Mount Hebron freshman Liz McCarter and River Hill sophomore Sergiy Zubko led their respective cross country teams to decisive victories in the Howard County Striders Invitational yesterday at Centennial.
McCarter and her Vikings teammates are now 2-for-2, also having won the individual and girls team titles at the Westminster Invitational. Zubko and teammates also are a perfect 2-for-2 with individual and boys team titles at the Interstate Classic in Clear Spring.
McCarter defeated runner-up Chelsea Kapp of Glenelg by seven seconds with a time of 20 minutes, 55.37 seconds, not as fast as her 20:38 at Westminster but impressive considering the chilly, rainy weather conditions.
Zubko's margin of victory was much closer, only two seconds over runner-up Brian Harvey of Centennial in a time of 17:17.60, also slower than the 16:42.9 Zubko ran at Clear Spring. Zubko finished 39th in the Striders Invitational a year ago.
"Last year, the weather for this race was really hot, and I love the cold," said Zubko, who grew up in the Ukraine and has lived in Poland and Israel, where his father has worked as an astronomer.
McCarter fell on the slippery course in the first half-mile as she was running at the back of the lead pack of four. But just before the start of the third mile, she pulled away, extending her lead through the final mile.
"I hate running in the rain," she said. "It feels like you're ice skating."
Mount Hebron's Elise Lindenmeyer finished fourth in 21:30.07, and her Vikings teammate, Darya Fakory, was fifth in 21:31.84. Becca Collins was seventh in 21:46.24, giving the team four of the top seven finishers in the 15-team race.
"This is the best team I've ever had," said Vikings coach Mark Reedy, whose team won this race for the third straight year. "It's a perfect mix. Liz [McCarter] is smart and quick-witted. And so focused. In the Westminster Invitational, she was 30 seconds back with a mile to go and didn't freak out but just did what she had to do."
Zubko trailed Centennial's Harvey and Wilde Lake's Scott Gayer for most of the race before taking the lead with three-quarters of a mile to go.
"I've been working hard on my kick," Zubko said. "Gayer went out fast and faded last year, but he was looking strong this year until I caught him. When I came close he was breathing hard."
River Hill coach Earl Lauer said Zubko winked at him at the 2 1/4 -mile mark.
"That's when I knew he had it," Lauer said. "He's learning to race instead of just running."
Nick Keane finished fifth, Andrew Seelaus 10th, Daniel Royko 11th and Felix Stief 18th for the Hawks, who have won four of the past five county titles.
The Centennial boys finished second, trailing the Hawks, 45-78. The Eagles showed a big improvement after an 11th-place finish a year ago. Jesse Rohwer finished ninth for the Eagles, and Nevin Nilanont was 14th.
Among the girls, Glenelg was runner-up, trailing Mount Hebron, 36-73. Jessica Hibbert was 11th and Katie Pencek 12th.