Bel Air’s hopes for its first MPSSAA State Cross-Country Championship in 55 years were swept away in a strong westerly wind by a strong Northern High School team Saturday.
The Bobcats came close to the long-sought victory but had to settle for second-place awards in the season-ending meet on Hereford's 3-mile course.
A youthful team with just one senior in its top seven, the Bel Air girls finished 12 points behind the defending state champs from Northern of Calvert County, 56-68.
Bel Air’s fifth runner, Shelby Hay, crossed the finish line ahead of Northern’s fourth and fifth runners, but the finish-line arithmetic favored the Patriots from Owings in Southern Maryland. They squeezed three runners into the top six places to clinch their third straight 3A girls’ title.
Bel Air knew well that Northern would be the team to beat. What elevated the Bobcat’s pre-meet hopes was a 9-point win, 56-65, over Northern in the Bull Run Invitational at Hereford September 22. For both teams, the times were mostly faster in the state meet, but on Saturday, Northern subtly flipped the outcome.
Mackenzie Morrison, who has led Bel Air in six of her nine meets in this, her freshman season, placed eighth among the 137 runners in 20:12. Faith Loftus, the only senior in the team’s top seven, finished 10th in 20:22. Rebekah Cross was 17th in 20:45; Elizabeth Picket, 18th in 20:45; and Shelby Hay, 20th in 20:57. Bel Air’s sixth and seventh Saturday were Maya Feick, 21:51, and Riley McDermott, 22:12, both finishing in the top 50.
There were also hopes that C. Milton Wright’s Haley Cummins and Patterson Mill’s Ashley Betz would repeat as individual champions.
Cummins, who last year became only the third Harford girl to win back-to-back state cross-country titles, finished fourth in 3A in 19:27 behind winner Oakley Olson of Huntingtown (18:59) and Northern’s top two, Claudia Dolan (19:12) and Hanna Mack (19:19).
“I thought she ran a very good race; it just wasn't her race to win,” said Cummins’ coach, Donnie Mickey. “She fought all the way to the line. I am very proud of the way she competed and handled herself in defeat.”
In 1A, Betz, a senior, ran in or close to the lead much of the way before finishing fourth in 21:16, leading the Huskies to 12th place among 15 teams. Besides winning last year, Betz was the runner-up in the state meet her freshman year.
CMW’s Lindsay Perry finished seventh in 3A in 19:49, three places behind Cummins, to help the Mustangs place seventh as a team. Other CMW scorers were Abbey Battaglia, 29th in 21:28; Hannah Beegle, 78th, 23:03; and Maura O’Neill, 81st in 23:08.
Edgewood’s girls’ team placed ninth in 3A. Michaela Crue finished 21st in 20:57; Anna Decker, 30th in 21:31; Shelby Johnson, 55th in 22:17; Madison Buddenbohn, 56th in 22:19; and Mary Crue, 72nd in 22:47.
Zylka second in 3A boys race
Bel Air junior Caleb Zylka finished second in the 3A boys’ race in 16:38, 22 seconds behind the winner. Zylka, who finished either first or second in nine of his 10 races this season, led the Bobcats to seventh place among 21 teams. Andrew Plowman placed 17th in the field of 154 in 17:30; Andrew Giordano, 51st in 18:19; Josh Phillips, 65th in 18:42; and Shane Ivy, 75th in 18:50.
CMW took sixth place, 7 points ahead of Bel Air, with Peter Capozzoli, 30th in 17:53; Greg Roden, 32nd in 17:59; Bryan Key, 35th in 18:03; Tanner Cummins, 50th in 18:17; and Ben Sprague, 54th in 18:22.
Daniel Foster was the top finisher for Aberdeen, which placed 19th as a team. He ran 18:50 and placed 76th.
Harford Tech boys fifth in 2A
Harford Tech placed four runners in the top 20 to finish fifth in the 2A boys’ race. Kevin Baranoski was eighth in 16:38; Daron Taylor, 10th in 16:42; Shannon Dooley, 15th in 16:57; and Zachary Taylor, 17th in 17:05.
But as was the case in the regional meet nine days earlier, the team had a long wait, almost 2 minutes, to learn where it placed in the field of 20 teams.
Jacob Clendaniel, the Cobras no. 5, was back in action after being sidelined with by a tick-borne infection. He finished 101st, but had he been in top form, Tech might have won.
Fallston finished 11th in the 2A boys race with two runners in the top 50 -- Jameson O’Donald, 30th in 17:22 and Giles Daly, 36th in 17:26.
North Harford’s regional champ, Will Tikiob ran 17:09 to finish 20th in the field of 152 and lead his team to 13th place.
North Harford finished 12th in the 2A girls’ race. Laurel Brown, 31st in 21:54, and Alyssa Santoro, 57th in 22:36, led the Hawks.
Morgan Dean was the top finisher for the Harford Tech girls, who placed 15th in 2A. Timed in 22:45, she placed 63rd among 146.
Morgan Kornke, Fallston’s only entrant in the 2A girls’ race, ran 22:13 and placed 46th.
Two Patterson Mill runners finished in the top 50 in the 1A boys’ race. Berkeley Tisch was 27th in 18:47, and Kyle Hillhouse, 45th in 19:21. The Huskies placed 11th place among 19 teams.
Alexander Kirkland won by an eighth of a mile in leading the John Carroll boys’ cross-country team to its second straight MIAA B-Conference Championship in Westminster Nov. 7.
Kirkland toured a 5K course at McDaniel College in 16:40 to finish 35 seconds ahead of the runner-up. Three other John Carroll runners finished in the top 10.
Michael Chipi was fourth in 17:32, Bryan Stancliff, seventh in 17:44, and Jake Plummer, ninth in 18:01. Cam Mezzatesta finished 25th in 19:15 to complete the scoring and give the Patriots a 4-point winning margin over the second-place team, Severn School.
Finishing sixth and seventh for John Carroll were Chris Walker, 28th in 19:20 and Connor Ferrara, 29th, also in 19:20
Reach Randy McRoberts on twitter. @aegissports