Centennial on title pace with win in Striders meet CROSS COUNTRY


Centennial coach Al Dodds hopes his team's victory in yesterday's Howard County Striders Invitational could be a sign of history preparing to repeat itself.

That's because in addition to winning yesterday's race at Howard Community College, the Centennial boys won the Jack Griffin Invitational last weekend.

Why is that important? Because when the Centennial boys won the state title two years ago, they started the season by winning both the Griffin and the Howard County Striders.

"I'm hoping history will repeat itself," said Dodds with a smile. "There are some good teams here. We wanted to try to run as much in a pack as possible."

And the Eagles, who finished second in the state last year, gave the coach his wish. Centennial put five runners in the top 21 -- and seven in the top 44.

Centennial finished with 50 points. Second-place Wilde Lake had 64 while C.M. Wright (third, 105) and Oakland Mills (fourth, 130) followed.

Mike French (fourth), Eric Myers (fifth) and Matt Augustin (seventh) all finished in the top 10 for the Eagles. Jeff Olenick (13th) and Tom Schappeler (22nd) rounded out the scoring pack for Centennial.

"We pretty much [ran in a pack]," said Dodds. "That's really what we're going to try to do every meet."

The Eagles did the same thing last weekend at the Griffin meet, having their top five finish in the top 25 (6, 12, 13, 22, 23). Like yesterday's meet, this one had a tough field as the Eagles had to defeat two powerful Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association teams, Archbishop Curley and Calvert Hall.

"We expect to get a lot faster," said French. "We're not near our peak."

Several local runners turned in strong performances for the boys. Steve Petro, stepping out of Greg Curtis' shadow at Oakland Mills, pulled away from Faisal Hasan of Wilde Lake in the final half-mile for first place.

Petro (15 minutes, 48 seconds) finished strongly to defeat Hasan by 28 seconds. Eric Benjamin of C.M. Wright was third (16:21), just ahead of French (16:28) and Myers (16:52).

For the girls, the story was C.M. Wright. The Mustangs (74), with three in the top six and four in the top 18, had little trouble defeating Centennial (97).

Mary Beth Rollins, in her first season of cross country, finished third in 19:34, nine seconds ahead of teammate Kelly Coogan. Jen Englehart (20:08) took sixth, with Lee Ann Davis (18th) and Lindsey Inners (44th) also scoring.

"I think we looked good today," said Rollins. "The whole race we were together, and we were supporting each other."

The Mustangs, who finished second in the state last year, are looking to do better and hoped the 20-team field would provide a good test.

Coach Barbara Johnson said her team needed a test because of how easily it won its first two meets. The Mustangs had four of the first five runners in their opening meet and the first 10 in the second.

"It lets us know our competition and where we stand," said Johnson. "We're pretty optimistic, and we know we have to keep working."

Jennifer Ford of Thomas Johnson won the race in 18:55, overtaking early leader Dana Strickland of Atholton (second, 19:26). Following Rollins and Coogan was Glenelg's Beth Santilli in fifth place (19:57).

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