GAITHERSBURG -- The sight of Westminster's Mike Recek running away from the pack on the sun-splashed hills at Watkins Mill High yesterday was almost picturesque.
Recek simply left a strong field of Class 4A West regional runners in his shadow on the way to a first-place finish in 16 minutes, 52.06 seconds over the tough Montgomery County course.
Second-place finisher David Harry of Quince Orchard, which took the boys team 4A title with 32 points, said: "Our coach [Terry Link] told us before the race, they [Westminster] had somebody who would probably win this and now I know who it is."
Harry was more than 10 seconds (17:02.60) behind Recek, who now has to be considered a strong candidate to win the state 4A individual championship.
Recek, a smooth-running junior, was in such a good zone yesterday that he was able to win even though he went to the front a half-mile sooner than he wanted to.
"I was planning to make my move at the two-mile mark [over the 3.1-mile course] but I did it a lot sooner because the opportunity was there," he said. "I knew I was running a quick pace and wouldn't have to kick as much at the end to win."
As usual for the low-key Recek, he just went out and ran and didn't rely on any gimmicks or good-luck charms to help him out.
"It was just a normal day for me. I just tried to stay focused and was prepared to run in the heat," he said.
Despite Recek's heroics, the Westminster boys could do no better than a third-place finish to the two-time defending state 4A champion Quince Orchard squad. Richard Montgomery was second (53 points) and Westminster third (88 points).
In the girls 4A West Region championship race at Watkins Mill yesterday, the top Westminster finisher was Emily Jones (22rd, 22:15.73) and the Owls were a distant eighth (197 points) behind girls team winner Watkins Mill (60 points).
Westminster boys coach Jim Gilford had hoped for at least a second-place finish behind powerful Quince Orchard, but he said he could not be disappointed with the performance of his team.
"Our runners turned in better times than last year in the regionals but they finished lower," said Gilford.
"This is just a terribly tough region and I'd say the state team champion will either come out of this region or Perry Hall will win it."
After Recek, the top Westminster boys finisher was W. C. Knight (18:09.39) who was 19th. Greg Fisher (18:20.21) was 21st for Westminster, Shane Martin (18:22.25) was 23rd, and Josh Heckathorn (18:23.95) was 24th.
"We had the grouping of runners we like to have," said Gilford. "They just needed to be up higher."
For the Westminster girls, it was a long day.
Owls' girls coach Jim Shank said: "We had a couple of girls coming off injuries, but we knew coming down here it was going to be tough to do well."