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Towson girls cross country making strides with added depth

Towson High senior Johanna Admiraal ran in 2015 at the Bull Run Invitational at Hereford High after placing second in the Barnhart Invitational at Dulaney High earlier in the month.
Towson High senior Johanna Admiraal ran in 2015 at the Bull Run Invitational at Hereford High after placing second in the Barnhart Invitational at Dulaney High earlier in the month.(File photo)

The excitement for the Towson girls cross country team started to build in late September of 2014 when it finished fourth in the Varsity Girls Elite race at the Bull Run Invitational.

Towson (150) finished ahead of Baltimore County rivals Dulaney (6th, 176) and Hereford (8th, 194).

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On Sept. 26, Towson will return to the Bull Run at Hereford High School with six of the top seven runners that lost in a tie-breaker to Dulaney in the Baltimore County championships last fall.

Both teams had 40 points for the top five runners, but Dulaney's sixth runner placed higher than Towson's sixth.

Towson senior Johanna Admiraal (2nd) and sophomores Sydney Conboy (4th) and Lauren Miller (6th) placed in the top 10 in the county championships.

They return for the Generals along with other county meet standouts: senior Sally Mercer (16th), sophomore Morgan Jemison (23rd) and junior Karen Prem (27th).

The only runner who graduated from that group was senior Isabella Chestney (18th).

Coach Gil Stang thinks this year's team is ready to compete with the elite squads again — and with more depth.

That depth was on display earlier this month at the Barnhart Invitational at Dulaney High School.

Admiraal (2nd, 18:45) was the top Baltimore County finisher and Conboy (6th, 19:28), Prem (14th, 20:18), Mercer (20th, 21:01) and Miller (25th, 21:25) also placed in the top 25 for the third-place Generals (67), who trailed only front-running Hereford (47) and Dulaney (62).

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Towson's sixth and seventh runners were newcomers; freshman Jaqui Sheedy (26th, 21:29) and sophomore Caroline Brune (34th, 21:41).

Sheedy joins the Towson varsity from Dunbarton Middle School and Brune moved back to the area after spending last year in school in Colorado.

Jemison, who ran for the Generals at the 2014 state meet, and Emma Klein, last year's top runner on the junior varsity, didn't run at Barnhart, but don't count them out.

"We've got nine or 10 girls that on any given day could be on that varsity seven and that's a good thing because last year we were strong but not deep," Stang said.

They are also close as a unit.

"We practiced together over the summer," Conboy said. "We practice a lot and we practice hard and we try to be close-knit."

"We try to be best friends also," Mercer added.

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While Admiraal is the leader of the pack, teammates like Conboy are well aware of where she is on the course and they often pace off of her.

"I think it helps if you are not having a good day and Jo is having a good day, but sometimes you have to pace yourself with who you are with," Conboy said.

"That's a great thing for us, and then having Sydney move up even closer, that one-two punch is powerful," Stang said. "We are working on getting three, four, five, six and seven moving up and closing that gap and now they know who and what they need to focus on doing."

Sheedy, the rookie, looks up to all the veterans when she races.

"We want to keep up with everyone and try to do well," the freshman said.

At Barnhart, Admiraal finished ahead of last year's winner, Hereford's Sarah Coffey and Dulaney's Kristin Meek, and that was one of her goals for unselfish reasons.

"We all had goal times from last year, but we had different people from the different schools we wanted to beat," Admiraal said.

Stang loved the team-first attitude at Barnhart.

"These are all check marks," he said. "It's a good early test and you want the kids to run it seriously, but it's not the season."

Those are comforting words for any of the runners who had sub-par races in the rain at the Barnhart.

"Anybody who is devastated and crying now, you want to say to them, 'Look, this is a long run, it's not a sprint and nobody remembers how you did in the beginning if you are not there at the end.' "

Last year, the Generals' postseason included a county championship runner-up and Class 3A North Region championship.

"We came on," Stang said.

Note: Towson will run in four races at the Bull Run Invitational at Hereford High on Saturday, Sept. 26. They are scheduled to run in the Boys Large & Elite JV/Open (9 a.m.), Girls Large & Elite JV/Open (10:35 a.m.), Boys Elite (11:10 a.m.) and Girls Elite (11:40 a.m).

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