Brian Harris came within a half-mile of a perfect cross countr season.
The C. Milton Wright junior won every race right up until the state Class 3A championship. At Harford Glen, he set a course record en route to his second straight Harford County title. Two weeks later, he led the state title race at Western Maryland College for the first 2 1/2 miles. Then, he collapsed. It took a while, but Harris got back up and finished the race -- in 25th place.
Later, Harris admitted that he didn't feel right from the beginning, but he kept going until his legs gave out. After a week of testing that included wearing a heart monitor, doctors concluded that Harris had lost the title to a viral infection.
But that one loss could not overshadow an otherwise spectacular season. Harris was the No. 1 runner on the area's No. 1 team, and he is The Baltimore Sun's All-Metro Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year.
A two-time All-Metro pick, Harris swept the local invitationals.
On Nov. 5, he won his third regional championship, leading the Mustangs to the Class 3A, Region III title on a muddy three-mile Harford Community College course. His winning time of 17 minutes, 8 seconds was 50 seconds ahead of the runner-up.
On Oct. 30, Harris broke a 12-year-old record on the hilly 3.1-mile Harford Glen course in Bel Air to win the Harford County title. His 16:11 clocking broke the mark of 16:20 set by North Harford's Scott Sheppard, the only four-time county champ.
Harris trains hard, logging 45 to 0 miles a week. Last summer, he worked just as hard to improve the psychological side of his running.
"A lot of running is mental," said Harris, who was third in last year's state Class 3A race. "Last year, I got all worked up and nervous, and I think it showed. This year, I feel like a machine. I'm not nervous. I don't really think about the race at the beginning. I just run it."
Harris has grown into a perfect distance runner's body -- 6 feet 1, 125 pounds -- and he also has learned a lot about running.
"He understands the sport," said C. Milton Wright coach Bob Johnson. "It's not like he's just doing it this season. He runs all year-round . . . he educates himself about running."