Here are The Baltimore Sun’s All-Metro girls cross country teams for the 2021 season.
Runner of the Year
Juliette Whittaker, Mount de Sales, senior
Just three years before Whittaker was named The Baltimore Sun’s 2020-21 High School Girls Athlete of the Year, she was a swimmer. But it took giving up that aquatic sport to realize her potential as one of the country’s best high school runners, something she proved in June at the U.S. Olympic trials. While the then-17-year-old failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics despite running a 2:01.21 in the prelims and a 2:01.30 in the semifinals in the 800-meter race, that valuable experience catapulted her into a dominant cross country season this fall.
With newfound confidence she gained competing on the national stage in the summer, Whittaker won her season-opening race in 17:58.00 at the Outlands Invitational in Leesburg, Virginia, before finishing eighth in 17:44.10 at the Great American XC Festival in Cary, North Carolina.
To show how much she had separated from the pack locally, she ran a 18:21.01 to win the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland championship by 1:49. She later placed third at the Eastbay Northeast Regional in 17:44.70 and 28th at the Eastbay Championships in 18:19.80. On Oct. 9, she set a personal-best 14:41.80 in the 2.5-mile race and came in third at the Manhattan College Cross Country Invitational.
Whittaker, who was a first team All-Metro pick in 2019 and hopes to one day run professionally, will run track at Stanford and compete in the 800 and 1,500. Her personal bests in those races are 2:01.15 and 4:19.79, respectively.
“It’s definitely bittersweet,” Whittaker said of finishing her final cross country season. “I’ve changed so much. When I think back to me as a freshman, when I started cross country, I was such a shy little freshman. But I’ve changed so much, my personality and just how I run, I’m definitely much more mature. So it’s definitely sad, but I’m also so much more excited for track.”
Coach of the Year
Zachary Dickerson, Howard
The Lions put together a dominant season that culminated with a lopsided victory at the Class 3A state championship meet, their second straight title. Their pack mentality was on full display as their top-five runners — Elizabeth Holcombe, Nimrit Ahuja, Kiley Mann, Hannah Schwab and Jasmine Wilson — finished fourth, sixth, seventh, ninth and 11th, respectively, to accumulate 37 points. Howard’s 75-point margin of victory over Northern-Calvert was the largest among the eight state championship races.
At the Class 3A East region meet, the Lions were perfect — literally — as their five runners finished in the top five to give them the lowest possible score of 15 points. While the girls didn’t sweep the Howard County championship meet, they nearly did as Ajuja, Holcombe and Mann finished 1-2-3 and Schwab and Wilson came in fifth and sixth, respectively, for a team score of 17 points.
“We had a goal to do it at counties but we came up one spot short,” said Dickerson, who was also the All-Metro girls cross country Coach of the Year in 2019. “That’s the girls pushing each other, talking to each other during the race, motivating each other. It’s not just five or seven individual girls out there. They’re all working together during that race.”
Perhaps in a sign of what was to come at the state championship meet at Hereford, Howard totaled 29 points to outpace the host Bulls by 65 and win the Bull Run elite race with each of its top-five runners finishing inside the top 10.
While the 2019 team set the standard, Dickerson said this year’s team is the best he’s ever had “by far.” Their best average during a 5k race this season among its top-five runners was 18:56, which was lowered to 18:17 in a race after the season in Alabama.
“It’s just been an unbelievable experience to watch the girls grow over the last four years and really come together this year,” said Dickerson, whose teams have won four consecutive Howard County championships. “With COVID last year and the season kind of happening in the spring and we didn’t have a state championship or anything, having them really work together through all of that and persevere has been just a real bright spot in an otherwise gloomy year and a half that we’ve had. So I’m super proud of them.”
