Howard junior Kiley Mann was unable to compete at the Howard County championships due to illness. The junior leader of the Lions girls team didn’t allow that bump in the road to derail her season.
Last year, Mann had decorated seniors like Nimrit Ahuja, Hannah Schwab, Jasmine Wilson and Elizabeth Holcombe to lean on. However, being the girls top runner this season brought an added sense of pressure and stress. To counteract those feelings, Mann leaned on a valuable lesson she learned from those seniors: the power of positivity.
“They always had a positive mindset no matter what,” Mann said. “This year since I was struggling with the mentality of it, I was focused on having a positive mindset through everything and focused on how it’s going to end up being OK. Having those positive mindsets helped me work through it mentally and helped me accomplish my goals.”
That commitment to positivity yielded great results as Mann finished second at the Class 3A East regionals (19 minutes, 57.7 seconds) and sixth at states (20:40:1) among a stacked 3A field. She was the top Howard County finisher in both events and is the 2022 Howard County Times/Columbia Flier girls cross country Runner of the Year.
“Since I missed counties, it was kind of a bummer and I was really upset about it, but it happens,” Mann said. “So, then regionals came and I was like, ‘I’m going to do this for myself, I’m going to make myself feel good and I want to do it for the girls as well because we wanted to make it states.’
“States, it was really competitive, so it was kind of nerve-wracking. During the race, I just kept looking forward and kept looking at the girls ahead of me. When a girl passed me, I just tried to keep sticking with them and keep thinking positive.”
Despite being unable to participate in counties, Mann was there to support her teammates at Centennial High School, offering the same positive encouragement that played an integral part in her success.
“One of the good things is she got to learn from Nimrit, Elizabeth, Hannah and some of our leaders over the last two years,” Howard coach Zack Dickerson said. “What a good leader looks like, how to lead a team and talk to the girls and keep that team and culture together. So, I think she had already had that in the back of her head. Sure, it’s a little nerve-wracking to be that person, but she took the role. I never really saw those nerves come out. It wasn’t like there was awkwardness. So, I think she took the role in stride. She was a great leader for us on the grass this year.”
After an accomplished cross country season, Mann now has further opportunities for growth with both indoor and outdoor track. Mann will be one of the top runners in 3A East entering her senior year, as this year’s regional champion, Hannah Toth of Westminster, is graduating.
“It’s definitely exciting, but also sad that they’re leaving,” Mann said. “I like the competition to help me grow, but it’s actually really cool that I will be toward the top of [the region] and I’m excited to see how I do next year because of it.”
All-County first team
Riley Herdson, Centennial, sophomore: Herdson placed second at counties (19:41:81), helping lead the Eagles girls to a county team title as the team’s top finisher. She also excelled in the postseason earning fifth at regionals (20:19:12) as the Eagles girls also captured a regional title. The sophomore closed out her season placing 19th at states.
Frankie Moore, Oakland Mills, junior: Moore earned her first individual Howard County championship finishing in 19:17:97, roughly 24 seconds faster than the next best finisher. She also was Oakland Mills top finisher at the 2A West Regional placing fourth (21:34:10). Moore closed out her season finishing 11th at states.
Casey Moquin, Reservoir, senior: The senior closed off her career strongly, first placing eighth at counties (20:26:33). She also placed eighth at regionals (20:48:22), an integral part of Reservoir’s second-place team finish. Moquin ended her high school career with a 46th place finish at states.
Ela Muniz, Reservoir, freshman: Muniz didn’t take long to acclimate to high school cross country with top 10 finishes at counties, regionals and states. After placing sixth at counties (20:07:63) she improved at regionals with a third-place finish, crossing the finish line nearly three seconds faster. She was also the Gators best runner at states earning eighth, the only freshman in her classification to finish top 10.
Gauri Nair, Mount Hebron, junior: Nair placed in the top 15 at counties, regionals and states. Her best finish was at counties earning fifth (20:45:22) as the Vikings top finisher in all three events. The junior was seventh at regionals and 15th at states.
Gabrielle Shord, Atholton, sophomore: The sophomore led the Raiders throughout the season with top-five finishes at both counties and regionals. She took third at counties (19:45:06) and fourth at regionals (20:07:94) as Atholton finished second and fourth at counties and regionals, respectively. Shord completed her season earning 13th at states, one of only four sophomores to finish top 15 in the 3A classification.
Sophia Urdinola, Atholton, senior: One of the Raiders’ veterans, Urdinola placed seventh at counties (20:19:91) as their second-best finisher at that event. She had her best finish at regionals earning sixth-place (20:32:19) helping Atholton secure a top-five team finish at both counties and regionals.
All-County second team
Catie Fritz, Centennial, sophomore
Emily Graff, Centennial, freshman
Varsha Makkapati, Centennial, junior
Caroline McCaffrey, Mount Hebron, junior
Arshia Mondal, Howard, junior
Kyrie Moquin, Reservoir, sophomore
Tianna Wilson, Atholton, junior