Ahead of the state meet Saturday at Hereford High School, River Hill coach Paul Hugus challenged his team, asking how good they really are.
The Hawks responded with a dominating performance, placing four runners in the top-15, including three in the top-7 and five in the top-21 to clinch their third consecutive 3A boys cross country championship.
"You can't ask for much better than that," Hugus said after his team scored a meet-best 47 points. "We challenged the guys. The last two years we had 58 and 65 [points] and we challenged them to complete the three in a row. We said how good can we be? And I think they answered that and that challenge today."
River Hill was led by county and 3A East region champion, Rahul Reddy who stayed within the top two for the majority of the race, but ultimately Poolsville's Ryan Lockett put some distance in the last stretch to take the individual state title.
"Definitely wanted to get first, I was a little emotional at the end, but kudos to Lockett because he really did well," Reddy said, after clocking in with a second-place time of 16 minutes, 2.91 seconds. "But to win a third state championship as a team is great, so it's good enough. We've done it for three years, one of the strongest teams in the state – I am proud to lead that."
Reddy led the way, but it was the depth of the Hawks that truly was the difference in the race.
Jake Parker (16:24.92) and Ben Oldhouser (16:35.46) placed fifth and seventh, respectively, while Anish Nanjappa (16:55.26), Kevin Reynolds (17:21.74), Jake Downing (17:36.35) and Brendan Fitzgerald (17:41.09) rounded out River Hill's top-6 with 15th 21st, 32nd and 35th, place standing.
"Again, we all knew what we needed to do," Reddy said. "We stuck together, we always think about what's our game plan, how we are going to run this race, who are we going to stick to. If we are stick to a Hebron kid, are we going to beat him? Yes we are – and you know that's sort of our mentality."
It was the last race for seniors Reddy, Parker, Oldhouser and Reynolds and after being apart of the last two Hawks state titles they were determined to go out as champions once again.
"It's just one of the those things, these guys – Raul, and Ben, and Jake, and Kevin Reynolds – they've been a part of this for the past three years and they understand what it takes to be at the top and they didn't want a chance slip away. We went out there and really hammered it and I feel really great for the accomplishment they put together today," Hugus said. "We came out maybe two or three weeks ago and I think that really helped, but also I marked off a couple of points where they needed to change some gears and they responded with that too. I am really proud of what they were able to do throughout the year and really proud of the team accomplishment – and three in a row. It feels good."
Mt. Hebron senior Jake Edmondson (16:28.33, sixth place) was the only other Howard County runner besides Reddy and Oldhouser to finish in the top-10, while Reservoir junior Kai Muniz (16:43.41, 13th) and senior William Christian (17:16.08, 19th) finished in the top-20 to help the Gators to a third place team standing with 174 points, behind second place Linganore (166).
Atholton senior Benjamin Rosicky (17:12.94, 17th) and the Vikings junior Sahil Sardesai (17:21.05, 20th) also had top-20 finishes, helping their team's to 14th and sixth team standing, respectively.
Centennial's Daniel Gao and Steven Mitchell led the Eagles with time's of 17:24.96 and 17:27.76, which helped them to a fifth place team standing with 184 points, just two points shy of fourth-place Poolsville.
Glenelg finished 19th overall with 483 points.
The Hawks were looking at both state titles Saturday, trying to capture their second girls state championship in three seasons, but came up a little bit short finishing behind Northern (72) with 89 points on the day.
"First off, hats off the Northern," Hugus said. "We knew we were going to chase them all year... I spent hours looking at regional results and spreads from one to five and trying to handy cap courses. A lot went in to it and I knew it was going to be close. They ran really well and our girls ran really well too. It's just it wasn't quite enough today and we knew it was going to be close. I'm happy with the effort they put out there and proud to get a second place finish for the girls today."
River Hill was led by county and 3A East region champ, junior Jasmine Tiamfook, who placed seventh overall with a time of 19 minutes, 42.84 seconds Saturday.
"My game plan was to use the middle miles, but I think altogether we started off really fast. I think we ran around six [minutes] for the first one and it just kind of messed me up," Tiamfook said. "I didn't really follow what I wanted to, but I did what I could."
Tiamfook was followed by teammates Owen Dannelly (20:15.74, 11th), Raaya Khleif (20:45.90, 22nd), Alexa Matthews (20:58.11, 26th) and Kennedy Clark (20:49.48, 28th).
"I think [this season] went really well for us as a team, especially after last year, just not feeling confident and I think that showed a lot about us," Tiamfook said. "I know we didn't have it here, but for us to even pull together for counties and regions – it meant a lot of us."
Alison Betler (20:02.17), Kara Taylor (20:05.03) and Cora Blount (20:39.10) helped the defending 3A state champion Eagles to a fourth-place finish – behind C. Milton Wright – after ending strong in 9th, 10th and 18th place, respectively.
