In record-setting time, Michael Styczynski paced himself perfectly to capture the boys' 3A state meet in 16 minutes, 22.47 seconds and spearhead River Hill's convincing (54 point) triumph over South Carroll (76 points) for the team title.
Teammates Shane Stroup (16: 34), Steve Chu (16: 58) and Michael Fleg (17: 24) supplied ample support behind Styczynski with top-ten times.
"We came in here knowing we had to win," Styczynski said. "Our team prayed on the line before the race and then got off to a controlled start to save something for those killer hills at the end.
"Experience helped me, because I saw the chance to break the front guys in the woods at 2 miles and surged by them."
River Hill's Lee McDuff faced a stiffer challenge from North Carroll's defending champion Colleen Lawson in the girls' 3A meet. The Walter Johnson girls snagged the team title, as expected, with 63 points over North Carroll (89 points), but the showdown for individual honors provided the day's drama.
"We hadn't raced against each other, but I knew that we had the same style -- go out fast and stay out there," Lawson said. "I guess I had a little more left at the end because when I surged, I didn't feel tired, just faster."
McDuff, last year's 2A state champion, hovered right on Lawson's heals until the last 400 yards. McDuff grabbed a momentary lead going into the final corner but buckled with 200 yards to go.
"I couldn't feel my legs and kicked at the end," McDuff said. "I was thinking that this was my last year and I had to go around [Lawson] in the final part. But then, I lost all feeling in my legs."
Lawson seized the opportunity and surged to the finish in 19: 37.33. Her depleted rival thrust herself over the finish line in 19: 51.85 before collapsing onto the ground.
"It's disappointing, but it was still a good, close race," McDuff said.
Westminster had no cause for concern after clinching the 4A team title with four top-ten finishers. Senior Jesse O'Connell led the campaign by placing second in 16: 33.17. Teammate Josh Davis surged with 30 yards left to edge Winston Churchill's Stephen Hayes for third place in 16: 34.94.
Mt. Hebron's girls, behind Kate Frande's third-place finish in 19: 35, finished fourth in the 2A girls, won by Middletown (24 ppoints) in a romp.
The 1A boys race came down to duel between Oakland Mills and Glenelg, the former winning, 72-73, because of its depth. Jon Goldsmith of Glenelg was second in the race in 17: 11.
Glenelg's girls also finished second (to Southern Garrett), Carrie Selmer leading the way as runner-up in 21: 09.