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Dulaney boys cross country seek three-peat at Barnhart Invitational

From left, Towson's Johanna Admiraal, Dulaney's Kristin Meek and Hereford's Sarah Coffey all finished in the top five at last year's Barnhart Invitational. All three will be at Dulaney High School on Saturday for the girls varsity race, which begins at 10 a.m.
From left, Towson's Johanna Admiraal, Dulaney's Kristin Meek and Hereford's Sarah Coffey all finished in the top five at last year's Barnhart Invitational. All three will be at Dulaney High School on Saturday for the girls varsity race, which begins at 10 a.m.(File photo/2014)

The Dulaney boys cross county team comes into the 33rd annual Barnhart Invitational on Saturday at Dulaney High School as the team to beat after winning the meet in 2014 and 2013.

But now the Lions have an even bigger reason to defend their championship.

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Dulaney was ranked No. 1 in Maryland and the Southeast Region and No. 17 in the nation by Dyestat, a national website that covers running, in the preseason rankings.

The Southeast Region includes teams from Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia and District of Columbia.

The No. 17 ranking is the highest preseason mark ever for the Dulaney boys team.

"I know it is just a ranking and it is going to put a target on our back, but I told the guys, you've got to be so proud of that," Dulaney coach Chad Boyle said.

The boys varsity race is scheduled to begin at 10:35 a.m. That follows the girls varsity race, which starts at 10 a.m.

There are 27 boys teams entered. Class 4A state meet cross country runner-up Eric Walz, a Dulaney senior, is one of the favorites.

"There is no doubt he has the capability to win a state championship," Boyle said about Walz. "For him to reach the level that he has reached, he has executed a very rigorous training program consistently for 3 1/2 years, and not everybody can do that."

Walz and senior classmates Andrew King, Sean Smyth, Austin Carey and Elijah Hawkins make up a potent top five. All of them placed in the top 20 in last year's Barnhart. Walz (15:33) was third in the 2014 race won by Century senior Matt Kane in 15:30.

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The Lions won last year with 44 team points, ahead of McDonogh (93), Loyola Blakefield (113) and Gonzaga (151). All four of those teams return with Loyola featuring senior runners Frankie Legambi, Kenny Rowe and Kevin Wegner. All three placed in the top 20 last season in the 5,000-meter race.

The 22-team girls field includes defending champion McDonogh, runner-up Dulaney, third-place Towson and fifth-place Hereford.

Howard, fourth in the team standings last year with Howard's Gabby Rayner winning the individual race, is not in the field this year.

But Hereford senior Sarah Coffey returns after finishing second in 19:02 last year. Senior Alicia Kozlowski and sophomore Kelly Shearer are also top runners for the Bulls.

Towson's Johanna Admiraal (3rd, 19:17) and Dulaney's Kristin Meek (4th, 19:25) should also contend, along with Dulaney's Kira Flemke and Towson's Lauren Miller and Sydney Conboy.

Flemke, a senior, joined the cross country team after playing soccer last season, and Miller (9th) and Conboy (14th) both cracked the top 15 last year at the Barnhart.

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Boyle knows his teams will be fired up for that first invitational at home.

"I'm going to do everything I can to keep that meet in perspective because it is just one meet, but I can tell you already they are really excited," he said.

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