But it was breakout runner, Mt. Hebron's Emily Beyer, who was the highest placing Howard County finisher in the race, placing fifth with a time of 19:20.33.
"Last year I just finished not the best and being out half of the year last year, I saw all my teammates get medals and I saw all of them do great – at states I wanted to prove that last year, but I wasn't able to as well as I wanted to and that was my mentality this year," Beyer said. "I wanted that medal. I wanted our team to do so well and I want us to walk out of here and feel strong and here we are."
The Vikings finished seventh overall as a team with 189 points, while Glenelg followed – whose highest placing finisher was senior Cara Nardone (21:01.57, 31st) – in eighth with 189.
Annabel Cortez had a fantastic race for the Gators, placing 13th with a time of 20 minutes, 17.98 seconds.
Reservoir ended in 14th overall as a team, while Atholton, who was led by sophomore Gabriella Degrezia (21:59.82), finished in 17th.
Howard places 11th in girls and 8th in boys 4A state meet
Courtney Mann and Nick Deamer led the Lions at the 4A state meet Saturday.
Mann, a senior in her final cross country meet, finished her varsity career strong with an eighth place finish after crossing the in 19 minutes, 41.34 seconds.
"I am very happy. I hadn't exactly had the best championship season, because I had to deal with a little bit of an injury, but I am 100 percent better now," Mann said. "It took a little bit to get back in to it physically and I am just so glad I was able to end it on a good note, because I don't know what I would have done if it was ended in a bad way. I'm just so happy and proud of my team of what we've done and how far we've come."
Mann stayed with the top-15 for the majority of the race before making her move at the top. She didn't want to get trapped in to starting too fast, which ultimately worked in her benefit.
"I told myself I wasn't going to go out too fast, because I knew everyone was going to be sprinting in the beginning going sub-six pace," she said. "I know who should be around me and I know who shouldn't, so I kind of kept an eye out for the people who were around my time all season. I kind of stuck with them and moved up as a pack to get to the top-10 and that was my goal. I was just so happy I was able to achieve it because it's my last year and I'm just so glad I got to be able to finish this."
Senior Ada Holtan also finished in the top-20 for Howard, crossing with a time of 20 minutes, 24.81 seconds.
"Today was a little bit tougher physically than it was mentally because, you know, all of us are very strong-minded runners, and we did a lot of mental preparation for this course," Mann added. "I think going in to it we were all really confident. Physically, since a lot of the courses this year haven't been particularly hilly it was definitely a challenge, but it was a good challenge. We are so grateful to even be able to end on this course. I think it was good for all of us."
Howard finished with 266 points, with Walter Johnson running away with the state title with just 59 points – 59 points better than second-placed Thomas Wooton.
On the boy's side, Deamer was eyeing a top-five finish and that is exactly what he ended with.
The junior finished with a time of 16 minutes, 27.68 seconds.
"My game plan was trying to get top-five, but mostly top three and just try to stick with [Richard Montgomery's] Rohann [Asfaw], [Bethaesda-Chevy Chase's] Adam [Nakasaka] and [Bel Air's Kieran] McDermott up there and I felt like I did that," Deamer said. "I think I did pretty good. I wasn't too worried about my time. I was more worried about my place and I am pretty happy with that."
Asfaw took the individual title, while McDermott beat out Deamer for fourth-place by less than half a second.
"I was just trying to catch up to McDermot ahead, trying to give all I could," Deamer said. "He was kind of too far ahead, but I just kept trying to keep pushing."
Zach Allen (17:23.43) and Eric Accardi (17:23.78) followed Deamer, placing 43rd and 45th overall.
The Lions finished with 198 total points, 101 behind state champions Dulaney.
Marriotts Ridge girls finish third, Oakland Mills boys fourth in 2A state meet
Molly Bingham led the Mustangs Saturday with a time of 20 minutes, 33.96 seconds – good for an 11th place finish to help her team to a top three standing at the 2A state meet.
Grace Chaverini also had a solid day for the Scorpions, placing 19th overall in the race with a time of 21minutes, 5.54 seconds.
Joey Navarro led Oakland Mills boys team in the final race of the afternoon, finishing in seventh place after crossing with a time of 16 minutes, 47.99 seconds.
"I am personally disappointed in my performance today, but I had a good finish. I gave what I had left and I ended up passing somebody in the straight away," Navarro said. "I thought I was going to have a better opportunity to make a move, but I guess I just let the front pack get a little too far ahead."
Jared Nguyen followed Navarro with a top-17 finish, clocking in at 17 minutes, 14.58 minutes.
"We just wanted to stay strong, run together," Navarro added. "We knew we were going to have a shot to win. We just knew we had to give our best and do what we do."
Luke Starks (57th) was the highest placing finisher for the Mustangs, which finished 12th overall as a team.
Herford won the 2A state title with a total of 52 points.