If there is a common thread that runs through the county's high school cross country teams this fall it is youth and inexperience.
Glenelg graduated Robby Creese, a two-time cross country Runner of the Year, and Glenelg Counry School graduated Kikanae Punyua, who is running for the University of Maryland. Other schools took equal graduation hits, which leaves Oakland Mills junior Sam Andrews as the county's top boy right now.
On the girls' side River Hill's LeAnne Young, last year's girls cross country Runner of the Year, is back, but she can expect challenges from Oakland Mills' Tiffany Lang and Mt. Hebron's Rachel Yep, among others.
The team picture is less clear cut. When asked about county's top team this fall, the coaches mentioned the boys teams from Mt. Hebron, Wilde Lake, Atholton, Oakland Mills, Glenelg, River Hill and Reservoir and girls teams from River Hill, Mt. Hebron, Oakland Mills, Glenelg and Reservoir.
In other words, it's just about anybody's race.
The first indication of how things might sort out, individually and teamwise, will come at the Howard County Invitational, Friday, Sept. 9 at Centennial High School. All of the county's public schools participate. The first race goes off at 3:30 p.m.
Take your mark!
As the season begins, here's how the teams look, and what invitationals they will be participating in besides the Howard County Invitational:
Boys to watch: Seniors Kyle Deutschmann and Matt Heron; junior Gary Smolyak and sophomore Eddie Quinn.
Girls to watch: Junior Marisha Skibniewska; sophomores Jill Greenwald, Alicia Bazelle, Rosemary Davidson; freshman Anjali Mahadevia.
What you need to know: Atholton graduated nine of its top 10 boys from last year, which makes Smolyak the top returner, but the 75 Raiders on the team are undaunted by their inexperience. "Our strength is our determination," said coach Beth DeFrances. "Being that we graduated so many, the team feels that it has something to prove — that they can be a quality varsity squad."
The Raiders' girls were one point short of making last year's state meet, but did send one individual (Amy Nellis). The plan in 2011 is to be at Hereford, where the state meet is held, as a team. "The girls are very motivated and have been working very hard all three seasons and should accomplish their goals of finishing once again in the top half of the county and making states as a team," said coach Wendell Thomas. Freshman Elizabeth Towner could easily break into the top runners on the team, as could sophomore Hannah Lefors.
Invitationals: Bull Run, Knights (Liberty), Doc Jones and Georgetown Prep.
Boys to watch: Seniors Harry Colby, Pranay Patel and Ian Harrison; junior Jeff Sham; sophomores Andrew Durkee and Alec Font.
Girls to watch: Senior Rachel Dvornicky; junior Grace Paterson and sophomores Kari Dunagan, Jenna Harrity and Alyssa Taylor.
What you need to know: Young and inexperienced describes both Centennial teams. Over half the 77 boys on the squad are first-year runners, and of 36 girls, thee are just five seniors and two juniors. The boys will concentrate on running in a tighter pack than previous years. "Our numbers 1-5 should be a lot closer with respect to times," said boys coach Al Dodds. "That's going to be the focus this season."
If the Eagles' boys can stay close to each other a top-half finish in the county is not impossible.
The pack mentality will be the focus of the girls' team as well. "These girls can only improve. We will need to work as a team and not allow any major time gaps from 1-7," said coach Kevin McCoy.
Invitationals: Interstate Classic (Clear Spring), South Carroll, Bull Run, Georgetown Prep.
Boys to watch: Seniors Lee Moore, Nathan Tatum and Jeremy Starr.
Girls to watch: Senior Lanie Swanhardt, sophomore Julianna Boswell and freshman Julia Nardone.
What you need to know: The Gladiator boys have a void at the head of their lineup — it will be hard to replace Robby Creese, two-time cross country Runner of the Year, who is now running in college. But Creese's absence may make Glenelg a more balanced team. The boys' squad is "committed," said coach Steve Ruckert, who adds that a top 5 county finish would be good.
The Glenelg girls are "mentally tough," according to Ruckert. If the team can come up with a strong No. 5 runner, they will be very competitive.
There are 65 runners betwen the two teams.
Invitationals: none mentioned.
Boys to watch: Senior Sean Kwon; junior Cole Rosenberg.
Girls to watch: Senior Nicole Dawson.
