew Stump said the competition his team faced was fierce.
“I was excited for that, and I think the girls were excited for it as well,” he said.
Walter Johnson finished first overall with 60 points. Howard (349) placed 13th.
The top runner for the Lions was Gabby Rayner, who finished 27th with a time of 20:07.8.