The rain that passed through Westminster for most of the day Wednesday almost certainly saturated the cross country course at McDaniel College, site of this year's county meet.
The terrain might be soggy and the result could be somewhat slower times, but Carroll's top runners and their coaches are feeling good about things when the annual meet begins today at 3:30 p.m.
"They changed up the course somewhat, so it will be interesting to see what changes have been made," said Pete Lester, co-coach at Liberty. "It's a golf course, so hopefully it drains pretty well."
Liberty's boys are going after their third consecutive county title, while the Lions girls look to make it two in a row. Both teams held off Westminster to make it a sweep at last year's county meet, and Lester said his boys are well aware the Owls are out for revenge.
"I'll say this ... I think we're watching them more than they're watching us," said Lester, whose Lions tied Westminster at the Westminster Invite on Oct. 10. "We'll give them a good go tomorrow. Our guys, we've definitely been talking about that."
Led by junior Nick Tilson and freshman Daniel Saxon, who went 1-2 at the invite, Liberty had 34 points. Westminster countered with senior Brad Arbaugh (third) and sophomore Brandon Arbaugh (sixth) and also wound up with 34 points. to break the tie, the teams' sixth-place finishers were used. The Owls' No. 6 finished 11th; the Lions' finished 19th.
Tilson holds the county's top boys time at 16:06.8, Sept. 19 at the Blazer Invite, while Saxon's 16.27.8 at the same meet is fourth best.
Meanwhile, Brad Arbaugh ran 16:43.2 (10th fastest) at the Keyser Invite on Oct. 17.
But there are others in the county who look to play a role in determining the individual champ, from South Carroll senior Brian Cave (second best time, 16:21.3 on Sept. 12) to Winters Mill senior Taylor Russell (fifth best, 16:28) to WM sophomore Sean Gore (sixth, 16:36.6). Throw in Century sophomore Jacob Spera and Francis Scott Key senior Ryan Rippeon, and several Carroll teams have No. 1 runners gunning for the county crown.
Liberty owns the top eight fastest times so far this fall, with sophomores Heidi Rinehart and Maeve Lyons combining to hold all of them. Rinehart leads the way with an 18:58.5 turned in at the Blazer Invite, with Lyons posting a 19:06.3 at that meet.
But the Lions have been challenged this season, and beaten. Century, led by senior Kiley Hurst and junior Avery Arena, finished second to Liberty's third at the Mountain Run on Sept. 9.
Other top girls runners in Carroll include Winters Mill junior Emma Kartalia, South Carroll senior Erin Langille, and Westminster senior Kaylee Ryan.
"We're going to run like we've got some experience," Lester said. "We're a young team, but we have girls who have been there before."
NOTE: Times were taken from results posted on carrollcountyrunning.com.