One Severn runner made the top three in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B Conference cross country championship — freshman Ella Foote. She finished third overall with a time of 24:00.85, or about 30 seconds behind the silver medalist, Katie Leavy of Glenelg Country.
But right behind Foote came a legion of Severn runners. That made the difference in capturing the Admirals’ first title since 2014 on Tuesday. The Admirals came out with the winning point total of 29.
Junior Anna Erskine, whom coach Richard Zmuda said had the “race of her life,” finished fourth (24:24.21). Junior Grace Curtis placed seventh (25:49.37), junior Grace Cowell finished eighth (25:58.54) and junior Kate Hilburn came in ninth (26:00.81).
That depth derived from endurance. The Admirals annually compete as a team in the Baltimore half-marathon, which took place Oct. 9.
“Some coaches say it’s the worst thing in the world for cross-country,” Zmuda said, “but it’s just endurance.”
The abundance of Admirals in the top 10 surprised Zmuda. When the results came through, “it was unbelievable.” The coach stood at the one-mile marker Tuesday and witnessed an even race between the Severn and St. Paul’s girls.
“Then the second, third mile we just picked up steam and kept going,” the Admirals coach said.
The championship grounds were the “hilliest” course the Admirals ran all season. Of course, Severn trains on the Naval Academy bridge for hill work.
“Our whole strategy is: we don’t have the fastest runners, but as long as we can as a pack stay close,” Zmuda said. “And that’s what happened. It worked out beautifully for us.”
Severn did not have the chance to compete in 2020, as the school chose to opt out when the IAAM and Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association handed its member schools the choice to play or not in the fall. The Admirals did not stop working.
Severn ran in the virtual Baltimore half-marathon. For two weeks, the Admirals ran 26 miles. More than a chance to keep their skills up, it gave the younger members of the team a chance to bond together. They salvaged something meaningful, per Zmuda.
“That made all the difference in the world,” the coach said. “We had a unified season.”
Without a senior on the roster, everyone returns to Severn’s lineup next year. Zmuda hopes bringing the hardware back to Severn will entice more student-athletes to grow the team next fall.
“I bet you the team will double in size, if not triple,” Zmuda said.
Meanwhile, Archbishop Spalding came in fifth overall in the A Conference championship while St. Mary’s finished eighth. Spalding sophomore Grace Doerschner took third in the race (20:32.39) behind victor Juliette Whittaker of Mount de Sales and Mary Gorsky of McDonogh, the team victor on the day. St. Mary’s junior Chloe McCarthy placed fifth (21:07.01).