While it was the Liberty boys and girls teams that earned sweeps of the Carroll County cross country team championships, the individual titles belonged to a pair of Manchester Valley seniors. For their efforts this entire fall, Rubie Goffena and Aiden Neal have been named Carroll County Runners of the Year for a second straight season.
Girls Runner of the Year
Manchester Valley’s Rubie Goffena is leaving the same way she came in: as Carroll County Times Runner of the Year.
Goffena, a senior this fall, won the Carroll County championship cross country race for a third time in her career — the first one coming as a freshman in 2018 — and to go along with it has been named the county’s top female runner for a third time as well.
But Goffena, like in previous seasons, was not defined by just one race.
She followed the county championship race by finishing seventh with a personal record time of 19:23.10 at regionals and then placed 17th (20:18.97) in the 3A classification at states.
During the regular season, she captured the Westminster Invite, was second in the Crossfire Invite and VI Rumble in the Jungle, fifth at the Barnhart Invitational and 25th at the Bull Run Invitational.
After winning every race in a shortened spring season because the COVID pandemic postponed the fall season, she ended it by being the highest Carroll County girls finisher at the state meet at hilly Hereford High.
“I think my proudest moment was states,” Goffena said. “Running that course for the final time I feel like I really didn’t need any closure to the cross country season throughout my high school career, so I thought it was like one of the best moments in cross country.”
Her coach, Nancy Hayes, wasn’t surprised she chose that special moment as one of her finest.
“I think it goes to show Rubie is such a humble and gracious athlete that what she would identify that her moment was on a course where she ran the hardest even though other races yielded a victory or a championship for her,” Hayes said. “I was just thrilled when she came across the line and how happy she was and satisfied with her race because I feel like she was modeling for the team and how much the sport meant for her over her four years, not just an individual race.
“It really comprised all of the effort and emotions that went into her whole high school career.”
Goffena is no stranger to running and her roots go back to third grade when she started competing with the Westminster Wolfpack Track Club. She practiced three times a week and had meets on Sundays.
“That gave me my prior experience to like high school, so I kind of knew how meets run and I wanted to continue it,” she said.
Hayes was aware of her before she got to Manchester Valley.
“She was putting up times that were just incredible, so we had gotten word of her,” she said. “Her reputation preceded her in a very positive way, so we were thrilled to get her on the team.”
The thrill of seeing her get faster and faster through the years was surpassed by her maturity physically and mentally and her development as an athlete and student.
“She is very well-rounded physically. She dedicates herself to myriad forms of training and she is just a well-rounded individual in general,” said Hayes, who taught her in English.
“She thrives in the classroom and she has positive relationships with faculty and teammates,” Hayes said. “She just exemplifies the work ethic that any coach would hope for in the way she competes and the way she trains and the way she treats other people.”
Goffena, whose mom, Jen, is a yoga instructor, introduced yoga to her own training and to her teammates.
“Her mom comes every Thursday at a designated time and puts together a yoga flow for our team that addresses certain groups we’ve been working and workouts and training that’s just really beneficial. I feel that the team has been so receptive to the program and not just in yoga, but all of our workouts by watching her,” Hayes said. “Her enthusiasm is very infectious so it rallies the interests of our team needs.”
Goffena also increased her work in the weight room, which — along with the increased flexibility through yoga — allowed her to stay injury-free. She has maintained her focus mentally as well.
“She always exudes confidence while remaining flexible so she can really adjust to different terrains and courses and situations that arise in a race, so it just makes her that much more competitive,” Hayes said.
Goffena also takes pride in doing well in higher-profile races.
“It’s really special because I like to represent my county and placing higher in those bigger meets really puts our school on the map too,” she said.
Goffena admitted having virtual schooling during the beginning of her junior year helped her improve her training routine.
“I definitely do miss building up those miles because I would go out like right after school ended and run my miles and come back and have a lot of free time,” she said.
An avid cook, Goffena intends to major in nutrition and dietetics when she attends the University of Maryland where she plans to run cross country, indoor and outdoor track in 2021-2022.
While Hayes gets to enjoy two more track seasons with her star runner at Manchester Valley, she will no doubt follow her career at Maryland.
“We are very excited for her and they are going to be very lucky to have her,” she said.
