Photo by John Roemer
The three conference and county championship meets this weekend also bring with them the additional storylines of potential state meet previews. Teams such as Hereford and Towson will meet for the first of three consecutive championship meets that will culminate at the state meet in November. This weekend's slate of action could give us better insight as to how some key individuals and championship-caliber teams stack up heading into the final weeks of the season.
CMC Championships (10/18 - Meet Page)
Photo by Craig Amoss
Oakdale v. Middletown girls
The Bears and the Knights better get used to each other as this will be the first of four straight meetings (CMC's, counties, regionals and - most likely - states). The Oakdale girls have not been at full strength since September, but if upperclassmen Hayley Ross and Emily Baba return for the final meets of the season they could much more closely resemble the team that nearly beat South Carroll at the first meet of the season. The Middletown girls, meanwhile, are one of the top 2A teams in the state; they rank third in team scores for three miles and fourth for 5K.
Montgomery County Championships (10/19 - Meet Page)
Photo by Dasam Gill
Charlotte Turesson v. Jenna Goldberg
Two of the state's top runners have been on a collision course leading up to late October. They have only met once this year, back in September at the Oatlands Invitational, where Goldberg finished two places and four seconds ahead of Turesson. In fact, Oatlands was the only meet at which each girls has lost to a fellow Maryland runner (Juliette Whittaker finished one spot ahead of Goldberg). Turesson ran four seconds faster than Goldberg in a different race at Great American earlier this month, and Goldberg has since followed that up with another win, this time at the Manhattan Invitational in New York. Turesson v. Goldberg will feature two more installments (counties and regionals) before they toe the line for the state title in November.
Photo by Harold Turk
Walter Johnson v. Walt Whitman girls
Goldberg and the Walter Johnson girls have been gradually improving throughout the season, catching (and, last weekend, surpassing) a Whitman squad that had been county favorites throughout the season. That doesn't mean Whitman won't have a shot on Saturday; far from it, actually. In fact, in the county 5K rankings the Whitman girls edge Walter Johnson by one point, 46 to 47. The two teams are constructed differently; Walter Johnson has two girls who have run under 19 minutes this year, but Whitman relies on a tight 51 second 1-5 spread. Saturday's race may give us the definitive outlook for how these teams will truly match up at regionals and states.
Photo by Dan Loughlin
Garrett Suhr v. Ayalew Fantaw v. Surafel Mengist
Suhr finished fourth at the state meet as a sophomore, and is coming off a track season in which he ran a 4:13 full mile. He is also coming off a personal-best 15:16 performance at Great American - and he still might not be the state meet favorite in a field that includes South River's Sam Keeny and Arundel's Tanner Piotrowski. Saturday's race will pit many potential 4A contenders against each other, including Suhr, Ayalew Fantaw and Surafel Mengist. Fantaw was the third-fastest Maryland runner (15:32) at Great American behind Suhr and Keeny and is coming off a win on his home course at the Consortia Championships, where Mengist (15:58 personal best) finished right on his tail, along with Fantaw's teammate, Henok Eshetu. It wouldn't be a surprise to see the two challenge Suhr on the right day at counties. It is worth noting that Suhr and the Rockets won't see Fantaw, Mengist and Eshetu at regionals.
Richard Montgomery v. Northwood boys
The Northwood boys will be gunning for their second straight county title and they boast possibly the strongest top four of any team in the state beside Severna Park (four boys at 16:00 or better at Great American). However the absence of sophomore Lamar Wilson has left the Gladiators searching for a consistent fifth runner; without Wilson, the 30-point gap between the two teams in the county 5K rankings grows a little tighter. Richard Montgomery had three runners of their own under 16 minutes at Great American. The Northwood boys will still be favorites heading into Saturday, but the Rockets have shown enough this season to be considered their top competition.
Baltimore County Championships (10/19 - Meet Page)
Caroline Benda v. Madeline Till
Benda won the first two matchups of the season at the Barnhart and Bull Run invitationals. It's a matchup that will feature many chapters - not only do Benda and Till compete in the same county, region and classification, they're both juniors. Benda and Till will be two of the top contenders for this year's 3A state title, as well, along with Bel Air's Mackenzie Morrison, Northern's Oakley Olson and others. Benda and Till are also the #1 runners on two teams who will be competing for a top three spot at the 3A state meet.
Photo by John Roemer
Hereford v. Towson girls
For the past couple of years the "big three" Baltimore County programs have parted ways after the county championships. However, now that the Bulls have moved back into the 3A classification, they will get to go head-to-head with the Generals at regionals and states. As mentioned above both Hereford and Towson will be chasing, at the very least, a top three spot at the state meet. Hereford has been the stronger of the two teams at Barnhart and Bull Run, but Saturday's county championships at Dulaney could give us the clearest picture as to how the teams stack up heading into November.