What you need to know: With 19 boys and seven girls, Hammond is thin on numbers. "It's always tough with a small team," said coach Jim Gross. Many of the runners are new or relatively new to running.
Rosenberg, a transfer from Virginia should help the boys' side, and Dawson, one of the top girls in the county a year ago, is coming off a good summer of training.
Invitationals: Liberty, South Carroll, Bull Run and Georgetown Prep.
Boys to watch: Seniors James Oslund, Steven Eastman, Ben Blasko and Kirtan Patel; junior Danny Rau, sophomore Luke Filar and freshmen Ray Smith, Nolan Dunnigan and Phillip Adejumo.
Girls to watch: Senior Hollie Adejumo; junior Caroline Haden.
What you need to know: The Howard boys' team is 50 members strong and had a great freshman turnout. Smith is pushing Rau as to who will be the top Lion runner. Coach Nathan Ferrell says his team is young and under experienced but has some great potential. "I expect us to build on last year's season and finish with a better record," he said.
The Howard girls are also young. "We are a young team that is learning how to race together," said coach Matthew Stump of his 33-runner squad. "We have a lot of youth and determination. I think this will be a strong season for our girls if they stay healthy. I expect to be competitive in every race."
Invitationals: Bobcat, South Carroll, Bull Run, Gunpowder and Scorpion Crawl.
Boys to watch: Juniors Robbie Donaldson and Charlie Moran.
Girls to watch: Too early to tell.
What you need to know: The Lightning team, which is coached by Jessica and Brian Murphy, is very small. There are 16 boys and only five girls, which means all the girls need to stay healthy so that the team can score.
"This is a building year for the girls. We are a young team," Jessica Murphy said. "They are all freshmen and new to the sport, but they are all very excited and working very hard."
The Lightning boys have a strong core that works well and pushes each other. "We're the strongest team we've had in several years and really looking forward to a great season," Murphy said.
Invitationals: Scorpion Crawl, Bull Run.
Boys to watch: Senior Conor Foley; juniors Gulraize Kahn, Ryan Hermstein and Kyle Levikas and sophomores Michael Bernal and Silas Buk.
Girls to watch: Senior Katie Ogden; juniors Emma Warman, Abby Whiting and Jackie Berges and freshman Abby Warman.
What you need to know: Forty boys came out for the Marriotts Ridge team and they were all keepers. "We're a younger team, so we are going to focus on building on our summer foundation of endurance and speed," said coach Richard Malt. "We are also going to work on running as a team and moving together."
The Mustangs, Malt said, will work on setting goals and moving past them. The plan is to build a solid foundation for the future.
"Many of the athletes have worked hard over the summer, and I'm curious to see how they will improve come the Howard County Invitational."
Invitationals: Scorpion Crawl, Southern (Bulldog), Bull Run, South Carroll.
Boys to watch: Seniors Greg Carmean and Drew Risinger; juniors Andy DeLaitsch, Karl Schmidt and Michael Smith; sophomores Ben Weinstein and Sam Edmondson.
Girls to watch: Seniors Karli Buescher and Hannah Vaughan; juniors Rachel Yep, Chelsea Vane and Marissa Lechmann.
What you need to know: The Viking boys, 50 strong and led by DeLaitsch and Weinstein, are a fairly young team with mostly sophomores and juniors.
"We're looking to have a good year. I think we should have a strong team," said coach Todd DeCrispino.
The Mt. Hebron girls return basically the same team that finished second in the state last year. "The girls ran all summer, where their focus was on logging quality miles. We are continuing this and have added interval training and hills, hills and more hills," said girls coach Paul Ulrich. "I think we will be competitive in all of our races."
Invitationals: Clear Spring (Interstate Classic), South Carroll, Gunpowder Falls, Bull Run and Scorpion Crawl.
Boys to watch: Senior Austin Sungenis, junior Sam Andrews and Cameron Bowling, sophomores Louie Chaverini, Tom Brumbaugh and Connor Holley.
Girls to watch: Seniors Tiffany Lang, Shamere Law and Caroline Chisolm; juniors Sarah Brand, Alyssa Hemler and Lara Celtnieks
What you need to know: The Scorpions (28 boys and 15 girls) will be relying on senior leadership this year, and they are providing quality leadership, according to coach Phil Lang. His daughter Tiffany is one of those seniors and one of the top returning girl runners in the county.
