Howard cross country coach Zachary Dickerson can’t remember the last time the boys program won a county title. He ran for the Lions, graduating in 2005, and knows they haven’t been victorious since at least 2002. But if he had to guess, it has probably been much longer than that.
“I know we were decent in the ‘70s,” Dickerson said.
With senior Nick Deamer leading the way, Howard broke its county championship drought by way of a 64-point performance Wednesday afternoon at Centennial High School. Four Lions finished in the top 15 to hold off second-place River Hill (81 points) and third-place Centennial (82 points).
“Hats off to Howard. They ran really well,” said River Hill coach Paul Hugus, who had led the Hawks boys team to the previous three county titles. “I don’t know if even on our best day we could have beaten them.”
“Howard ran their butts off,” coach John DiFato added.
The Lions’ success started with Deamer, who, after winning the Howard County Invitational by nearly 15 seconds on Sept. 9, finished almost 25 seconds in front of Reservoir senior Kai Muniz on Wednesday. Deamer completed the three-mile trek in 15:41.14, a new course record.
It marked the first time since 2012 that the boys individual champion came from a school other than River Hill.
“A big key to my race was to go out at my pace,” Deamer said, “because I knew if I ran by myself, no one could beat me. And I just keep pushing from there.”
On the girls side, no one could stop the Hawks from claiming their second consecutive league crown. Senior Jasmine Tiamfook and freshman Faith Meininger were neck and neck for the top spot — Tiamfook won the race by 0.40 seconds — while four of their teammates finished in the top 27.
The result was a 54-point effort, enough to edge out a Centennial team that featured three of the top 11 finishers and ended up with 65 points.
For Tiamfook, last year’s Howard County cross country Runner of the Year, Wednesday’s win marked her second straight individual county title. After an underwhelming showing at the Howard County Invitational, she used that experience as motivation to “get it done” at the same course weeks later. She finished the race in 19.01.00 to beat Meininger and Mt. Hebron senior Emily Beyer, who took third. (19:03.76).
Meininger, who nearly caught Tiamfook down the stretch, relished running alongside her veteran counterpart during their final strides.
“Faith is phenomenal,” Tiamfook said. “She turned to me literally at the finish line … and she’s like ‘let’s go girl.’ And I looked at her, and she looked at me, and we kind of just went for it. At the end of the day, it’s about sportsmanship … and she really gets that and she really gets what it means to be a team. And I’m glad to have that.”
Hugus and DiFato figured Tiamfook and Meininger would contend for the individual title, but River Hill’s team triumph came down to the success of their other top runners.
Junior Raaya Khleif and senior Alexa Matthews joined the Hawks standout duo in the top 20. Senior Tess Hawes and sophomore Kennedy Clark (27th) also turned in quality results to outperform Centennial.
Reservoir junior Annabel Cortez finished fourth, with Eagles senior Kirsten Wikner and junior Alison Betler coming in right behind her. Howard sophomore Amanda Eliker, Atholton junior Camryn Streib, Marriotts Ridge senior Molly Bingham and Mt. Hebron senior Alexandra Banham rounded out the top 10.
“Probably the difference was just we’ve bonded so much,” Meininger said. “We’ve had this whole season, and we’ve all come together through the summer training and through the whole year. We’ve had so many talks and conversations about how this is the time to do it.”
DiFato said the River Hill boys also ran well but have competed better at points throughout the season. Hugus didn’t see the necessary focus from his runners to excel at a meet of this magnitude. The Hawks are content with second, he said, because Howard was the better team Wednesday, but they’re more frustrated about almost slipping further down the rankings. They beat out Centennial, which boasted a third-place outing from senior Greg Costello, by one point as the runner-up to Howard.
Sophomore Anish Nanjappa (fourth) was River Hill’s top performer, while Oakland Mills junior Frederick Eiland II completed the top five. Scorpions senior Jared Nguyen, Mt. Hebron senior Sahil Sardesai and Atholton junior Nicholas Weber also earned top-10 finishes.
But none of those squads had the depth to compete with Howard. Aside from Deamer, junior Alex Strawley (sixth), senior Eric Accardi (ninth) and senior Ian Hinson (15th) gave their team a commanding advantage.
As a result, Dickerson and his Lions avenged their past two second-place finishes to finally secure a county title.
“For us to be able to pull a win out against fantastic competition, it’s a huge day for Howard cross country.”
Top girls finishers:
1. Jasmine Tiamfook, RH, 19:01.00; 2. Faith Meininger, RH, 19:01.40; 3. Emily Beyer, MH, 19:03.76; 4. Annabel Cortez, Re, 19:39.65; 5. Kirsten Wikner, C, 19:42.67; 6. Allison Betler, C, 19:54.21; 7. Amanda Eliker, H, 20:01.51; 8. Camryn Streib, A, 20:02.46; 9. Molly Bingham, MR, 20:11.46; 10. Alexandra Banham, MH, 20:19.61.
11. Cora Blount, C, 20:19.85; 12. Katie Melesko, G, 20:23.20; 13. Raaya Khleif, RH, 20:31.87; 14. Emily Gorny, Ho, 20:28.97; 15. Meah Konstanzer, Re, 20:28.97; 16. Alexa Matthews, RH, 20:31.87; 17. Alexis Shumate, G, 20:34.00; 18. Gabriella DeGrezia, A, 20:37.98; 19. Celine Pisanic, A, 20:39.41; 20. Katerina Talanova, C, 20:40.94.
Top boys finishers:
1. Nick Deamer, Ho, 15:41.14; 2. Kai Muniz, Re, 16:05.80; 3. Greg Costello, C, 16:17.53; 4. Anish Nanjappa, RH, 16:28.37; 5. Frederick Eiland II, OM, 16:34.78; 6. Alex Strawley, Ho, 16:35.91; 7. Sahil Sardesai, MH, 16:38.37; 8. Jared Nguyen, OM, 16:39,07; 9. Eric Accardi, Ho, 16:39.57; 10. Nicholas Weber, A, 16:42.39.
11. Jake Perret, A, 16:46.33; 12. Noah Kim, Re, 16:47.08; 13. Brendan Fitzgerald, RH, 16:53.94; 14. Steven Mitchell, C, 16:56.60; 15. Ian Hinson, Ho, 17:01.45; 16. Jake Downing, RH, 17:02.43; 17. Alvaro Hernandez, Re, 17:03.12; 18. Anders Chattin, OM, 17:05.13; 19. Javon Daniel, A, 17:08.57; 20. Justin Ziegler, C, 17:08.57.
Girls team scores:
1. River Hill, 54; 2. Centennial, 65; 3. Mt. Hebron, 103; 4. Howard, 114; 5. Atholton, 118; 6. Glenelg, 125; 7. Marriotts Ridge, 141; 8. Reservoir, 174; 9. Oakland Mills, 268; 10. Long Reach, 296.
Boys team scores:
Latest Howard County Sports
1. Howard, 64; 2. River Hill, 81; 3. Centennial, 82; 4. Oakland Mills, 99; 5. Mt. Hebron, 122; 6. Reservoir, 124; 7. Atholton, 135; 8. Glenelg, 206; 9. Marriotts Ridge, 252; 10. Wilde Lake, 273; 11. Long Reach, 358; 12. Hammond, 373.