The weather was perfect, times were fast and even some of the runners had goats pacing with them up a hilly incline, but when the Baltimore County cross country championship meet was over, a pair of defending state champions were on top.
The Dulaney boys, the defending Class 4A state champs, won the county title for the fifth straight year.
The Hereford girls, the defending Class 2A state title winners, captured the county championship, after losing by one point to Dulaney last year.
This year's meet was held at the Baltimore County Agricultural Center for the first time and during the first race — the JV boys — which was won by Dulaney, several goats paced the leaders as they climbed up a long gradual hill.
The goats took the rest of the day off, but the runners were moving at blistering paces.
Dulaney junior Drew Dailey saved his best sprint for last, as he passed teammate Brian McCullough at the finish line to win the boys race in a time of 16:19.6.
McCullough finished in 16.19.7 to help lead the Lions to the team victory with 18 points.
Loch Raven’s Garrett Harris (16:23.6) finished third, followed by Dulaney’s Connor Martin (fourth, 16:27.1), Matt Owens (fifth, 16:34.5) and Alex Ozbolt (sixth, 16:42).
“Once I kicked past the kid in second [Harris], that’s when I knew I could get Brian,” said Dailey, who won the JV county championship last year.
The close finish between Lion striders didn’t surprise Dulaney coach Chad Boyle.
"Any one of our top seven guys are capable of winning a race," Boyle said. "They all have that ability."
Dailey had never beaten McCullough in a race.
"Brian McCullough has been leading us all year and he obviously ran a great race," Boyle said. "Drew is really talented and we've been working with him to build his confidence and I think this will do great things for him and our team, because now he has that confidence that Brian has and it's going to make us strong for the postseason."
Dulaney’s Sam Merng (seventh, 16:51.7) and Brendan O’Brien (ninth), 17:07.4) also finished in the top 10 for the Lions.
Besides Harris, the only other non-Dulaney runners in the top 10 were Western Tech’s Vanison Showell (eighth, 17:04.3) and Eastern Tech’s Joseph Sheely (10th, 17:11.5).
While Dulaney's win was not a surprise, the second-place performance of the Catonsville boys was one.
Seeded fourth, the Comets finished with 99 points, just nipping third-place Hereford by three points.
Catonsville’s top five finishers were seniors Matt Sebside (16th, 17:39.4) and Drew Nicolaus (18th, 17:45.3), sophomore Elliott Wack (19th, 17:45.8), senior Timothy Huynh (20th, 17:49.2) and freshman Daniel Lamb (27th, 18:17.2).
"It is a compilation of day in and day out work and of believing in yourself and team cohesion," Catonsville coach Sandra Gallagher-Mohler said. "It is all of those things that come together."
The Hereford girls waited a year to avenge its one-point loss to Dulaney at the county championship meet last year and Hereford junior Emily Konkus made sure she would come out on top by taking command of the 3.1 mile race early and winning in convincing fashion.
She clocked in at 19:21.0, well ahead of Dulaney’s Brooke Ruffin (19:47.4).
“The first time I ran on this course didn’t go as well as I wanted it to, so having that experience behind me really helped,” Konkus said. “I knew I had to take it out easy and then hope that it all came together.”
Hereford's Kelly Shearer (third, 20:03.6) and Libby May (sixth, 20:21.0) were also in the top 10 for Hereford.
“Honestly, winning as a team is way more important than winning individually,” Konkus said. “I think the bond you have with your teammates after you win is just the most important thing.”
Nicole Burkoski (11th, 20:27.1) and Emily Stricker (15th, 20:51.5), Jen Taylor (20th, 21:17.3) and Lillian Behan (33rd, 23:04.9) rounded out Hereford’s championship squad.
“Emily Konkus with the win was massive, and in the fashion that she did it was amazing,” Hereford coach Adam Hittner said. “She came out today intent on doing the job and not letting it be close.”
Hittner also praised the toughness of Shearer.
"Kelly Shearer was a little nicked up [calf injury] this week so the fact she came out and got third was awesome," he said.
Hereford (36) finished six points ahead of Dulaney.
"It's disappointing for us, but Hereford is a great team and they have a lot of talented girls," Boyle said. "I really give our girls a lot of credit. They fought hard and we had a lot of strong improvement for everyone, one through seven. We just got beat by a better team today."
Dulaney’s Marissa Dailey (fifth, 20:12.5) and Dorrie Gaeng (10th, 20:26.4) also finished in the top 10, along with Franklin’s McKenzie Patrick (fourth, 20:07.5), Towson’s Jaqui Sheedy (seventh, 20:21.4), Sparrows Point’s Maci Gerbes (eighth, 20:22.5) and Catonsville’s Jessica McDivitt (ninth, 20:23.8).
Dulaney 18, Catonsville 99, Hereford 102, Franklin 153, Eastern Tech 155, Towson 166, Loch Raven 178, Pikesville 238, Sparrows Point 260, Western Tech 261, Perry Hall 294, Milford Mill 331, Carver 333, Randallstown 348.
Hereford 36, Dulaney 42, Towson 84, Catonsville 109, Franklin 113, Western Tech 190, Carver 196, Sparrows Point 212, Loch Raven 239.