Howard County was packed with former cross country state champions and potential winners at this fall's state championships, but for the first time since 2011 no individuals found the winner's circle on Saturday at the state meet at Hereford High School.
Wilde Lake senior David Eisenhauer (15 minutes, 42.1 seconds) came the closest to a championship, but was beat in a sprint to the finish by North Harford senior Nick Fransham in the 3A boys race.
“I remember something that says if you have any left, now’s the time to do it,” Eisenhauer said. “And I gave everything I had left which was good enough for an amazing time.”
River Hill senior Chris Heydrick, who won the country and regional races over Eisenhauer, finished third (16:08.3) after falling back of the leaders coming out of ‘the dip' — a treacherous valley that runners must navigate through twice. With senior Mark Moody finishing eighth (16:51.4), though, River Hill had a great lead duo on the way to a team title.
In the 3A girls race, regional champion Shreya Nalubola of Centennial finished third (19:14.3) behind two Urbana runners in her final cross country race.
“It was difficult as usual,” Nalubola said. “I was really trying my hardest to push at the end. One of the things I’ve been working on this season is developing my kick. I was really trying to speed it up in the last 400 meters ... I really gave it my all.”
Reservoir senior Kelsey Ponton came in fourth (19:33.2) in one of her best finishes of the year.
“I didn’t expect getting fourth, but I was so close I just went for it,” Ponton said. “When I finished I thought, ‘I cannot believe I just did that.’”
From the start of the 2A race, county-champion Brit Lang of Oakland Mills fell behind the leader Hayley Jackson of Patuxent, who beat Lang in the regionals. Lang said she ran a similar time to when she won the 2A championship as a freshman two years ago, but it was only good enough for fifth (19:19.5) in a stacked class.
“There’s so much good competition in 2A this year,” Lang said. “I felt really good about where I ended getting fifth with those girls. That’s good with me.”
Marriotts Ridge senior Carly Albright, who finished third in the county meet behind Lang and Nalubola, finished sixth (19:29) and improved her time by 12 seconds from the county race.
Oakland Mills sophomore Joey Navarro stayed with the lead pack through the first mile and said it felt amazing to get sixth (16:58.8) in the 2A boys race.
“I’ve been trying to get sub-17 this whole season,” Navarro said. “I have before, I was shooting for it again and I got it. ... This course is very challenging. It’s one of the most challenging courses in the country and it just feels amazing to get such a good time on a hard course.”
Howard senior and regional champion Gabby Rayner ended her season with an eighth-place finish (19:37.7) in the 4A girls race.
“This is one of the hardest courses ever, so I never like it but the competition was good and I like running with those girls,” Rayner said. “I feel like I did better than I thought I would.”