Centennial's girls cross country team has been the model of consistency during the 2013 season. Wins at the Barnhart, Spiked Shoe and Georgetown Prep Invitational meets — along with a victory in the Howard County Invitational in early September — created high hopes for the program heading into the postseason.
On Tuesday in the Howard County Championships on their home course, the Eagles made good on those expectations. Placing five runners in the top 11 on the way to 32 points, Centennial cruised to first-place overall.
"One through seven, they are absolutely great," Eagles' coach Kevin McCoy said. "They have an amazing team dynamic."
Leading the pack for Centennial was Shreya Nalubola, who finished first overall (19:02.65) for the second consecutive year. The junior beat her Howard County Invitational winning time by more than 30 seconds.
River Hill (66) placed second, while Reservoir (94), Glenelg (118) and Howard (146) rounded out the top five teams in the girls race.
On the boys side, River Hill junior Chris Heydrick took the individual crown with a time of 16:37.84. Heydrick's victory, however, wasn't enough to propel the Hawks to a team championship.
Mt. Hebron's Ben Weinstein (16:46.94) and Corey Hamilton (17:17.94) placed second and seventh, respectively, to pushing the Vikings to their first county title since 2009. Centennial (78) edged the Hawks by one point to take second, while Atholton (87) and Reservoir (109) rounded out the top five finishing schools.
"They ran as a great team," said Mt. Hebron coach Paul Ulrich after learning of the win. "They practiced all season as a team, not really worrying about individuals."
In the boys race, Reservoir senior Owen Pochettino (4th, 16:53.27) got out to an early lead, but was followed closely by Wilde Lake junior David Eisenhauer (3rd, 16:52.34), Heydrick and Weinstein.
In the second mile, Pochettino pulled away from the pack and Weinstein went along with him. Heydrick said he wanted to stay back and wait until the third mile to make his move.
Weinstein found himself in the lead before the course's final hill, but Heydrick closed in and made the pass for the win not long after.
"Honestly, I had no thought in my mind that I was going to win today, because Ben has had a phenomenal season," he said. "I had a strategy just to get top three, stay there and put myself in position.
"I didn't shut the idea out of my mind, but it wasn't a strong hope for me that I would be able to pull out the win."
In the girls race, Nalubola got out to her usual strong start, but River Hill's Allison Krein and Reservoir's Karli Smiraglia kept a steady pace.
"For the first mile, I was just trying to stay with the pack and not get out too fast," said Nalubola. "This course is really difficult, so I wanted to make sure I could work with all the hills."
After the second mile, the junior made her move and left most of the field behind.
In the race for second, Krein held a modest lead over Smiraglia in the middle of the race.
"I have more of a kick, so I knew I wanted to be somewhere close to them going into that final mile," Smiraglia said. "I felt like I could use my track speed to help me finish the race."
With about 800 meters left in the contest, Smiraglia (19:29.40) closed the gap and moved into second. Krein (19:44.09) settled for third.
Centennial's Devin McIntyre (20:10.99) and Hammond's Julia Reed (20:21.63) rounded out the top five finishers.