The Scorpions have bonded well and support each other. Early in the season, they have been working on building a solid base.
"I think the boys and girls will be competitive this year in the county and at the state level," Lang said.
Oakland Mills hosts the Scorpion Crawl Oct. 10.
Invitationals: Bull Run, Great American (North Carolina) and Scorpion Crawl.
Boys to watch: Seniors Ed Richardson and Brad Carrion; juniors Teddy LaFemina, Adam Gartrell; sophomores Owen Pochettino and Ricardo Rosario; freshman Matthew Jackson.
Girls to watch: Senior Hannah Sheffin; juniors Cindy Alms, Amy Oliver, Emily Miller and Lisa Horowitz; sophomore Katie Wilson; freshman Kate Shumaker.
What you need to know: Both Gator teams (63 runners strong) have depth and youth. "We are using these two goals to focus on the future and overall strength of the program," said coach Phil Rogers. He anticipates that the girls' team could do very well, while the guys' side is an unknown factor.
Invitationals: Running Maryland, Great American, Southern (Bulldog), Knight Invite and Middletown Relays.
Boys to watch: Seniors Hashem Hraky, Joe Micili and Reed Stadler; sophomores Terry Tossman and Marshall Demaree; freshman Chris Heydrick.
Girls to watch: Senior LeAnne Young; juniors Angelica Yi, Kelly Maloney, Sherin Menachery; sophomores Lilly Messer and Becca Andersen.
What you need to know: Numbers are on the Hawks' side. Approximately 160 came out for the combined boys and girls teams. After cuts the boys' team has 98 runners and the girls 49. River Hill kept all 58 freshmen who tried out. Coach Earl Lauer expects a productive season that allows a vast number of students to experience what it's like to be on a high school varsity team.
River Hill has a good mix of senior leadership and the team strives to run in a pack.
"Our goal is to finish in the top 3 of both the boys and girls this year," Lauer said.
Invitationals: Interstate Classic, William and Mary, Bull Run, Crossfire and Scorpion Crawl.
Boys to watch: Seniors Henry Enerson and Duncan Enerson.
Girls to watch: Seniors Emma Boone and Abby Malkin; sophomore Kate McHale.
What you need to know: Wilde Lake has a small squad of boys (20); the Enersons, who are captains, will be the leaders. Tim Virostek, running cross country for the first time, is expected to have a significant inpact on the team. Others expected to be in the Wildecats' top 10 are David Smart, Jode Faulkner, Nikhil Manohar, Anthony Rizzi, Kadus Arsaras and Joseph Keating.
"The strength of our team will depend on the development of the "others" listed above, plus staying healthy because are numbers are small as is our depth," said coach Whitty Bass.
Eleven of the 18 girls on Wilde Lake's team are first year cross country runners, so they need to maximize their progress to perform well when the championship meets arrive. Boone, Malkin and McHale have the potential to be in the top tier of competitors in the county. "The challenge for us will be to realize our potential as a team that can run in the top third of a very competitive county, compete well in the regional championships and qualify for the state meet," said coach Charlie Shoemaker.
Invitationals: Bull Run.
Glenelg Country School
Boys to watch: Junior Isaiah Washington; sophomores Joey Pickens, Ben Murphy, and William Seiferth; freshman Colin Dizon.
Girls to watch: Senior Deirdre Ricaurte and Taylor Smith; junior Hannah Mansbach, Lexi Markmann and Emily Walsh; freshman Katie Morrish.
What you need to know: Glenelg Country graduated its top runner, Kikanae Punyua, who now runs for the University of Maryland, but return most of their top 10 runners from last year. The Dragons will be looking for help from senior Mike Rigaili and juniors Thomas Hannah and Justin Myers to overcome conference rivals St. Paul's and Boys' Latin.
"We are planning another championship push after finishing second in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference last year," said coach Scott Doughty.
The Dragon girls have a small team, but they are determined to defend last seasons Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland C Conference crown. If she stays healthy, Mansbach is expected to be one of the top runners in the conference. "Our goal is to giver her the support she needs to fend of challenges from conference rivals Annapolis Area Christian and Friends and bring home our second championship in as many years," Doughty said.
Invitationals: Georgetown Prep.