Retiring coach Al Dodds leads Centennial to state cross country championship

For The Baltimore Sun

Centennial coach Al Dodds kneeled in the front row for the team picture after his boys won the Class 3A state title Saturday. The soft-spoken coach held the trophy with both hands and wore a smile big enough to light up the gym they were in at Hereford.

Any state championship is something to remember for a coach, but for Dodds, this was extra special, as he told his team weeks ago that this would be his last season after 31 years. The Eagles truly wanted to win one for their coach, and they did just that at the state meet on a cold and windy day.

Local teams and athletes fared well, but the story of No. 8 Centennial might have been the sweetest. Dodds had won two state titles before (one boys, one girls) and hadn’t earned one since 1993.

“It’s tremendous because state championships are hard to come by,” said Dodds, who retired as a teacher four years ago but still coached track until last spring. “We were second last year, and this was a good bunch of kids.”

Centennial finished with 87 points, far ahead of runner-up Linganore (126), and the Eagles did not even place a runner in the top 10. The five scoring runners for Centennial finished 12th, 14th, 18, 23 and 25th but all within 23.85 seconds of each other as they improved upon last year’s second-place finish.

“We did it for [Dodds], and we did it for us because we finished second last year,” said Justin Ziegler, a senior who was the team’s top finisher. “Also, knowing that our coach was sticking around just for us was important for us. It was a driving force.”

The top-ranked Severna Park boys repeated as Class 4A state champions with a dominant performance. They placed three runners in the top 10 and finished with 48 points, beating out Northwood (105).

Garrison Clark (fourth), Samuel Martin (fifth) and Jake Gelfand (eighth) led the way for the Falcons, who now have won five times in the last seven years.

The top-ranked Severna Park girls won their first state title since 2009 with a tough win over No. 3 Howard (102-125). Coach Josh Alcombright guides both teams and said this is the first time the Falcons have swept the boys and girls championships.

“It definitely takes a collective effort to have a program like we do,” Alcombright said. “We knew [sweeping] was a possibility. We just knew that if they all did their jobs…we thought we’d come out on top."

For the girls, Allysa Combs as the lone Severna Park runner in the top 10, finishing fourth overall but the Falcons found enough to win. Kamryn Eveleth of Severna Park finished in 16th as the Falcons placed four runners in the top 25.

Bronwyn Patterson of South River won the race in 19:06.19 thanks to a strong late move. She took off with about 1,000 yards to go while sitting in sixth place.

“I was really hoping I could hold on,” she said. “[At the end], it was kind of an ‘Oh-my-God moment.”

Another repeater was the No. 2 Hereford girls. The Bulls won the Class 2A state crown for a fourth straight time, this time beating Oakdale (68-131).

The Bulls now have taken five of the last six state titles, and Emily Konkus led them, winning the race in 19:38.03. The senior has run on all four of those championship teams but loved capping her career with individual and team titles – and winning the race herself for a second straight year.

“I took the lead around the first mile; I just took off and ran with it,” she said. “I’m very happy for the team. These girls worked so hard, and they’re all great.”

Caroline Benda (fifth) and Libby May (ninth) were the Bulls’ other top-10 finishers.

The No. 10 Liberty boys also brought home a fourth straight Class 2A state title, edging out No. 7 River Hill by seven points (110-117). Daniel Saxon was the top Lion runner, taking fourth place overall, as they placed three in the top 20, and co-coach Dan Jones said Liberty rebounded nicely from a tiebreaker loss to Oakdale in the Class 2A West Region race last week.

“The guys realized [they’ve] got to do this right,” said Jones, who coaches the Lions with Pete Lester. “Every guy did his job. Each guy did what we needed them to do.”

Anish Nanjappa from River Hill won that race (15:58.08). Two-time defending state champion Haley Cummins from C.M. Wright saw her streak broken when she finished fourth in the Class 3A race.

State Championships (at Hereford)

BOYS

Class 1A

Team scores (top 5): 1. Boonsboro, 49; 2. Bohemia Manor, 69; 3. Smithsburg, 138; 4. Allegany, 146; 5. Southern-Garrett, 157.

Individual results (top 10): 1. Laird (BOM), 16:36.36; 2. Schmidt (BOO), 16:39.85. 3. Longeway (BOM), 17:08.12; 4. Kercheval (SMI), 17:30.72; 5. Kalons (SMI), 17:32.14; 6. Horner (SOG), 17:36.97; 7. Cendo (ALL), 17:43.84; 8. Fitzwater (BOM), 17:46.85; 9. Doub (BOO), 17:50.81; 10. Helbig (SOG), 17:51.89.

Class 2A

Team scores (top 5): 1. Liberty, 110; 2. River Hill, 117; 3. Calvert, 122; 4. Oakdale, 131; 5. Harford Tech, 145.

