Among the 114 schools competing in the Bull Run Invitational Cross Country Meet in Hereford yesterday, Middletown High was probably among the smallest.
Which only lends credence to the adage that good things often come in small packages.
Shunning both the small- and large-school races, Middletown opted for the elite, or seeded, girls race and won pretty much as it pleased, placing its five scorers among the first 18 finishers.
Winning the race was freshman Emily Buzzell in a battle of attrition with Tenke Zoltani of Dulaney, who had forged into the lead before crumpling to the ground at about 2 1/2 miles with what appeared to be shin splints. The pair had matched strides since separating themselves from the field with a 5: 45 first mile.
Buzzell's time was 19: 16. Maureen McCandless of Nazareth (Pa.) Academy was runner-up in 19: 29 and Kacie Remeto of C. Milton Wright was third, the only other runner under 20 minutes in 19: 57.
C. Milton Wright and Notre Dame Prep finished second and fourth behind Middletown, whose runners finished 1-4-11-12-18.
In the boys' seeded race, Westminster reaffirmed that it is the best of the area schools by scoring 66 points to 95 for River Hill and 130 for South Carroll.
Mike Myers of Eastern, N.J., won the three-mile race with the day's best time, 16: 38, just a couple of strides ahead of Bobby Mead (16: 41) of South Carroll.
Mike Stycznski of River Hill was fourth in 16: 56, while Jesse O'Connell led Westminster's 5-9-13-16-23 finish with a 16: 57 clocking.
In the large-school races, the Severna Park girls defeated Broadneck, and Bel Air and Perry Hall finished second and fourth, respectively, behind Montgomery County's Winston Churchill in the boys race.
Top individuals were Lee McDuff of River Hill, Kate Frande of Mount Hebron and Tricia O'Connell of Catonsville, running 1-2-4 among the girls, and Carlos Hunt of Westlake High, who won the boys race by 27 seconds in 16: 39.
Among the small schools, which featured the largest fields -- there were 289 finishers in the boys race -- Dan MacKenzie of Georgetown Prep held off Dusty Lieb of Archbishop Spalding to prevail by four seconds in 17: 08. Lauren Chaukin of Virginia's G.C. Marshall was first among the girls in 20: 33; Anastasia Mukhina of Towson finished fourth in 21: 08.
Ephrata High of Pennsylvania was the girls' team champion, beating out Potomac Falls (Va.), Gettysburg (Pa.), Mount de Sales and Spalding.
Problems at the finish line prevented team scores for small-school boys from being tabulated.
Asked why Middletown continues to grind out top girls teams in cross country, coach Sharon Boyer answered: "Because we have so many dedicated coaches who work in youth programs in several sports year after year.
"Our town's a really active community and our feeder programs seem to pay off. This team, for instance, has two freshmen [including Emily Buzzell] on it, with two more pushing to be in the top seven."
Buzzell said she wasn't confident she'd prevail, especially after fighting a cold all week. She was coughing at the starting line and, during the run with Zoltani, thought her opponent had the better of it as "I was breathing so hard and she seemed to be in such good shape."
The Dulaney sophomore thought so, too, until suddenly feeling pain shoot through both legs as she was about to complete the maze and was moving toward the huge hill that loomed about a half-mile from the finish.
As in the girls' race, Myers and Mead were with a lead pack of about six runners until moving away a bit after two miles.
They remained close to each other until cresting a hill and beginning a 150-yard sprint.