The 3A state cross country race has mostly belonged to Howard County the past three seasons. On the boys side, River Hill entered Saturday’s state meet as the three-time defending champions. For the girls, Centennial won in 2015, and the Hawks were victorious the year before that. Last season, they finished fourth and second, respectively, behind Northern.
But River Hill and Centennial were not able to win individual or team titles this year, and neither were the other Howard County teams competing at Hereford High School. The Hawks girls side settled for runner-up in the 2A race, finishing behind the host school in the 2A race, while the Eagles boys’ squad also came in second place.
In total, eight Howard County runners finished in the top 10 of their respective races.
Back in 2A, River Hill falls short of state title
Entering Saturday’s race, River Hill coaches Paul Hugus and John DiFato emphasized team running.
They envisioned sophomore Anish Nanjappa running in front, seniors Brendan Fitzgerald and Jake Downing running together after that and the next four runners filling in behind them. For the girls, senior Jasmine Tiamfook and freshman Faith Meininger would push each other for first place, while their teammates would run in pairs in pursuit.
DiFato said both sides followed the plan at times during the race but strayed from it at other points. In addition, Downing and sophomore Kennedy Clark, each top-five runners for the Hawks, did not finish.
That left the River Hills girls with 121 points, good for second behind Hereford (81 points). The boys (166 points) took third, with Liberty (68 points) and Calvert (74 points) claiming the top two spots.
”In terms of race effort, it wasn’t an 100 percent race effort — our boys and girls will tell you that — but thankfully we were able to keep it together in the girls race and finish second,” Hugus said.
The usual suspects paced the Hawks girls. Tiamfook followed her individual county and regional titles with a fourth-place finish (19:47.74) and Meininger, the runner-up in each of those races, again crossed the line in behind her to earn fifth.
Hereford junior Emily Konkus won the 5K race in about 19 minutes, 40 seconds.
“My arms completely numbed," Meininger said of running in the chilly conditions Saturday, “But then I knew that this is cross country. Cross country is this feeling. And pain is temporary, but wherever I finish, that’s permanent, so I just felt like I just had to give it all I got, and I feel like I did.”
The boys also received a fifth-place finish from Nanjappa, who suffered an early setback when he fell in the race’s opening moments. He bounced back — though maybe not as strong as he would have liked — to finish in the top five after placing 15th at the state meet as a freshman last year.
“It was OK,” Nanjappa said. “I fell at the beginning, so that was really hard, and I was feeling frozen the entire time around, but I’m OK. I wanted to come third, but they passed me at the end. Pretty disappointed, but it was an OK race.”
2A girls team scores:
2. River Hill (121 points); 9. Glenelg (205); 10. Marriotts Ridge (229); 16. Oakland Mills (431).
2A girls individual scores (top 25):
4. Jasmine Tiamfook, RH (19:47.74); 5. Faith Meininger, RH (19:56.32); 15. Molly Bingham, MR (20:39.69); 17. Katie Melesko, G (20:42.02); 23. Kealy Faughnan, MR (20:50.84).
2A boys team scores:
3. River Hill (166 points); 6. Oakland Mills (195); 11. Glenelg (282); 19. Marriotts Ridge (466).
2A boys individual scores (top 25):
5. Anish Nanjappa, RH (16:27.31); 16. Jared Nguyen (17:02.56); 24. Brendan Fitzgerald, RH (17:11.99).
Reservoir’s Kai Muniz, Annabel Cortez take third in 3A race
Reservoir senior Kai Muniz, like everyone else involved in Maryland high school cross country, knows about “the dip” a steep ravine in the middle of Hereford’s race course. Muniz came up with a strategy to conquer it.
“It’s kind of just to exist up the hill,” Muniz. “Not really push it because your heart race is going to spike once you get to the top. But I really just tried to exist up the dip. Not push it too much, but always stay in contact.”
Near the end of the race, Muniz started to struggle going back up the dip, but a fierce final 500 meters resulted in earning third-place.
“Coming in, I really wanted to come in the top three,” said, Muniz, who finished in 16:18.22. “That was a big goal of mine.”
Gators senior Annabel Cortez matched her teammate’s accomplishment with a time of about 19 minutes, 49 seconds.
‘The past races, they were good, and my freshman year, I have definitely gotten better since then,” Cortez said. “But I also think it was because the weather. It’s way better — it wasn’t as windy as it was last year — and I think that had a lot to do with it.”
Cortez initially placed fourth, two spots behind Mt. Hebron senior Emily Beyer, who was the closest competition for first-place winner Haley Cummins of C. Milton Wright. Beyer’s runner-up effort, had it stood, would have been the best individual finish for a Howard County runner on Saturday.
However, the officials disqualified Beyer for a course violation coming back up the dip, moving Cortez into third and Centennial Kirsten Wikner into sixth. Eagles junior Alison Betler finished 11th.
The performances from Wikner and Betler propelled the Eagles (154 points) to a fourth-place finish, just ahead of Atholton (155 points) and Mt. Hebron (175 points).
Meanwhile, Centennial Senior Greg Costello (10th) headlined a boys squad that secured its first runner-up showing since 2002 by scoring 126 points. Linganore won the race with 73 points.
3A girls team scores:
4. Centennial (154 points); 5. Atholton (163); 6. Mt. Hebron (175); 9. Reservoir (263).
3A girls individual scores (top 25):
3. Annabel Cortez, Re (19:49.14); 6. Kirsten Wikner, C (20:15.58); 11. Alison Betler, C (20:40.23); 15. Alexandra Banham, MH (20:49.85); 19. Gabriell Degrezia, A (20:56.18); 20. Meah Konstanzer, Re (20:59.12).
3A boys team scores:
2. Centennial (126 points); 3. Atholton (155); 4. Reservoir (167); 9. Mt. Hebron (247).
3A boys individual scores (top 25):
3. Kai Muniz, Re (16:18.22); 10. Greg Costello (17:06.71); 20. Alvaro Hernandez, Re (17:26.56); 22. Jake Perret, A (17:27.91); 25. Nick Weber, A (17:34.85).
Howard senior Nick Deamer earns third-place finish in 4A
If you told Howard’s Nick Deamer as a freshman that he’d earn a top-three state finish his senior season, he would have responded in two words.
Deamer has been one of the lead runners on the Lions team since he joined the team as a freshman and started his high school as a top-40 runner in the state. By senior year, he thought he could maybe crack the top 20.
Instead, he ended his career with a third-place finish.
“I was planning to be top five and hopefully win,” Deamer said Saturday. “Unfortunately, I didn’t get that today, but to come home with a top three is pretty good for me.”
Deamer finished in 15:59.92 but wasn’t able to catch runner-up Garrison Clark from Severna Park and Adam Nakasaka of Bethesda-Chevy Chase, who won the race in about 15 minutes, 50 seconds.
As a team, Howard boys (197 points) finished fifth. The girls came in 14th.