Liberty making run at Westminster


Liberty cross country coach Dan Jones has it all figured out.

He has a plan on how to end Westminster's run of nine straight Carroll County boys cross country championships Friday at Western Maryland College.

"If we and [Francis Scott] Key can each take away some places from Westminster, one of us can win it," said Jones.

Nice idea.

But neither Liberty nor Key seems to have the runners to pull off that strategy.

Even though the Owls lost most of their top runners from last season, they still can overpower opponents with sheer numbers and talent.

Linganore, Frederick, Liberty, North Carroll, South Carroll and Thomas Johnson all discovered that last Saturday in the Central Maryland Conference championships.

Linganore's Aaron Price and Liberty's Joe Ledda finished first and second, respectively, but the Owls took five of the top 12 places to win the CMC for the seventh time in the seven years the event has been held.

Westminster coach Jim Gilford, who has guided the Owls to the nine straight county titles, said it was good for Jones to be positive.

"But I don't see it happening," said Gilford. "We had seven runners finish before five of his runners in the CMCs."

Jones can be excused for being excited going into this year's county championship race.

He had just watched Ledda turn in a time of 17 minutes, 29 seconds in the CMC title race to finish ahead of Westminster's top runner, Tim Meerschaert, who was three seconds back in third place.

Also, Liberty's Justin Combs came through with a ninth-place finish.

Two in the top nine isn't bad for a program that is being rebuilt by Jones. He just has to develop more top runners to hang with the Owls, not an easy task for a school that has had some trouble in the past getting enough runners out for a cross country team.

"I'm gearing up for the counties," said Ledda. "I'd love to win it. I've never won a major race like the counties. I've been pushing myself."

The rewards of sleep

How do you keep a perfectionist such as a long-distance runner happy?

Basically it's impossible.

Price of Linganore is a perfect example. He had just finished first in the CMC with a course record 17:05 on his home turf and the first words out of his mouth were "I really don't like this course."

Price went on to say he set the course record because he felt "strong from the beginning."

And why did he feel strong from the beginning?

"I got enough sleep for a change," said Price.

Record-beating trio

Speaking of the supposedly tough Linganore 3.1-mile course, the top three in the CMC girls title race all broke course records.

The winner, Tricia Mangan of Thomas Johnson who shattered the course record by 38 seconds with a time of 19:37, did have a few scores to settle with second-place finisher Jacquelyn Hayes (19:53) of Linganore.

Hayes had beaten Mangan, the defending CMC champion, in two of three meets earlier this season.

All-CMC running teams

A total of 11 boys and girls from Carroll County schools made the first and second All-CMC cross country teams as a result of their finishing in the top 14 in their races.

Boys making the first team were Ledda, Meerschaert, Westminster's Mike Recek and Shawn Donovan and North Carroll's Bryan Gunning.

Boys on the second team include Combs of Liberty and Westminster's W. C. Knight and Nate Shank. Just missing the second team was the Owls' Chris Arnold, who finished 15th.

The top seven make the first team, and the next seven make the second team.

Only one girl from Carroll County, Westminster's Amy Elwell, made the first team.

Two Carroll girls were on the second team. They were Westminster's Brooke Hammel and Liberty's Jen Myers.

Hoffmann update

The Villanova football misfortunes, with several offensive starters going down with injuries, have forced Bill Hoffmann Jr., to do a lot of punting this season.

The former South Carroll standout has responded with some impressive performances, punting 40 times for an average of 38.9 yards and having 15 downed inside the opponents' 20-yard line.

His punting average is second in the Yankee Conference.

In a 19-7 loss to Delaware two weeks ago, Hoffmann punted five times for a 43.5 average, including a 53-yarder.

But the inability of the 2-5 Wildcats to move the ball and score touchdowns apparently has cost Hoffmann (172 points) a chance to pass Mike Siani (208 points) as the all-time leading scorer in Villanova history.

Hoffmann has attempted only six field goals, hitting four, and is nine of nine on extra points. He most likely will have to settle for second place, needing 13 points in five games to pass Robert Hanner (184) for second.

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