Tradition was tossed out the window at the Howard County Cross Country Championships yesterday at Howard Community College.
The course was new. The winning boys team, Wilde Lake, hadn't won a county title since 1972. The winning girls team, Oakland Mills, had never won a county title.
Favorite Greg Curtis, from traditional power Oakland Mills, won the boys race by 24 seconds with teammate Steve Petro finishing second. But Oakland Mills placed third, seven points behind second-place Centennial and 22 points behind Wilde Lake.
And favorite Dana Strickland, from traditional power Atholton, won the girls race by 45 seconds over Centennial's Kari Meyer. But her team, thought to have a chance at winning the championship early in the season, finished fourth -- three points behind second-place Wilde Lake and Centennial and 21 points behind Oakland Mills.
It was the best finish by a Wilde Lake girls team. The Wildecats did not field a complete team at last season's championships.
Wilde Lake's winning boys team consisted of Faisal Hasan (third, 16 minutes, 41 seconds), Mike Brosenne (sixth, 17:31), Marc Baren (ninth, 17:40), Ben Service (14th, 17:49) and Jeff Bird (15th, 17:54). Paul Daddio (20th, 18:04) and Chris McCallum (23rd, 18:27) completed the squad. Only the top five count toward the team's score.
Oakland Mills' winning girls team consisted of Lauren Drake (fourth, 21:01), Dawn Strait (seventh, 21:25), Rachel Nelson (ninth, 21:40), Erin Morrow (13th, 22:00) and Liz Ball (19th, 22:59). Jessica Ellerman (36th, 24:06) and Jessica Mathews (37th, 24:08) completed the squad.
"I expected us to win after winning the Howard County Invitational, but it wasn't a sure thing," Wilde Lake boys coach Charlie Showmaker said. "I was concerned about Oakland Mills, although we had beaten them on a neutral course at Linganore."
Oakland Mills coach Steve Carnahan had promised his boys team a ride in his classic Ford Mustang if it won.
"All I've got is a Ford Escort wagon to give my team a ride in," Shoemaker said. "My senior captains, Service and Bird, did an outstanding job. We stressed commitment."
Some country cross country followers labeled as a fluke Wilde Lake's victory in the Howard County Invitational early in the season. The Wildecats proved them wrong.
"There are no flukes in cross country," Shoemaker said.
Wilde Lake's goal was to put three runners ahead of Oakland Mills' third-best runner, Bryan Drake, and it did, as Brosenne and Baron beat Drake for the first time.
Curtis shrugged off his individual victory. "It doesn't feel like anything. I would rather have been our fifth finisher and have helped us to the team championship," he said.
But there was plenty of joy on the Oakland Mills girls side.
"We're so happy," said Drake. "We thought it would be close. I just wanted to stay ahead of Amanda Fleck. She beat me last year in counties." Drake finished fourth and Fleck, from Mount Hebron, was fifth.
Oakland Mills' No. 5 girl, Liz Ball, ran the best race of her career to finish 19th. And Dawn Strait was seventh.
Wilde Lake's girls finished second with two sophomores and three freshmen.
"It's nice knowing we're the best girls team in the history of the school," said Kelly Zimmerman, who finished 12th.
Wilde Lake and Centennial each finished with 70 points, but the second-place tie was broken by Wilde Lake's sixth runner, Rene Griffen, who finished one second ahead of Centennial's sixth runner, Correnne Palazzo.