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Howard girls, Centennial boys leading pack ahead of Howard County cross country championship meet

The Howard County cross country regular season wrapped up on March 25. The county championships are less than two weeks away, and the Howard girls team and the Centennial boys squad are the front runners to win titles.
The Howard County cross country regular season wrapped up on March 25. The county championships are less than two weeks away, and the Howard girls team and the Centennial boys squad are the front runners to win titles. (Nate Pesce For Baltimore Sun Media/Baltimore Sun Media)

For the past several seasons, it was clear going into the Howard County cross country championships who would win the boys and girls individual races.

In 2019, for example, Howard’s Amanda Eliker and River Hill’s Anish Nanjappa were heavy favorites to win their races, and they did.

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This season, however, the boys and girls cross country fields each have a handful of runners who are capable of being the fastest runner on any given day.

“The races at counties are going to be close ones,” said Howard High cross country coach Zack Dickerson. “I could see four or five different girls winning it, and the boys field is really deep. It’s at Centennial, so we’ll have to prepare, and it might come down to who handles those hills the best.”

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While the cross country community will have to wait for the county championships on April 10 to find out who will win the individual crowns, there are heavy favorites for which squads will win the team titles.

The Howard girls and the Centennial boys — with a dangerous combination of elite runners and depth — are looking like frontrunners. The Lions and the Eagles have both easily won all three of their regular season meets this season, and the only race remaining is the county championships in a week and a half.

“It’s going to be really fun,” said Centennial boys coach Kevin McCoy. “We’ve been away from this for so long. Everyone is so excited we get to have a county championship, and when you get two races that are competitive and come down to the wire, everybody will be able to experience what Howard County cross country is.”

Headlining the Howard girls team is junior Nimrit Ahuja, who won her first two races of the year and finished third at the most recent one. The three regular season meets in the shortened season due to the coronavirus pandemic split the county’s 12 schools into two different races and there is no out-of-county competition involved.

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Ahuja finished second at the county championship last season en route to helping the Lions’ to their second straight crown.

2nd place finisher, Nimrit Ahuja, from Howard (Bib 1520) crosses the finish line. Cross Country meet at Centennial High School for all Howard County schools.
2nd place finisher, Nimrit Ahuja, from Howard (Bib 1520) crosses the finish line. Cross Country meet at Centennial High School for all Howard County schools. (Nate Pesce For Baltimore Sun Media/Baltimore Sun Media)

“She’s definitely our No. 1 runner,” Dickerson said. “She stepped up in indoor last year and got fourth at the state championships in the mile. From there, she realized she had the potential to really be great.”

While some top cross country teams have depth far behind their top runner, the Lions’ depth is closely packed together. Jasmine Wilson, Hayley Long and Hannah Schwab are all right behind Ahuja, while Sara Kindbom, Elizabeth Holcombe and Kiley Mann have all finished inside the top 10 in races this season.

The Lions’ remarkable depth has led to dominant performances, including team scores of 16, 15 and 25 in the three meets. (Each team’s top five runners are scored by place of finish, and the lowest possible score is 15.)

Centennial’s, which is also deep, and Atholton are the other top girls teams who could push Howard.

While the Centennial boys haven’t been quite as dominant as the Howard girls, the Eagles have been excellent in all three meets — winning with team scores of 19, 30 and 22. Centennial is paced by sophomore Antonio Camacho-Bucks, who broke onto the scene last school year with a strong finish to his cross country campaign and an excellent indoor track and field season.

Running alongside Camacho-Bucks are seniors Jacob Cole and Fernando Duraes, while Luke LasCasas, Alexander White and Kyle Scherock are also placing well for the Eagles to round out their top six.

Centennial teammates Antonio Camacho-Bucks, left, and Jacob Cole sprint to the finish line in the Class 3A boys race during the MPSSAA State Cross Country Championships at Hereford High School on Saturday, November 9.
Centennial teammates Antonio Camacho-Bucks, left, and Jacob Cole sprint to the finish line in the Class 3A boys race during the MPSSAA State Cross Country Championships at Hereford High School on Saturday, November 9. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

“We’re seeing that next step with Antonio. He’s becoming a student, and he’s learning a lot. He really wants to see how good he can be,” said Centennial boys coach Rob Slopek. “... Jacob and Fernando are right there with Antonio, too, so they really push each other in practice. There’s that competitive edge between the three of them.”

