The Archbishop Curley team argues that it's better than a more accomplished Oakland Mills crew, but an even more interesting "Who's No. 1?" debate in cross country this fall will be the chase for the Runner of the Year honor.
Curley looms large there, too, since the Friars' Matt Ciarpella won The Evening Sun distinction as a junior and is in the best shape of his life. Ciarpella, who was unbeaten against area foes in 1989, will face plenty of competition. The class of 1991 on the boys' side is the deepest group of distance talent the area has had in close to a decade.
For starters, there is Centennial's Pat Rodrigues, a two-time first-team All-Metro pick who will attempt to join Hereford's Dave Cornwell (1972-74) and Randallstown's Jeff Campbell (1986-88) as the only boys ever to win three state championships.
Rodrigues and Ciarpella already have collided this season, but little was settled. At the Jack Griffin Invitational in Frederick Sept. 8, the two had a 300-meter lead on the rest of the pack but took a wrong turn. They eventually got back on course, Rodrigues finishing 49th and Ciarpella 56th.
During the 1989-90 school year, Oakland Mills ace Joe Drissel showed more consistency than either Ciarpella or Rodrigues. The three could tangle in the Hereford Invitational Oct. 6, and one thing is certain: The 20th edition of the Hereford classic will be the last. Meet director Jim Heffner has sacrificed enough hours organizing the affair for one lifetime.
There are a dozen or so other senior boys to watch. Westminster's Scott Luers and Loch Raven's Brian Horn were first-team All-Metro runners in 1989, and Curley's Steve Daft, Thomas Johnson's Mike Day, C. Milton Wright's Jeff Hankins, Oakland Mills' Paul Schoeny and Westminster's Mark Simmons were second-teamers.
The senior class is further strengthened by Calvert Hall's Chris Sisk and Glen Burnie's Sheridan Snedden. When he's in shape, Lansdowne's Jason Cox can go with anyone.
The Maryland Scholastic Association has a pair of top juniors in Loyola's Gavin McCarty and Mount St. Joseph's Romero Wilson, and Old Mill's Scott Boetig is another top 11th-grader. The top newcomer could be C. Milton Wright freshman Brian Harris.
In team competition, Curley coach Gene Hoffman is touting his squad, which ranked No. 4 in the area last year, but the only possible choice for No. 1 remains Oakland Mills. Steve Carnahan's Scorpions won their sixth straight state title last year, and the top of their lineup returns intact. All are seniors.
In addition to Drissel and Schoeny, the fabulous five includes Ken Plasse, Brandon Hart and Bill Dye. They will be tested tomorrow at the Howard County Invitational, and next Wednesday at the Westminster Invitational. The host Owls are primed to repeat as state 4A champions.
Among the area girls, the possibilities for arguments are reversed. There will again be a worthy crowd of contenders for the No. 1 team -- most gathering at the Westminster Invitational -- but Fallston senior Jenny Howard is the clear favorite to repeat as Runner of the Year.
Howard's only loss as a sophomore came in Delaware, she was unbeaten last year, and this fall she can become only the second girl in state meet history to win three titles. John F. Kennedy's Beth Jacobson did the trick in 1982-84.
Frederick, last year's No. 1 team, has a two-time first-team All-Metro in Jennie Novak, but the Cadets lost a good one when Kristen McMichael moved to Catonsville. She will challenge Towson sophomore Lauren Mross, the defending Baltimore County champion. Centennial junior Amanda Cox, the defending Howard County champion, is another returning first-team All-Metro runner.
CROSS COUNTRY RANKINGS
BOYS TOP 10 1. Oakland Mills
5. Severna Pk.
7. Loch Raven
8. Old Mill
9. Calvert Hall
10. C.M. Wright
GIRLS TOP 10
2. Severna Pk.
5. Old Mill