Brian Harris was full of personal surprises at the Howard County Cross Country Invitational yesterday.
Having run a 12-mile practice race two days ago, the senior runner from C. Milton Wright doubted he'd have the energy to finish first. But he was wrong. Harris placed No. 1 at 16 minutes, 11 seconds on Howard Community College's three-mile course.
In the 18-team boys competition, Centennial, reversing last year's order of finish, claimed first, 56 points to 65 over C. Milton Wright. The 15-team girls race went to C. Milton Wright (76), which topped Montgomery County's Walter Johnson (81).
Harris, a two-time Harford County and three-time regional champ, took the lead from Centennial's Kevin Hill at the halfway mark and cruised to a convincing win over Oakland Mills' Greg Curtis, who placed second (16:37).
During the run, Harris awaited a "kicker's race" to evolve down the stretch between he and Hill, a talented transfer from Pennsylvania. It never happened, as Hill finished fifth (16:57).
"I thought [Hill] would be a lot closer," Harris said. "I though it'd be a kicker's race, that he'd be with me the whole time. But I knew if my legs felt good, I'd have a good race."
Sally Glynn, a Walter Johnson sophomore, was never threatened and easily finished first in the girls race (18:21). The keynote in Walter Johnson's No. 2 placement, Glynn liked the course because it wasn't "hilly, just smooth and quick."
"I like competing without looking back, just kind of running," she said.
The real girls battle, however, was for second between Bel Air's Michelle Apland and Glenelg's Alicia Adams, the Maryland Class 2A champion last fall. As Glynn began pulling away, it appeared the No. 2 spot belonged to Adams. Still, Apland, running her second race ever, surpassed Adams with about one-quarter mile left to force a near-photo finish. Apland beat Adams, 19:59 to 20:00.
Like Harris, Apland surprised herself with the surge.
"I didn't think I'd have the guts to go up and catch her," she said. "I didn't think I'd feel up to it because I was feeling kind of dead. It just came from somewhere."
Placements of the top five runners from each school were added to determine final team scores. Centennial, with Bobby Van Allen, Hill, Steve Olenick, Tom Mazcko and Mike French in the third, fifth, 11th, 16th and 21st spots, respectively, passed with high marks in what coach Al Dodds said would be a "test" against C. Milton Wright.
Van Allen and Hill probably would have finished higher, but Curtis surged at about the two-mile point, passed both runners, and used Harris to pace himself the rest of the race.
C. Milton Wright girls coach Barbara Johnson was quite excited after her team's No. 1 placement.
First envisioning a finish in the top three or four, she saw Jen Englhart (sixth), Amy Altmann (ninth) and Michelle Edberg (10th) spark the Mustangs.
"I was pleasantly surprised," Johnson said. "Everybody had their best times."