Here’s what you need to know for the 2021 high school boys cross country season in the Baltimore area:
Storylines to watch
How will the COVID-created layoff affect teams?
While some of the top teams in the area are still getting turnouts for their squads that rival pre-COVID participation, there is a lot of rust to shake off when it comes to competitive team racing. With limited data and questions about how runners have been able to train independently, it will be a difficult season to predict.
Who will win a competitive MIAA?
Despite no championship season last fall, six of the top schools from the Maryland Independent Athletic Association competed in a meet dubbed the Baltimore Private School Championships. Calvert Hall won with 35 points, but Mount Saint Joseph (41) and Loyola Blakefield (45) were both within 10 points of the Cardinals, setting up a three-way race for the crown this November.
How high can the Falcons fly?
There is no disputing the fact that Severna Park has established itself as the premier cross country program in the state. Since 2012, the Falcons have won six Class 4A state championships, including three straight crowns when they won by 37 points over Dulaney in 2017, 57 points over Northwood in 2018 and an astonishing 87 points over Northwood again in 2019.
The race for the 3A state championship is wide open.
Only seven of the top-50 finishers at the 3A state meet in 2019 remain, but it is a strong collection of talent across the region. Centennial’s Antonio Camacho-Bucks and Manchester Valley’s Aiden Neal are heavy favorites to win the Howard and Carroll County titles, respectively, while Towson’s Ryan Wahler should show well in Baltimore County, as should C. Milton Wright’s Ashton Tolson in the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference. It sets up an intriguing 15 minutes at Hereford High in November.
Speaking of Hereford ...
Circle Saturday, Sept. 18, on your calendar, as that will be the date of the Bull Run Invitational at Hereford High. The meet currently has 44 teams from across the state registered, including some of the top public and private school squads, and should provide the best glance for how the top runners in the area stack up.
Runners to watch
Kaleb Berhanu, Pikesville, senior
Berhanu won three of the four races he competed on the course in March and April, then took home a state championship on the track in June in the 1A 1,600-meter run and a second place in the 3,200.
Antonio Camacho-Bucks, Centennial, junior
Camacho-Bucks is a strong candidate to make a run at the 3A state championship after a shortened season in the fall in which he finished third at the Howard County cross country championships. He also won a county title in the 1,600 while finishing second at the 3A East region and 3A state championship meets in the 3,200 outdoors.
Tyler Canaday, Severna Park, senior
Canaday got a taste of ultra competitive cross country at the XC Town USA Meet of Champions in Terra Haute, Indiana, in November and built off that with second place-finishes in the 4A East Section II and 4A East region championships in the 3,200 before going on to finish fourth at the 4A state meet.
Tyler Dailey, Dulaney, junior
After winning the only two cross country meets he ran for the Lions, Dailey finished 12th at the XC Town USA Meet of Champions, the top finisher from the state. During the outdoor season, he won the 800 in the Emerging Elite category at the National Scholastic Athletics Foundation Meet of Champions in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Charlie Dance, Calvert Hall, senior
Dance is the defending MIAA cross country champion from the last time the race was held in 2019, and later that season finished 17th among all sophomores in the Foot Locker Northeast regional championship at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, New York. He also is the top returner from the November 2020 Baltimore Private School Championships meet.
James Glebocki, Severna Park, senior
Glebocki also got invaluable experience at the XC Town USA Meet of Champions in November and ran the third leg of the 4A state championship-winning 3,200 relay team in June.
Aiden Neal, Manchester Valley, senior
Neal won everything he possibly could in Carroll County last season, including the cross country championship as well as the 800, 1,600, 3,200 and 1,600 relay titles during the spring. Neal also won 3A state crowns in the 1,600 and as the opening leg of the 1,600 relay.
Ashton Tolson, C. Milton Wright, junior
Tolson won seven of the eight times he ran both the 800 and 1,600 during the outdoor track season, including at the 3A North section II and 3A North region championships. The junior showed he can do it on the course as well, finishing ninth at the vaunted Bull Run Invitational in September 2019 before going on to finish fourth at the 3A North region meet later that fall.
Colin Verrett, Loyola Blakefield, senior
Verrett was 21st among sophomores at the 2019 Foot Locker Northeast Regional Championships in the Bronx and finished in the top five at the Baltimore Private School Championships in November 2020.
