The odds of repeating as county champion were not as good for Glenelg's Alicia Adams as they might have been for most defending champions.
The Baltimore Sun's Howard County Girls cross country Runner of the Year contracted mononucleosis last spring, and that illness ended her outdoor track season prematurely and derailed her overall training.
When this year's cross country season began, she hadn't raced competitively since indoor season when she was the county two-mile champ and ran on the winning two-mile relay team.
And then there were the rave reviews in preseason about a talented freshman at Atholton High, Dana Strickland, whom it was said had the ability to dethrone Adams.
"Hearing about Dana probably put the most pressure on me," said Adams, who finished second in the Class 2A race a year ago.
But she was used to pressure of one sort or another. Adams, a junior, ran in her sister Kristina's shadow as a freshman. Kristina won the county title that year and Alicia finished second. Then, as a sophomore, Alicia had to overcome the inevitable comparisons to her talented older sibling.
But the first season out of her sister's shadow started badly. Adams came in second to Strickland at the opening meet, the Howard County Invitational.
Then Adams turned it around and beat Strickland at the Westminster Invitational, finishing sixth while Strickland was seventh.
In the dual meet between Glenelg and Atholton, Strickland appeared to win by a large margin, only to find herself disqualified for leaving the course.
Back luck continued to follow Strickland, who injured her foot and was unable to compete for three weeks before the county championships.
Adams, paced by her teammate and training buddy Kelly Pelovitz, ran away from Strickland in the county championships, beating her by 68 seconds. Adams also broke her sister Kristina's course record by 1 second, finishing the three-mile course in 19 minutes, 25 seconds.
Adams came back with a win at Class 2A regional.
Adams thinks the biggest difference about her racing this season is mental. "I'm just mentally tougher," she said.
She's looking forward to the Kinney Regionals in New Jersey where she finished 42nd last year in seeded competition. She finished second in the Kinney freshman-sophomore race two years ago.