On a cold and cloudy President’s Day, Towson High cross country athletes gathered on the tennis courts with masks on before their first in-person practice in 11 months.
Coach Gil Stange marveled at how well prepared they were for live action before they ran 300s on the track wearing their masks.
“It was awesome, it was so nice to see everybody and everybody had their masks on and kept their distance on the tennis court,” Stange said. “Everybody knew what they needed to do to make it happen and they were willing to do it, which was the coolest thing. Everybody wants to be there.”
There were 23 boys present for the first practice and 12 girls and although the teams won’t be able to build on their impressive 2019 seasons, they will get to run five dual meet races in March and April. All the races will be on Wednesdays.
Towson opens the season at home against Hereford on March 10. The county divided the schedule into three six-team pods and the Generals will also run against the remaining schools in their pod: Dulaney, Franklin, Catonsville and Sparrows Point.
Stange expected big things from the boys and girls teams in 2020 before COVID-19 forced the postponements of the fall sports season.
In 2019, The boys were third in the Class 3A state championship meet and second in regionals and Baltimore County championships.
The girls were second in regionals, third in counties and fourth in states.
“That was the group (of boys) that won the JV county championship two years ago,” Stange said. “That was one of the most maddening things about losing the fall, was that this was their time.”
Returning from the 2019 team are seniors Peter Sorensen, Sam Fields, Miles Kline and Colin Hughes and sophomore Ryan Wahler.
Sorenson had a phenomenal 2019 campaign. He won the individual county title at Dulaney High in a time of 15:54 and was second in regionals at the same course.
On the hilly Hereford course, he placed second at states in 16:03.1.
“He’s back and he looks good,” said Stange, noting Sorensen ran in the East Coast Cross County Championships unattached and placed ninth in the 5,000 meters in 17:21.8. “That ninth place was a good race.”
At counties in 2019, seven Generals finished in the top 20, including Fields (5th, 16:46), Wahler (14th, 16:59) and Kline (16th, 17:03).
Fields was also seventh in regionals and 26th at states and Kline was ninth at regionals and 34th at states.
Hughes is one of the Generals who has already made an instant impression on the coach.
“Colin was like the 7 or 8 guy the year they won the JV county championship, but he has really come on,” Stange said.
Towson also returns five girls who were keys to the 2019 success.
Senior Madeline Till is the most decorated of the bunch.
Till was second (19:11) in counties, fourth (19:46.3) in regionals and eighth (19:46.53) at states during her junior year.
“She went to a (indoor) race in Virginia Beach called the East Coast Invitational and ran 5:09.85 for the mile,” said Stange, noting her 10th place finish out of 77 girls was the best out of the competitors from Maryland.
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She ran 11:24.56 the next day in the 2-mile and finished 14th out of 44 entrants.
The conversion beats Lauren Capone’s Towson school record in the 3200 meters.
As a sophomore at Towson in 2004, Capone won indoor county, regional and state titles in the 3200.
The Generals had three other girls on the 2019 team that finished in the top 25 at the county meet and they are all back this spring. They include sophomore Isabel Aldana (7th, 20:02), senior Anna Vaikness (14th, 20:43) and senior Avery Zellweger (22nd, 21:14).
Junior Allessandra Crippa also returns from the 2019 team.
Getting the team back together without invitationals or championship meets to peak for is unusual, but Stange hopes the value of in-person workouts will help further down the road.
“That’s probably the most important thing of all, they are getting where they have regular practices, they are going to get uniforms, they are going to be able to get up and race against other teams, he said. “We will just see how we do and then kind of focus on just keeping everybody healthy, getting everybody in shape, having some fun and then see what happens with the spring season.”