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River Hill's Anish Nanjappa is the 2019 Howard County boys cross country Runner of the Year. Nanjappa went undefeated and led the Hawks to a state championship.
River Hill's Anish Nanjappa is the 2019 Howard County boys cross country Runner of the Year. Nanjappa went undefeated and led the Hawks to a state championship. (Doug Kapustin / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Anish Nanjappa completed a perfect cross country season this fall.

He won all seven races he competed in and led River Hill as a team to county, region and state championships.

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But don’t tell Nanjappa his season was perfect, because he’d disagree.

After he won the Howard County championship race and set Centennial’s course record, he said: “I really wanted at least five seconds faster, maybe 10.”

Then after he won the 3A state championship for his second straight state crown, River Hill head coach Paul Hugus said the senior was disappointed that he didn’t break the Hereford High School course record.

“He was a couple seconds away from a course record, and he was not happy with his race,” Hugus said. “He’s so talented and he makes it look so easy, but then he knows there’s more in there to get to that next level.”

Don’t take Nanjappa’s high standards for over confidence — Hugus said his star runner is “very humble.”

River Hill's Anish Nanjappa is the Howard County boys cross country Runner of the Year for the second year in a row.
River Hill's Anish Nanjappa is the Howard County boys cross country Runner of the Year for the second year in a row. (Doug Kapustin / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

What makes him strive for more, however, is an “incredible focus" on his goals and him trying to reach his potential, Hugus said. That’s also why Nanjappa is the 2019 Howard County Times/Columbia Flier boys cross country Runner of the Year for the second straight season.

“I want to be the best I can,” Nanjappa said. “I want to use the talents I have and reach my potential. I know in the state, in Maryland, I’m supposedly good. But I know I’m not the fastest in the nation, so I can always improve.”

Centennial High School was the host to the 3A East and 4A East regional meets on Thursday, and Howard County teams led the way by winning three of the four races.

Nanjappa said he’s proud to continue River Hill’s “legacy” as a strong cross country program. As a freshman, he looked up to senior Rahul Reddy, who was the Runner of the Year in 2016, He’s also heard stories about the success of past runners like Trent Rose, who won the award in 2015. After a non-Hawk won the award in 2017, Nanjappa said he’s proud to have brought it back to River Hill for the past two seasons.

“It’s really cool,” Nanjappa said. “My freshman year, Rahul Reddy was inspiring, and I knew I had a legacy to uphold. I heard about the people before them, and it drove me to be better. I knew we had a legacy at River Hill, and I didn’t want to waste the talent I had or not work hard or not listen to my coaches and mess it up."

Now, Hugus said, Nanjappa is the 2019 version of those previous runners, with the younger runners looking up to him for guidance. Four other River Hill runners made the All-County team this season, and two of them will return to the squad next season.

The Howard girls and River Hill boys cross country teams won Howard County championships on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, at Centennial High School.

“For him to follow in the footsteps of Rahul Reddy and Trent Rose and some of these other guys, Anish just doesn’t know any different,” said Hugus, who just finished his 10th season at the helm. “He is going to work hard, and the younger guys see how hard Anish is working and know that’s how hard they need to work. It’s inspirational to see his work ethic.”

The hard work explains how Nanjappa went from a runner capable of scoring on a state championship team as a freshman to an undefeated state champion as a senior. Hugus said he saw the “switch flip” for the harrier last season.

"It was last season when he took that jump,” Hugus said. “He had been kind of at a spot where he was good at the county and region level as a sophomore but couldn’t break through at the state level. But last season something clicked. Anish had one of the best cross country seasons by a River Hill athlete ever as a junior, and then he had an undefeated season this year.”

To start his cross country career at River Hill, Nanjappa was an immediate contributor. He scored on a Hawks team that won the state title in 2016, was a first-team pick in 2017 and was the Runner of the Year in 2018.

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Nanjappa dominated nearly every race he ran en route to winning 2018 Howard County Times/Columbia Flier boys cross country Runner of the Year.

“I’ve gotten more strategic in my races,” said Nanjappa on his improvement over his high school career. “I’ve built up my kick to a point where after two miles, no one in Maryland could challenge that this year. I think I’ve gotten a lot more mentally strong by knowing I can compete with the best of the best and win every race I run in Maryland.”

Nanjappa’s 2019 season didn’t have ups or downs in his results this season. From the Seahawk Invitational to the Howard County championships to the MPSSAA Class 3A state meet, Nanjappa ended each race as a winner.

He hit his personal record of 14:57 at the Frank Keyser Invitational at Boonsboro High School during the regular season. He then ran through the postseason with first-place finishes to lead River Hill to championships in all three meets. He set the Centennial course record at 15:21, ran through a muddy course in 15:50 at the Class 3A East region meet and crossed the finish line in 15:45 at the state meet.

