Oakland Mills cross country coach Chris Brewington knew going into Saturday that the results could be special.
But what happened at the Howard County cross country championships was even better than what Brewington — and the entire Scorpions cross country program — could have imagined.
Oakland Mills seniors Baidy Ba and Ella Harris won the boys and girls races, respectively, to secure a Scorpions’ sweep of the individual county championships.
“We knew there was a chance...but we didn’t want to get ourselves too excited,” Brewington said. “To see them both pull it off, I can’t think of a better moment coaching than having two individual county champions, and it’s all a credit to them. I couldn’t be more proud of them both.”
Unlike past years, both the boys and girls fields this year were tightly grouped, with a handful of runners capable of winning each race. Ba led throughout the boys race en route to a course-record time of 15:15, while Harris made a run in the last 800 meters to win in 18:58.
While the Scorpions earned both individual crowns, it was the Centennial boys (47 points) and Howard girls (38) crowned as team champions. For the Lions’ girls it was their third straight county cross country championship.
The Eagles, led by sophomore Antonio Camacho-Bucks (third, 15:31) and seniors Fernando Duraes (fifth, 15:43) and Jacob Cole (sixth, 15:51), were the favorites heading into the race and delivered with five runners in the top 18. Luke LasCasas (15th, 16:35) and Alexander White (18th, 16:42) rounded out Centennial’s scoring group.
“They’ve all bought in and worked so hard,” said Centennial boys coach Rob Slopek. “Last June, they started training, and they wanted to win a state title. That couldn’t happen, but the second goal was to win a county title. It’s awesome to see that work and dedication pay off.”
The Lions, the deepest team in the county, were also heavy favorites entering the meet and lived up to expectations, placing seven runners in the top 13.
Howard’s spread between its top runner — junior Hannah Schwab (fifth, 19:21) — and its fifth finisher — junior Elizabeth Holcombe (10th, 19:33) — was 11.88 seconds. Finishing between Schwab and Holcombe were junior Nimrit Ahuja (sixth, 19:23), junior Jasmine Wilson (eighth, 19:25) and senior Hayley Long (ninth, 19:31).
“We run best when we run as a team,” said Howard coach Zack Dickerson. “We have very talented individual runners, but the goal in cross country is always to run as a team. Our spread...shows how well they work together, how they push each other and how they motivate each other, and I couldn’t be more proud of how they executed today.”
The meet at Centennial High School’s hilly course started with the boys race.
Long Reach senior Cameron Hindle pushed Ba throughout to finish second. Hindle won all three of his regular season races, but Saturday was his first time running against Ba this season.
“I haven’t raced [Ba] in cross country a lot,” Hindle said. “I think both of us were a bit unsure how each other would do, but I went into it knowing Antonio [Camacho-Bucks], Baidy [Ba] and I would all be right there. We both pushed each other, and he’s an amazing competitor.”
Both Ba and Hindle broke the Centennial course record of 15:21, which was set by River Hill’s Anish Nanjappa in 2019. Ba smashed the record, finishing in 15:15, while Hindle crossed the finish line at 15:20.
“The plan was to just take the lead in the first mile and a half. Luckily, there were a bunch of people to help me push the pace,” Ba said. “It just feels so great. This is my first individual county championship. I’m going to enjoy the moment, and I’m pumped up for what’s to come.”
“He just leaves me speechless,” Brewington said of Ba. “For him to pull this off, especially against some of the best competition this county has seen in a while, it means a lot to him and it means a lot to us.”
Harris, meanwhile, shot out of a cannon with about 800 meters remaining to take over the lead from River Hill’s Faith Meininger (second, 19:05) and win with a time of 18:58. The Hawks’ senior was the top runner in the county during the regular season and was out in front alongside Atholton’s Aanchal Kasargod (third, 19:13) for most of the race.
“Faith might be one of the better distance runners Howard County has seen in a long time with how well she’s done it the last four years,” Brewington said. “But Ella sat back, let the race unfold, caught up and just kept going. She’s super strong, and that last hill going to the finish is where she pulled away.”