Nimrit Ahuja, Howard, senior
Ahuja, the 2021 Howard County outdoor track Athlete of the Year, finished second at the Bull Run elite race in 19:57.00 and later broke the course record at Centennial by finishing in 18:21.80 to win the Howard County championship. A week later, she set another Centennial course record, finishing in 18:13.30 to win the Class 3A East region title. She ran 19:18.84 to finish in sixth place at the 3A state championships.
Mollie Fenn, Broadneck, senior
The University of Richmond commit came in second in the 5,000, crossing in 18:30.00 at the Maryland XC Invitational, before winning titles at the Gunpowder Falls Invitational in 18:46.80 and Anne Arundel County championships, where she ran a personal best 18:00.30. Fenn came in second at the Class 4A East regional (18:47.80) and 4A state championships (18:56.09).
Elizabeth Holcombe, Howard, senior
Holcombe came in fifth in 20:06.00 at the Bull Run elite race in September before finishing in 18:26.30, just behind her teammate Nimrit Ahuja, at the Howard County championship. She came in third at the Class 3A East regional with a time of 18:30.40 before leading all her teammates with a fourth-place finish at the 3A state championships with a time of 19:09.40.
Katherine Leddy, Arundel, senior
Leddy started her season strong by finishing second in the Bull Run large varsity race (20:20.80) and got better from there, running a personal best 18:23.00 to take second at the Frank Keyser Invitational (18:23.00). She won the Seahawk Invitational (18:30.50), took second at the Anne Arundel County championships with a personal-best time of 18:17.10, then won the Class 4A East regional (18:37.80). Leddy took fourth at the 4A state championships (19:03.49).
Kiley Mann, Howard, sophomore
The youngest of the Lions’ stellar top five, Mann took sixth at the Bull Run elite race with a time of 20:08.00 and followed with a third-place finish at the Howard County championships with a time of 18:47.30. The following week, she ran a personal-best 18:24.40 to take second at the Class 3A East regional before finishing seventh at the 3A state championships (19:25.80).
Elizabeth Pickett, Bel Air, senior
Pickett ran a stellar time of 19:31.70 to win the Bull Run medium varsity race in September and dominated the Class 3A North regional, finishing in 18:41.54 to win the race by more than a minute. At the 3A state championships, Pickett was the top local finisher and came in third with a time of 19:04.59. In October, she ran a personal-best 17:39.10 to win the Chesapeake Divisional championships.
Hannah Schwab, Howard, senior
A slow start — she finished 11th in the Bull Run elite race in 20:34.00 — gave way to a stellar and consistent season for Schwab. She placed fifth at the Howard County championships (19:00.50) then ran a personal-best 18:33.50 to finish in fourth at the Class 3A East regional. At the highly competitive 3A state championships, Schwab crossed ninth in 19:50.30.
Hallie Shepard, Catonsville, junior
Shepard was consistent from the start of the season, taking second at the Barnhart Memorial (19:40.20) and Spiked Shoe Invitational 20:11.64) and sixth in the Bull Run large varsity race (20:37.50) in September before finishing third at the Gunpowder Falls Invitational (19:13.50). She won the Baltimore County championships, crossing in a personal best 18:30.10, placed third at the Class 4A North regional (18:50.03) and sixth at the 4A state championships (19:27.08).
Estelle Snider, Hereford, junior
After winning the Eagle Invitational in 19:14.30 and taking third at the Bull Run elite race (19:57.00) and Frank Keyser Invitational (18:35.10), Snider took second at the Baltimore County championships, running the 5,000 in 18:51.60 before coming in 12th in the Class 2A North region meet. She bounced back from that disappointing finish with a strong performance at the 2A state championships, crossing second in 19:46.04.
Anna Albergo, Dulaney, senior
Isabel Aldana, Towson, junior
Rubie Goffena, Manchester Valley, senior
Mary Gorsky, McDonogh, sophomore
Emma Kerr, Broadneck, junior
Chloe McGeehan, River Hill, senior
Sylvia Snider, Hereford, freshman
Kalia Spence, Glenelg, senior
Jasmine Wilson, Howard, senior