WINFIELD — South Carroll senior John Kettula sprinted down the final stretch and across the finish line with a smile spread across his face.
Kettula had just finished first in a quad meet between Francis Scott Key, Manchester Valley, the Cavaliers, and Westminster 11.1 seconds ahead of teammate Brendan Cave. Six Cavaliers total finished in the top 15 and SC won the meet with 28 points.
Manchester Valley was second with 31, Westminster came in third with 83 and FSK finished with 98 points.
“It was good, we’re trying to make this the hardest course in the state so I thought it was pretty easy,” Kettula said. “I thought we did great today and I thought it was a really fun race — I enjoyed it.”
The Cavaliers made changes to its home course this fall and will also play host for this year’s Carroll County Athletic League championship meet. Manchester Valley junior Maggie Azzam said she had never ran on a course like this one and said it was very hilly, especially in the wooded area behind the school and next to Mayeski Park, where a good portion of the race took place.
Azzam finished second in the girls race behind teammate Rubie Goffena, the reigning Times Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year. Goffena finished first in 22:21.4 and Azzam crossed the finish line in 23:33.6.
“People were talking this course up and saying it was really hilly and it definitely was challenging,” Goffena said. “I’m glad I got a glimpse of the county course and I was extremely excited to see Maggie come in second. It made me really happy.”
“There were a lot of ups and downs,” Azzam added. “As soon as there was a hill, there was flat land and the second loop in the woods felt like a 90 degree angle.”
According to Kettula, a 2018 Times first team all-countian in cross country, indoor and outdoor track, “a lot of pain” is going on in those woods during the race. The Cavaliers call the steep incline Azzam mentioned “The Wall” and Kettula said it’s quite fearsome.
The athletes agreed that racing this course early in the season gives them a good example of what they can expect for the county meet on Oct. 23.
Westminster’s girls squad won the meet with 30 points after bringing in 10 of the top 15 runners — seven Owls athletes finished one after the other after Lydia Houle crossed the finish line ninth in 25:44. Teammates Audrey Taylor and Delaney O’Brien paced the Owls with third and fourth place finishes.
South Carroll was second with 53 points and freshmen Kate Aliftiras and Sydney Oclery were the team’s top finishers in fifth and seventh. Manchester Valley was third with 57 and Francis Scott Key finished with 97 points. Emma Shipton came in 17th and was the Eagles’ top finisher at the meet.
Manchester Valley junior Gabe Szybalski finished third for the Mavericks in 19:41 on the boys side. Teammates Sean Bradley, Aiden Neal, Mason Weston and Nathan Chalk helped round out the top 10. SC senior Ben Lausch and teammate Sam Robinson also finished in the top 10 – Lausch was fourth.
Francis Scott Key senior Cole LaPierre came in seventh and Westminster junior Ian Mullen was 11th.
“I’m just excited to see where we finish at counties,” Kettula said. “I’m really excited to see if we can topple Liberty and see if we can break that streak of them winning. I think if we keep progressing, maybe counties can be a goal to achieve.”