Joey Thompson walked slowly through the chute after winning the boys' race at yesterday's Howard County cross country championships. The Howard junior slogged through the rain and mud that dotted the field by the track, smiled and quietly raised his fist in celebration.
Thompson wanted this race badly. He finished in 16 minutes, 37.84 seconds for a surprisingly easy victory over Atholton's Graham Bazell (16:54.66), the runner who had ruled the county this season. Bazell had beaten Thompson three times this season, but things were different here.
The Howard runner decided on a more aggressive strategy this time, opting to stay as close to Bazell as possible. Thompson jumped into the lead just past halfway and never looked back.
"I decided I was going to stick behind him ... and when I was going up the hills, I got closer," Thompson said. "I felt good, and I attacked."
The two runners will see each other again in next week's regional meet and the state competition Nov. 10.
The other mild surprise for the boys was No. 4 Wilde Lake winning the team championship. Jonathan Sham (fourth) and Derek Lange (sixth) sparked the Wildecats, who finished with 57 points to top No. 2 River Hill (65) and No. 3 Mount Hebron (95).
This was the Wildecats' third straight county title. John Henderson (12th), Evan Anderson (15th) and Walter Frauman (20th) finished the top five and gave Wilde Lake balance. The Wildecats started slowly this year - losing to River Hill by 66 points in an early season meet.
"I'm just really proud of them," Wilde Lake coach Whitty Bass said. "We knew we were coming back after [starting slowly]. We just didn't know if it was too little, too late."
Craig Morgan (fifth) and Sean Kirby (ninth) were River Hill's top-10 finishers, but it wasn't enough.
On the girls' side, Katie Harman from River Hill (19:57.16) beat out Howard's Elyse Borisko (19:59.64) for the individual title. The two ran closely throughout the race before Harman came through at the end.
But No. 6 Howard came away with a second straight team title. The Lions finished with 48 points, edging No. 5 River Hill (58) and No. 8 Centennial (79).
Caitlyn Fuller (fourth) and Meredith Mill (seventh) were the other Howard top-10 finishers. Payton Lawrence (eighth) was the only other River Hill runner to make the top 10 on the cold and rainy afternoon.