Girls All-County First Team
Cora Broske, sophomore, Liberty
Hope Calloway, senior, Century
Rubie Goffena, senior, Manchester Valley
Sophie Long, freshman, Westminster
Izzy Lucas, junior, Liberty
Julia Lucas, junior, Liberty
Abby Morse, freshman, Liberty
Abrianna Nelson, sophomore, Century
Molly Senisi, sophomore, South Carroll
Taylor Shank, senior, Manchester Valley
Kate Aliftiras, junior, South Carroll
Maddie Arbaugh, senior, Westminster
Elsie-Kate Aukerman, sophomore, Westminster
Sydney Feola, junior, Century
Rebecca Gauthier, junior, Liberty
Meredith Kelly, senior, Century
Allison Leimkuhler, junior, Century
Piper Nagaraj, senior, Liberty
Elyse Seligman, sophomore, Century
Audrey Taylor, senior, Westminster
Boys Runner of the Year
As a sophomore in 2019, Manchester Valley’s Aiden Neal finished 19th in a time of 19:31.40 at the Carroll County championships. This fall, roughly two years later, Neal won his second straight Carroll County title in the same year with a winning time of 16:23.60.
The courses were of a similar layout, but what can’t be overlooked is that he cut over three minutes off his time.
It wasn’t one particular moment that started him on a path to become one of the top runners in the state and winner of his second straight Carroll County Runner of the Year award.
“I don’t know what sparked it honestly, I was just like I want to find out how fast I can get and I’m still learning that,” Neal said. “I still have a lot of improvement that I hope to hit, but I felt like when COVID happened, or right before, I just wanted to get to that next level. I didn’t want to be like middle of the pack, I needed to find a way and work hard to just get to the top. I didn’t want to really be another runner anymore, I just wanted to be at the top and I’m a pretty self-motivated person, so I feel like that really helped a lot too.”
In addition to winning the county championship for the second straight season this fall, Neal also won a regional crown, and was first at the Westminster Invitational and Manchester Valley Quad Meet.
He capped his high school season by taking third in the Class 3A state meet behind champion Antonio Camacho-Bucks of Centennial, who Neal had beaten at regionals.
After the season, he went to the Nike South Regional Championships in North Carolina and finished seventh out of 185 runners with a personal record time of 15:36.2.
“I wasn’t satisfied,” said Neal. “I go for pretty high goals and I wanted to finish a little higher, a little faster, but it was a great experience. Something I need to work on is being more satisfied with some race efforts. I’m always like, what could I have done when sometimes you just have to say I gave it my all. That race, even though it wasn’t necessarily my strongest effort that I wanted, it was a great course and I really enjoyed it and I ran my PR there.”
Neal’s coach, Jim MacDonald, does appreciate his finest efforts and transition from his sophomore year.
“He made himself really a great runner over the period of time when we had a break from sports because of the virus, so he just worked out on his own every day and he was super determined to become better. Before the virus hit he was a good runner and when he came back he was a phenomenal runner just because of his hard work,” MacDonald said. “Nobody works harder than Aiden. He works 10 times harder than anybody else.”
Hard work has earned him a four-year scholarship to the University of North Carolina where he will run cross country, indoor and outdoor track.
“Everything that I wanted my running to become was kind of what they preached,” Neal said. “They have great coaches there and I know what they plan to do is exactly what is going to happen. I know they will be willing to push me to the next step and also I like how they don’t focus on individual or team, but rather both at the same time. They want you to be the best team you can be and the best individual you can be, so I liked that about them.”
Neal averages 40-55 miles running a week and admits during the pandemic he turned up the intensity.
“When the pandemic hit I thought there are going to be a lot of people who aren’t doing much right now and I really wanted to take my running to the next level and I started upping the mileage and doing intense workouts and making sure I recovered properly,” he said. “That’s definitely when it started.”
Although he was behind Camacho-Bucks at states after beating him at regionals, he knew the difference was between running on the hillier Hereford course, rather than the one at Centennial High.
“It wasn’t what I wanted at all, obviously I wanted to win, but Antonio is super-talented and he’s a really good downhill runner and I’m a really good uphill runner. But ultimately I think the downhills were what made a difference,” Neal said. “I died out a lot earlier than I would have liked. He ultimately was the stronger runner that race definitely.”
Neal plans to study environmental science at North Carolina after competing in his final seasons of indoor and outdoor track at Manchester Valley this winter and spring.
Boys All-County First Team
Logan Cyford, sophomore, Liberty
Peyton Dill, junior, Century
Carter Knox, junior, Manchester Valley
Adam Mower, sophomore, Century
Aiden Neal, senior, Manchester Valley
Noah Petroski, sophomore, Liberty
Jackson Steinbrenner, sophomore, Winters Mill
Davis Trump, senior, Liberty
Wyatt Vanlandingham, senior, Westminster
Patrick Ziegenfuss, sophomore, Winters Mill
Quinlan Casey, sophomore, Manchester Valley
Noah Fisher, junior, Francis Scott Key
Samuel Heintz, junior, Century
Nick Henderson, senior, Winters Mill
Evan Kowalewski, freshman, Century
Jaden Lewis, senior, Century
Brendan Luck, junior, Liberty
Lukas Michael, sophomore, Westminster
Ben Smith, sophomore, Liberty
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Derek Yuenger, junior, Winters Mill