One downside of the Maryland high school sports format is that it’s rare to have all of the best schools — public and private — competing together at the same event.
Saturday at Hereford’s annual Bull Run Cross County Invitational was one of those rare times. The best on both the boys and girls sides were clear: Mount Saint Joseph’s Charlie Butler and Westminster’s Hannah Toth.
“I get excited that this is probably the biggest meet I’ll have in Maryland this year,” said Butler, the winner of the boys elite race. “I really want to showcase what I can do to the other teams and really put it all out there.”
“The bigger meets I definitely tend to get more nervous, but I think it makes me more excited to come out here and run with a lot of other girls I’ve run with before,” Toth said after winning the girls elite race. “It gives me a nice push, the push I need to get a better time or better place.”
Ninety-six schools competed in a full day of races sorted by level and school size. The best of the best ran against each other in the late-morning elite races.
“It’s basically a state championships where everyone can come together,” Calvert Hall’s Cameron Davis said. “Because it’s always the best teams here. It’s always great competition.”
Bull Run is contested at Hereford High School’s course that hosts the MPSSAA state championships. It’s known as one of the most difficult courses in Maryland due in part to its various hills. But there are some who welcome the challenge.
“This race, Bull Run, is famous for the hills,” Butler said. “That’s one of the things, instead of fearing them, I look forward to them, embrace the pain. Embrace that it’s going to be tough and conquer them.”
On Saturday, nobody was able to conquer the hills quite like Butler. He finished the boys elite race in 15 minutes, 46.7 seconds, almost 18 seconds faster than second-place Davis. It was a reversal from a week ago, when Davis bested Butler by less than four seconds at Dulaney’s Barnhart Invitational.
“I knew Cam and me were basically going to be one and two,” Butler said. “Base the pace off each other and keep going.”
“[My time is] about a minute faster than last year,” Davis said. “Charlie, he’s always going to give me a race for my money. He definitely did today. I don’t have any complaints, I definitely gave it everything today.”
Davis withstood a furious finish from Dulaney’s Tyler Dailey to take second in 16:04.4, four-tenths of a second faster than Dailey. However, Davis got the additional glory of leading his Cardinals to the team title. Calvert Hall won with 46 points, followed by Towson (100), Severna Park (143), Winston Churchill (159) and Poolesville (186).
Backing Davis was Rei Nettey (eighth, 16:47), Stephen Gonzalez (11th, 16:59), Cort Schroder (12th, 17:02) and Ryan Connelly (13th, 17:05).
“Our goal is to keep on winning. If the team won, I’m happy with how today went,” Davis said.
In the girls race, Toth gradually moved up in the pack. She was third midway through the race heading down to the back end of the course. By the time she reemerged in view of the crowd gathered around and above the finish line, Toth was virtually alone. She finished in 18:56, winning by 13 seconds over Hereford’s Sylvia Snider.
“Down in the soccer field, my coach told me where we’re going to get them is that kind of slow incline coming out of the field,” Toth said. “I feel like that’s where I wanted to take it and where I did take it.”
Toth said she stuck to a clear strategy in regards to where to position herself and when to make her move.
“I feel like it was more structured than what I would usually race,” Toth said. “For me it was, the first mile was a little more conservative. Which makes me a little more nervous because I usually want to keep a position and stay there. I did what my coaches told me and I kept the place I was supposed to be in, a little more toward the middle. I think I did that, then pretty much move up as much as I can through the race.”
With the state championships coming back to Hereford in less than two months, Toth said there’s something to be gained from Saturday’s showing amongst the best.
“I go up and down with confidence. I feel this was a good confidence booster,” she said. “I was pretty nervous coming into this race. I’m pretty confident on hills. Just downhill running isn’t my strong suit. But I think I did pretty good, I’ve been working on it. It definitely was a lot smoother than it’s been in the past.”
Hereford’s Sylvia Snider surged toward the finish to move up to second place, finishing in 19:09.
“The last 300 [meters] I was able to kick it,” she said. “I’m just really proud of my whole team and how we all managed to keep together and do the best we could.”
Thomas Wootton won the girls elite team title with 74 points, one better than Tuscarora. Hereford finished third with 140. Estelle Snider (10th, 20:07), Rebekka Hillier (11th, 20:10), Ridley Lentz (57th, 22:28) and Charlotte Levis (60th, 22:36) finished behind Snider.
“I think the whole team performed well,” Snider said. “We weren’t really aiming to win because it’s such a really hard race. So we were just expecting to get top 10 and do the best we can, that was the main goal for us.”