Annapolis girls cross country coach Teresa Ross calls sophomore Kristen Nicolini "a dream come true for any coach" and "the most competitive young lady you will ever meet."
Those superlatives explain in part why Nicolini won both the Anne Arundel County and Class 4A, Region IV cross country meets and has been named The Baltimore Sun's Anne Arundel County Girls cross country Runner of the Year.
Nicolini, a county track champion in the 800- and 1,600-meter runs as a freshman, gave cross country a shot this fall. She was spectacular, winning the county meet at Annapolis by almost 2 minutes, coming in at 18 minutes, 20 seconds.
She turned around and took the regional the following week by blowing away her Queen Anne's nemesis, Kris Jost, 17:44 to 18:48.
"The first time, Kristen ran against Jost this year, she lost by 20 seconds," said Ross. "The second time, Kristen took her the last 20 yards and in the regional she simply blew her away."
Nicolini also won the Anne Arundel County, Frederick and North County Knights invitationals. Her 18:20 time on the 3.1-mile course at Annapolis High set a course record.
"I've really enjoyed it, because it's different than track and is more of a team thing," said Nicolini. I especially like running in the woods and you get a sense of accomplishment when you win."
Nicolini said she was thrilled that the Panthers qualified for the state meet for the first time since 1985. She finished 11th in the state meet Saturday, while Annapolis finished 13th overall.
"Kristen is very humble and very team-oriented, a great leader, just an outstanding young lady," said Ross. Ross said Nicolini has improved her form, which has only made her a better runner. She said Nicolini "is running more upright and naturally and not hunched over as she did in [track] distance running."
"Coach Ross has helped me quite a bit with my form and strategy," Nicolini said. "And all of us are back next year. We have a very young team."