Individual results (top 10): 1. Nanjappa (RH), 15:58.08; 2. Fenton (CEN), 16:08.48; 3. Diehl (CAL), 16:08.83; 4. Saxon (LIB), 16:20.05; 5. Lund (OKD), 16:29.22; 6. Dempsey (OKD), 16:36.22; 7. Dilworth (GLE), 16:37.35; 8. Baranoski (HT), 16:38.77; 9. Cave (SC), 16:39.08; 10. Taylor (HT), 16:42.40.

Class 3A

Team scores (top 5): 1. Centennial, 87; 2. Linganore, 126; 3. Towson 139; 4. Atholton, 171; 5. Chopticon, 173.

Individual results (top 10): 1. Belmaggio (LIN), 16:16.21; 2. Zylka (BA), 16:38.17; 3. Z. Wedding (CHO), 16:47.82; 4. Ferguson (WES), 16:49.64; 5. J. Wedding (CHO), 16:55.20; 6. Buck (LIN), 16:59.35; 7. Daniel (ATH), 17:05.24; 8. McKinsey (NHG), 17:12.44; 9. Cioffi (LIN), 17:12.95; 10. Kim (RES), 17:16.05.

Class 4A

Team scores (top 5): 1. Severna Park, 48; 2. Northwood, 105; 3. Dulaney, 157; 4. Howard, 197; 5. Whitman, 233.

Individual results: 1. Feda (NOR), 15:44.05; 2. Mulugeta (NOR), 15:44.29; 3. Keeny (SR), 16:02.39. 4. Clark (SPK), 16:02.63; 5. Martin (SPK), 16:20.41; 6. Dailey (DUL), 16:24.42; 7. Smyth (BCC), 16:24.44; 8. Gelfand (SPK), 16:27.57; 9. Mengist (SPR), 16:33.54; 10. Tate (BRD), 16:35.45.

GIRLS

Class 1A

Team scores (top 5): 1. Boonsboro, 44; 2. Brunswick, 59; 3. Northern-Garrett, 97; 4. Cambridge-S. Dorchester, 143; 5. Bohemia Manor, 164.

Individual results (top 10): 1. Condon (CSD), 20:52.82; 2. Agostini (BOO), 21:03.85; 3. Upole (NG), 21:09.96; 4. Betz (PM), 21:16.51); 5. Roberts (CAR), 21:21.04; 6. Palumbo (FH), 21:29.52; 7. Willman (BRU), 21:30.82; 8. Bare (BOO), 21:32.16; 9. Gerbes (SPT), 21:32.23; 10. Rhodes (BRU), 21:39.52.

Class 2A

Team scores (top 5): 1. Hereford, 68; 2. Oakdale, 131; 3. Poolesville, 132; 4. Middletown, 146; 5. River Hill, 158.

Individual results (top 10): 1. Konkus (HER), 19:38.03; 2. Satsangi (POO), 19:50.83; 3. Hopkins (WM), 19:57.27; 4. Friedel (CAL), 20:09.75; 5. Benda (HER), 20:15.95; 6. Connelly (KI), 20:19.10; 7. Firlie (SC), 20:35.58; 8. Ross (OKD), 20:42.06; 9. May (HER), 20:52.41; 10. Meininger (RH), 20:54.67.

Class 3A

Team scores (top 5): 1. Northern-Calvert, 56; 2. Bel Air, 68; 3. Centennial, 144; 4. Huntingtown, 152; 5. Towson, 169.

Individual results (top 10) 1. Olson (HUN), 18:59.60; 2. Dolan (NOR), 19.12.14; 3. Mack (NOR), 19:19.24; 4. Cummins (CMW), 19:27.47; 5. Goffena (MV), 19.29.45; 6. Yankanich (NOR), 19:36.79; 7. Perry (CMW), 19:49.33; 8. Morrison (BA), 20:12.05; 9. Brotherton (GM), 20:22.46; 10. Loftus (BA), 20:22.70.

Class 4A

Team scores (top 5): 1. Severna Park, 102; 2. Howard, 125; 3. Broadneck, 128; 4. Whitman, 138; 5. Dulaney, 159.

Individual results (top 10): 1. Patterson (SR), 19:06.19; 2. Turesson (RM), 19:18.84; 3. Coffin (ANN), 19:19.71; 4. Combs (SPK), 19:22.34; 5. Eliker (HOW), 19:33.93; 6. Ray (LEO), 19:37.09; 7. Janke (BRD), 19:47.14; 8. Trzeciak (WOO), 19:48:40; 9. Fenn (BRD), 19:51.80; 10. Kindbom (HOW), 19:56.98.

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