The race for the top spot among the boys will be an exciting one, Dickerson said. Alongside Centennial’s top runners are Long Reach’s Cameron Hindle, who swept his regular season races, and Oakland Mills’ Baidy Ba, who won both of his races.

“This is probably the deepest boys field I’ve ever seen coaching in Howard County,” Dickerson said. “Not only are there four or five boys who can win, but [Howard County] has four or five boys who can run under 4:20 for a mile and under 9:15 for a two-mile. … Those are extremely fast times, some of the fastest in the entire state. It’s impressive what these kids have been able to do the last year.”

On the girls side, River Hill’s Faith Meininger could be seen as a slight favorite, as the Hawks’ senior has won both races she’s competed in this season and has posted impressive times. But Atholton’s Aanchal Kasargod and Oakland Mills’ Ella Harris have both won a race this year as well.

Overall, while the schedule is shorter and different due to the pandemic, Dickerson and the other coaches in the county have said they’re just “grateful” to be able to have this season.

“I give Howard County a lot of credit,” Dickerson said. “What they’ve been able to do to give us three meets, with six teams at each meet to make them pretty competitive, and to have a somewhat normal county championship — that’s more than I thought we’d get. And it’s more than what other counties are getting.”

Here are results from the races on March 25:

Oakland Mills meet

Boys team results: 1. Howard, 50; 2. Mt. Hebron, 65; 3. Oakland Mills, 85; 4. Marriotts Ridge, 87; 5. Atholton, 91; 6. Wilde Lake, 105.

Boys individual results: 1. Baidy Ba, 16:07, Oakland Mills; 2. Kendall Phillips, 16:40, Howard; 3. Michael Wade, 16:54, Marriotts Ridge; 4. Ethan Aidam, 16:56, Oakland Mills; 5. Jakob Werdell, 17:07, Howard; 6. Alexander Barton, 17:14, Mt. Hebron; 7. Jacob Hauf, 17:14, Mt. Hebron; 8. Ethan Mulcahy, 17:20, Atholton; 9. Henry Hooper, 17:26, Wilde Lake; 10. Eian Butler, 17:30, Howard.

Girls team results: 1. Howard, 25; 2. Atholton, 60; 3. Oakland Mills, 70; 4. Marriotts Ridge, 98; 5. Mt. Hebron, 128.

Girls individual results: 1. Ella Harris, 19:56, Oakland Mills; 2. Aanchal Kasargod, 20:03, Atholton; 3. Nimrit Ahuja, 20:15, Howard; 4. Jasmine Wilson, 20:15, Howard; 5. Hayley Long, 20:21, Howard; 6. Hannah Schwab, 20:27, Howard; 7. Sara Kindbom, 20:33, Howard; 8. Elizabeth Holcombe, 20:39, Howard; 9. Frankie Moore, 20:54, Oakland Mills; 10. Kiley Mann, 21:12, Howard.

River Hill meet

Boys team results: 1. Centennial, 22; 2. River Hill, 69; 3. Glenelg, 86; 4. Long Reach, 98; 5. Reservoir, 112; 6. Hammond, 153.

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Boys individual results: 1. Cameron Hindle, 16.04, Long Reach; 2. Jacob Cole, 16:15, Centennial; 3. Antonio Camacho-Bucks, 16:31, Centennial; 4. Fernando Duraes, 16:31, Centennial; 5. Bryce Handa, 17:01, River Hill; 6. Luke LasCasas, 17:14, Centennial; 7. Alexander White, 17:21, Centennial; 8. Alejandro Cabrera, 17:22, Long Reach; 9. Kyle Scherock, 17:26, Centennial; 10. Evan Quinn, 17:34, Long Reach.

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Girls team results: 1. Centennial, 32; 2. Reservoir, 51; 3. Glenelg, 66; 4. River Hill, 73; 5. Long Reach, 146.

Girls individual results: 1. Faith Meininger, 19:14, River Hill; 2. Michelle Weaver, 20:47, Centennial; 3. Chloe McGeehan, 21:01, River Hill; 4. Madelyn Mielke, 21:08, Centennial; 5. Katerina Talanova, 21:15, Centennial; 6. Amaya Cunningham, 21:15, Centennial; 7. Milana Gurvich, 21:59, Glenelg; 8. Leilah Clark, 22:20, Reservoir; 9. Caroline Rosenberry, 22:21, Reservoir; 10. Ava Robitaille, 22:22, Reservoir.

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