Howard's Amanda Eliker is the 2019 Howard County Times/Columbia Flier girls cross country Runner of the Year for the second straight season.

“I always have a goal, whether it’s trying to break the course record or if there’s another runner in the race who would be right on my back to keep me working hard,” Nanjappa said. “I always pushed myself so I put everything out there to show that I’m the best runner in the state.”

Nanjappa hasn’t made his college decision yet, but he’s hoping to run at a high-level academic institution. According to Hugus, no matter where he goes, the college to get him will be better for it.

“He’s a special individual,” Hugus said. “He’s the full package, and he’s going to make a college or university really happy as both a student and an athlete.”

Also named to the first team:

Baidy Ba, Oakland Mills, junior.

Oakland Mills' Baidy Ba is a first-team All-County selection.
Oakland Mills' Baidy Ba is a first-team All-County selection. (Nate Pesce For Baltimore Sun Media/Baltimore Sun Media)

Ba broke onto the scene this season and became the second best boys runner in the

. Ba started his postseason with a second-place finish at the county meet and finished nine seconds behind Nanjappa. The highlight of his season was a gold medal at the 2A West region meet, in which he crossed the finish line in 16:43. He ended his season with a fourth-place finish at states (15:54) in the 2A classification.

Jacob Cole, Centennial, junior.

Centennial's Jacob Cole is a first-team All-County selection.
Centennial's Jacob Cole is a first-team All-County selection. (Nate Pesce For Baltimore Sun Media/Baltimore Sun Media)

Cole finished in the top seven in all three postseason races this fall to lead the Eagles to second-place finishes in each of the meets. He is one of four Centennial runners to make the All-County team. Cole finished third at the county meet (15:40), second at the 3A East region meet (16:10) and seventh at states (16:21). Cole was also a first-team All-County selection last season.

Grayson Max Crockett, Marriotts Ridge, junior

Crockett broke out in his junior season with top-five finishes in both the county and region meets. He kicked off his postseason with a time of 16:09 at the county championships to place fifth at Centennial High School. He followed that performance up with a fourth place finish at the 3A East regional meet (16:39) and a 13th place showing at states (16:49).

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Joshua Galindo, River Hill, junior.

River Hill's Joshua Galindo is a first-team All-County selection.
River Hill's Joshua Galindo is a first-team All-County selection. (photo courtesy of Israel Carunungan)

Galindo is one of five Hawks to make the 2019 All-County list after the team’s sweep of the county, region and state championship meets. Galindo finished sixth at counties (16:12) and 15th at states (16:50) after not competing at the 3A East region meet.

Awais Khan, River Hill, junior.

River Hill's Awais Khan (1472) is a first-team All-County selection.
River Hill's Awais Khan (1472) is a first-team All-County selection. (Nate Pesce For Baltimore Sun Media/Baltimore Sun Media)

Khan was a crucial reason the Hawks had the postseason success they did. He finished eighth at counties (16:24), seventh at regionals (17:02) and 25th at states (17:04) in the 3A classification. River Hill head coach Paul Hugus said during the season that Khan exceeded his expectations by finishing third on the team at the county meet, and his seventh-place finish at regionals was key with Galindo out and the Hawks only beating Centennial by two points.

Kendall Phillips, Howard, junior.

Howard's Kendall Phillips (201) is a first-team All-County selection.
Howard's Kendall Phillips (201) is a first-team All-County selection. (Jen Rynda / BSMG)

Phillips is one of only four players to repeat as an All-County selection this fall. He was a first-team pick last year. The junior ran consistent times throughout the three postseason meets. He placed fourth at counties (16:01), third at the 4A East regional (16:06) and 10th at states (16:23).

William Tripp, Wilde Lake, senior.

Wilde Lake's William Tripp (394) is a first-team All-County selection.
Wilde Lake's William Tripp (394) is a first-team All-County selection. (Jen Rynda / BSMG)

While the Wildecats were one of the bottom teams in the county this season, Tripp stood out for the team with top 10 finishes in the final three meets of the season. The senior placed seventh (16:20) at the county meet and third (16:32) at regionals. He ended his cross country career at the state meet with a 10th-place finish in the 3A classification, crossing the line in 16:39.

Second Team All-County

Andrew Bank, Centennial, junior

Antonio Camacho-Bucks, Centennial, freshman

Jacob Hauf, Mt. Hebron, sophomore

Sean Krein, River Hill, senior

Braedon Moyer, Mt. Hebron, sophomore

Ryan Rose, River Hill, senior

Matthew Thomas, Centennial, junior

IAAM B Conference All-Star

Thomas Demers, Glenelg Country School, senior

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