“I don’t think it’s really hit me yet,” Harris said. “I didn’t know how things would play out. It was a little daunting before the race because I know how fast Aanchal [Kasargod] and Faith [Meininger] are, but I knew I just had to believe in myself.”
The county championship meet marks the end of the cross country season, as no region or state races will occur due to the coronavirus pandemic. The runners will quickly transition to the outdoor track and field season, which begins with practices on April 17, before likely having another cross country season in the fall.
Boys team results:
1. Centennial, 47
2. Mt. Hebron, 78
3. Howard, 91
4. River Hill, 150; 5. Marriotts Ridge, 161; 6. Long Reach, 161; 7. Oakland Mills, 165; 8. Glenelg, 193; 9. Atholton, 196; 10. Reservoir, 239; 11. Wilde Lake, 246; 12. Hammond, 317.
Boys individual results:
1. Baidy Ba, Oakland Mills, 15:15 (course record)
2. Cameron Hindle, Long Reach, 15:20
3. Antonio Camacho-Bucks, Centennial, 15:31
4. Joseph Raudabaugh, Howard, 15:36
5. Fernando Duraes, Centennial, 15:43
6. Jacob Cole, Centennial, 15:51
7. William Jones, Mt. Hebron, 16:04
8. Kendall Phillips, Howard, 16:07
9. Ethan Aidam, Oakland Mills, 16:10
10. Grayson Crockett, Marriotts Ridge, 16:11
11. Michael Wade, Marriotts Ridge, 16:12; 12. Jacob Hauf, Mt. Hebron, 16:16; 13. Bryce Handa, River Hill, 16:20; 14. Jakob Werdell, Howard, 16:32; 15. Luke LasCasas, Centennial, 16:35; 16. Ethan Mulcahy, Atholton, 16:39; 17. Alexander Barton, Mt. Hebron, 16:39; 18. Alexander White, Centennial, 16:42; 19. Braedon Moyer, Mt. Hebron, 16:43; 20. Alejandro Cabrera, Long Reach, 16:46; 21. Christian Brower, Long Reach, 16:53; 22. Zachary Shord, Atholton, 16:55; 23. Nicholas Snyder, Mt. Hebron, 16:56; 24. Kyle Scherock, Centennial, 16:59; 25. Robert King, River Hill, 17:00.
Girls team results:
1. Howard, 38
2. Centennial, 70
3. Atholton, 106
4. Oakland Mills, 122; 5. Reservoir, 141; 6. Marriotts Ridge, 147; 7. Glenelg, 154; 8. River Hill, 166; 9. Mt. Hebron, 217; 10. Long Reach, 297
Girls individual results:
1. Ella Harris, Oakland Mills, 18:58
2. Faith Meininger, River Hill, 19:05
3. Aanchal Kasargod, Atholton, 19:13
4. Katerina Talanova, Centennial, 19:16
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5. Hannah Schwab, Howard, 19:21
6. Nimrit Ahuja, Howard, 19:23
7. Michelle Weaver, Centennial, 19:25
8. Jasmine Wilson, Howard, 19:25
9. Hayley Long, Howard, 19:31
10. Elizabeth Holcombe, Howard, 19:33
11. Kiley Mann, Howard, 19:36; 12. Frankie Moore, Oakland Mills, 19:43; 13. Sara Kindbom, Howard, 19:46; 14. Amaya Cunningham, Centennial, 19:58; 15. Madelyn Mielke, Centennial, 20:04; 16. Chloe McGeehan, River Hill, 20:10; 17. Chiara Sforza, Atholton, 20:35; 18. Marina Blackman, Oakland Mills, 20:49; 19. Sydney LeBrun, Marriotts Ridge, 20:55; 20. Rachel Roberts, Marriotts Ridge, 20:56; 21. Milana Gurvich, Glenelg, 21:02; 22. Sierra Rohmann, Glenelg, 21:03; 23. Leilah Clark, Reservoir, 21:13; 24. Delaney Hammill, Atholton, 21:19; 25. Ava Robitaille, Reservoir, 21:30.