Leading the county
Westlake’s Hall takes second in boys, North Point’s Nueslein 5th in girls at SMAC cross country meet
Heading into Wednes- day afternoon’s Southern Maryland Athletic Conference cross country championships at Chaptico Park, Calvert’s Justin Diehl formulated a plan.
The sophomore made good on it, getting out in front of the pack early and ultimately finishing the course in a blistering 16 minutes 10.99 seconds.
“It was a good run,” he said shortly after winning the boys race, “I really wanted to try to take over at about a mile, which I did. My plan was suc- cessful, but I’m not sure if our team got first or sec- ond. The goal was to beat Leonardtown.”
Diehl’s team fell a tad short of that second goal, as Leonardtown placed its top five runners in a tight group between eighth and 14th place to win the conference’s team cham- pionship. Leonardtown finished with 51 points, nipping the 57 accumulated by Calvert’s boys. Northern was third with 90.
On the girls side, Northern placed its top five runners within the top 11 to win the conference championship in comfort- able fashion. Runner-up to the Patriots’ 32 points were the girls from Leoanrdtown, who scored 64. Great Mills was third with 83.
Winning the girls race was Patuxent’s Hayley Jackson. The two-time Class 2A state champion continued her stellar ca- reer with a winning run of 18:31.86. Northern’s Molly Barrick finished second (19:09.34), while Great Mills’ Annie Imhof was third (19:28.11).
“The race was actually pretty challenging,” Jack- son said. “It was fun, but it was still challenging because you had all those girls. I knew Molly was behind me. You can hear stuff in the background, hear people cheering and stuff. It was exciting, but I was also nervous at the same time. Just having people behind me real- ly did push me, and the weather was nice.”
Heading towards her fi- nal two high school cross country meets, the Patux- ent senior was anxious to see how things unfold.
“Regionals I’m really excited to see what happens,” Jackson said. “I really want to go [to states] as a team. Patuxent doesn’t have the biggest team, so it’s really important that the whole team gets together and race our hearts out so we can all make it to states. That’s really, really important for me and I know the girls want to go to states. That was our goal this year, to make it to states together. Going to states together is just so much more fun than going alone. It would be amazing for us. ... Looking for that third [state] title. The 2A got really competitive with some of the girls, but it’s going to be exciting. I can’t wait for it.”
While Jackson topped the list of girls finishers, Barrick led a strong Northern showing to earn the Patriots the team championship plaque. Following Barrick for Northern, Abby Sweeney finished fourth, Claudia Dolan was seventh, Sar- ah Deresky was eighth and Kaitlyn Delamer was 11th.
“The SMAC title is al- ways nice to have. The girls definitely earned everything they’ve won this season. They’re a hard-working group of girls that make it easy to coach,” said Northern head coach Josh Daw- son, who has his eyes set on the regional and state championships coming up in the next two weeks. “We train for tough courses, but our state course [at Hereford High School] is what mat- ters and that’s one of the toughest there is. Lucky for us, our conference and regional courses are equally as tough. I think it’s our strong suit, so now we start relaxing the long runs and up the speed stuff and see how much faster and how much fresher we can be for states.”
Rounding out the girls top 10, North Point’s Ra- chel Nueslein finished fifth, Leonardtown’s Li- ana Foianini was sixth, Calvert’s Sydney Friedel was ninth and Emily Im- hof of Great Mills was 10th.
Leonardtown’s consis- tency in the boys race was too much for any of its competitors to overcome. Following McDowell’s eighth-place effort, Paul Fagnano was ninth, Reed Pilkerton was 10th, Sam- uel Katulich was 11th, Ben Ciancio was 13th and Sean O’Roark came in 14th. All six finished within 33 seconds of each other.
“They performed as well as we wanted them to perform today,” Leonard- town head coach Brooke Fallon said. “They ran a really good race. Our boys were really hoping for first. They had some goals they set and they reached them, and our girls, as well. They achieved a goal they set out to do. We’re very ex- cited about the first for the boys and the second for the girls.
“Regions is going to be really tough. We’re already thinking ahead to that. We really want to have a good showing there, as well, and show everybody that Leonardtown really is competitive in a bigger region.”
Behind Diehl at the front of the boys pack was Westlake’s Jay Hall, who finished second (16:25.74). Northern’s Charlie Sweeney and Greg Oldham took third and fourth, respectively, while Chopticon’s Tyler Modrzejewski nipped Calvert’s John Dodsworth at the finish line for fifth. Patuxent’s Brendon Jones was seventh.
“I knew it was going to be a fast pace, at first,” Hall said of the race. “I hit right around 4:45 for the first mile , which is pretty fast for a cross country meet. I just wanted to stick right with the leaders and try to contend for the top spot.
“I feel like I’m good [for the regional and state meets]. There are things I can improve on, but overall I feel good about where I am right now. I know I can be at least around this time.”
Diehl was feeling optimistic about what is still ahead, too, hoping to finish the season fast.
“I’m feeling really good, actually,” he said. “The past couple of meets I wouldn’t say we’ve been going all out. We’ve been doing a lot of good tempo interval workouts. We’ve been getting ready for these three meets, SMAC, regionals and states.”
Annie Imhof of Great Mills, Northern’s Molly Barrick and North Point’s Rachel Nueslein run close together during the girls race at the SMAC cross country meet at Chaptico Park on Wednesday afternoon. Barrick finished second, Imhof third and Nueslein fifth in the race.