Ryan Wahler, Towson, junior
The junior is coming off a strong spring on the track in which he won the 1,600 at four meets, including the 3A North Section I championships. He also ran the opening leg of the Section I and 3A North region championship-winning 3,200 relay team, which went on to finish fourth at the 3A state meet.
Preseason top 15 teams
1. Severna Park
Coach: Josh Alcombright
Outlook: The Falcons have won the last three state championship races they have competed in. Led by James Glebocki and Tyler Canaday, they should continue to showcase why they are the best team in the state.
2. Calvert Hall
Coach: Peter Frein
Outlook: The Cardinals were able to emerge victorious in their one major competitive event last year, narrowly beating Mount Saint Joseph and Loyola at the Baltimore Private School Championships. Charlie Dance and Adam Brocato are the top returners from that race as they look to defend their 2019 MIAA crown.
Coach: Robert Slopek
Outlook: The Eagles won convincingly at last season’s Howard County championship meet held in April, defeating Mount Hebron by 29 points. Antonio Camacho-Bucks is the top returning runner in the county and has a legitimate shot at winning the trifecta of counties, regions and states.
4. Loyola Blakefield
Coach: Jose Albornoz
Outlook: The Dons return six of their top seven runners from last year’s abbreviated season, including their top pairing of Colin Verrett and Carter Bruns, and will look to take back the MIAA title they lost to Calvert Hall in 2019 after defeating them by two points to win the 2018 championship.
Coach: Eric Walz
Outlook: The Lions are the defending Baltimore County champions from 2019 and finished fourth at the 4A state meet in the same season. Tyler Dailey ran very competitively on a national level as an independent last season, and combined with Graham Schultz, Cameron Geisler and Chase Nathanson, the Lions should have the depth to compete at the state level.
6. Mount Saint Joseph
Coach: Jack Peach
Outlook: The Gaels finished second at last year’s Baltimore Private School championship meet, just six points behind Calvert Hall. They will be lead by dynamic sophomore Charle Butler, who ran well on the track last season in the 1,600 and 3,200.
7. Mt. Hebron
Coach: Jordan Sterner
Outlook: The Vikings finished second at the Howard County championships in April and expect to compete in the crowded 3A field at the region and state meets. They will be lead by a core of runners including Jake Hauf, Braedon Moyer and Xander Barton.
Coach: Gilbert Strange
Outlook: The Generals were just behind Dulaney at the last Baltimore County championship meet and finished third in the state at the 2019 3A state championships. They will be led by Ryan Wahler, Michael McShane and Kieran Mischke.
9. Manchester Valley
Coach: Jim MacDonald
Outlook: The Mavericks have two of the top three returning runners from April’s Carroll County championship race in Aiden Neal and Carter Knox. Neal won several state championships during the outdoor track season and will be a favorite to make a run at an individual 3A state championship.
10. C. Milton Wright
Coach: Donnie Mickey
Outlook: The Mustangs won the most recent installment of the UCBAC championships in 2019 and are led by talented junior Ashton Tolson, who took home a region championship in the 1,600 during the spring.
Coach: Danny Jones
Outlook: The Lions cruised to a 44-point victory at the Carroll County championships in April and will return three runners from the top 12 of that race, including Davis Trump, who finished third.
12. River Hill
Coach: Paul Hugus
Outlook: The Hawks are still the 3A state title holders going back to 2019, when they defeated Howard County rival Centennial for the title, and will look for Bryce Handa to lead a deep squad.
Coach: Zack Dickerson
Outlook: The Lions will be dropping down a classification into the competitive 3A this season. They will be led by Joseph Raudabaugh, who finished fourth at the Howard County championships in April and won the 800 at the 4A East region championships before finishing second at the state meet.
Coach: Joseph Duncan
Outlook: Though the Greyhounds finished a distant fourth at the Baltimore Private School Championships, they return four of their top seven runners from last season, led by Pieter Heesters.
15. Bel Air
Coach: Julian Pickett
Outlook: The Bobcats look poised to be competitive in both the UCBAC and 3A North region and will be led by Shane Ivy, who had a strong season on the track in the distance races.
Others considered: Broadneck, Century, Harford Tech, John Carroll, Marriotts Ridge